Summary: In Communion we celebrate the removal of the "wall of separation"
Communion Message: “Another Wall Has Come Down”, Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
When I was a child growing up in Germany, my parents took me to Berlin. We drove through all sectors of the city. But then a year later, there was troubling news in the Stars and Stripes newspaper—a wall was being erected to separate the Communist sector from the West. New phrases were being talked about: the “iron curtain,” and the “cold war”. My parents took me again to Berlin, but this time it was a different city. A shroud seemed to hang over it, and our visit seemed like an extended funeral. I asked my Mom if it was OK to not smile for the photos she took. Memorial markers showed where people lost their lives attempting to escape to freedom. There were many desperate and tragic struggles to breach that wall.
I also visited Berlin as an adult, with my children. We were among the last to use East German currency in hotel cafe; we saw first hand the shoddy Eastern part of the city as compared to the prosperous western part of the divided city…but we also saw the celebration of a wall being torn down. A German handed me a hammer and chisel and I gave the wall a few good whacks! Trabben-Trabbants, East German cars, or “Trabbies” as we called them, freely moved into the Western sector, with the DDR stickers scratched out, a symbol of the old regime, the Deutsche Demokratishe Republik (If you want to double the value of a Trabbie, you just fill the tank with gas!). After being a part of history, we got on the train and returned to Frankfurt with a bag of pieces of the Berlin Wall and unforgettable images etched in our memories of an event that seemed impossibly unlikely to ever occur.
Imagine coming to the Lord’s Supper only to find a wall erected in the sanctuary between the pews and the Communion Table. Paul reminds believers that once there was a wall keeping them from the presence of God. That wall was there because God is holy. Sin separates us from God; sin always leads to separation.
Archeologists have uncovered an inscription from the outer wall of Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem, the Temple which was destroyed by the Roman army in 70 AD. It carries a stern warning from the High Priest: “No foreigner may enter within the barricade which surrounds the sanctuary and enclosure. Anyone who is caught doing so will have himself to blame for his ensuing death.”
The Jewish Temple was full of partitions. There was the inner Court of the Priests and the Temple Proper containing the Holy Place and the “Holy of Holies” where the Ark of the Covenant stood. Access was limited to these sacred places to select Jewish priests, and only the High Priest was allowed, once a year, on the Day of Atonement, to enter the Holy of Holies. There were other divisions: the Women’s Court, and the outer Court of the Gentiles, granting limited access to the sacred places within.
When I was in Israel I prayed at the “Wailing Wall”, a.k.a. the “Western Wall”, the only part of the Temple that remains standing. Jewish worshippers pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the restoration of the Temple. Even here there is a division, separate sections reserved for male and female worshippers. Men are required to wear head coverings and women must be dressed modestly and wear shawls. The Temple is the only place on earth where sacrifice may be offered to God. The absence of a Temple today is likely God’s way of saying that sacrifice is no longer necessary. Jesus our Messiah is Himself our sacrifice for sin. He provides an eternal atonement.
Walls divide people-—they keep us from our objectives. People say they’ve “hit a wall” when their goals are blocked. When I was in high school I carried a briefcase and got into the habit of putting it on top of my desk, then opening it to get at my pens and notebooks and textbooks. This annoyed one of my teachers, Mr MacDonald, who didn’t like seeing me behind this barrier. He used to yell at me, “Leroe, put down that wall!”
Seeing first hand the end of the Cold War in Berlin was an awesome experience. Yet I had no illusions that the dramatic events sweeping Europe would bring a lasting peace to our world—this cannot occur until the problem of sin is overcome. Sin produces enmity and strife against God and among nations. Legislation, economic policies, social reforms, and armed force cannot produce a lasting peace—only the power of God can. When nations learn to live at peace with God, they will be able to live in peace with one another.