Summary: Jesus had broken down the barriers between the diverse elements of the church. We have one faith, one Lord, and one baptism. From the cross flows the river of peace.
Ephesians 2:11-22 “The Source of Peace”
When we think of heaven, we conjure up many images. The Jews imagine a place of feasting and celebrating. Our Teutonic and Scandinavian ancestors couldn’t quite conceive of heaven being a party place, so they pictured a place of peace that was free of pain, suffering and sickness. Some people envision heaven as a physical place—a paradise—while others believe that heaven will be wherever God is—everywhere.
In truth, the closest image of heaven that we have on earth is the church. This can be said even though we know that the church is imperfect and filled with sinful humans. Still, we can catch a glimpse of what heaven will be like, and we can strive to make the church and this congregation called Desert Streams Lutheran Church as heaven-like as possible.
In our Scripture lesson today, Paul writes to the Ephesians and future generations of Christians and tells them how to be the church by living in the reality of what Jesus Christ has done.
Tensions increased in the early Church as the gospel spread from the Jewish community into the gentile community. There were some Jews who believe the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ was meant only for them. They could not imagine that the outcast gentiles could possibly be worthy of God’s love and grace.
Paul addresses this issue by writing to the gentiles and reminding them what God has done in their lives through Jesus. They were once aliens who were without Christ, the covenant, hope, and God. But God moved. Jesus, through his death and resurrection, brought them near and made them citizens of God’s kingdom. In reality God did this same thing for the Jews. Everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We all need the Cross of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, victory over death, and a renewed relationship with God.
It seems to be true, though, that once we change from an alien to a citizen we think the door for immigration closes. This can be seen not only in our country, but in our church.
My grandmother emigrated from Sweden in the early 1900’s. When she stepped on American soil at Ellis Island she became an American from Sweden. She loved her native country, but she loved her new county more. The only tradition she brought with her was Swedish meatballs. I only knew my grandmother as a young child. I can remember, though, that she didn’t speak English very well—she was more comfortable in Swedish. When she did speak English, it was with a funny accent. It took me a long time to figure out what she meant when she said, “Mini-a-poll-is. She also thought that more Swedes should be able to emigrate to the US, but fewer Norwegians and Danes.
My grandmother’s was experience to other immigrants. The Germans didn’t want to stop speaking German until WWI and WWII made is somewhat unpopular. The Irish didn’t think the Italians should be allowed in the States, and Lutherans were highly criticized when we helped the Vietnamese and Hmong settle into the United States. I have to nudge myself to remember these facts when I find myself uncomfortable or judgmental toward today’s new immigrants.
This happens in the church, also. We oldsters look askance as people with difference clothing preferences, musical tastes, and customs accept our invitation to experience personally God’s grace and love and to worship with us.
There are no boarders to God’s kingdom. We are all aliens turned citizens because of what Jesus has done, and when we enter into God’s kingdom we bring who we are—our customs, our preferences and our prejudices with us.
A UNITED PEOPLE
Because of the cross of the walls that have divided us have been knocked down. Paul writes that God has formed both groups (the Jews and the gentiles) into one group. All the various groups that have become a part of the church have become part of that one group, also.
Look around. We are a diverse congregation with different ethnic and ancestral backgrounds, different political views, various theological views, and a variety of hopes and dreams. Yet, we are also a united people.
The church is a church of:
• One Lord: Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. We understand ourselves to be children of God’s family and members of the body of Christ.
• One Faith: We believe that we are saved by grace through faith in the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The faith of the church is expressed in the creeds of the church.
• One Baptism: We are not baptized into the Roman, Orthodox, Baptist, Presbyterian, or Lutheran Church. We are baptized into the Christian Church. Through our baptism, the reality of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection becomes a part of our lives.