At the risk of losing all the non sports fans and football antagonists, yet also in the spirit of the Fall season, I’m going to go ahead with the following analogy. For some of you, it is going to hit you on the head; but if you are not one of them, well, “give it the old college try.”
Living here in Western Maryland, we are at once in the distant “football fan boonies” of the Ravens to the east and the Steelers to the west. Every Sunday in church I see the mix of yellows, purples, and blacks.
Imagine if there was a restructuring of the NFL and the Ravens and Steelers were merged together into one new team called the Steel Ravens! And, imagine the color of the new team was designated as blue and silver! (Some others of you might have to imagine a Cowboys/Redskins, Packers/Bears, or likewise odious admixture of traditions.)
Could you make the shift? Think about all the office people with whom you’ve argued over the years because they were too stupid to see it your way! Think about how you are now going to be sitting in the stands with those same people, wearing blue and silver together. Think about how your favorite players are going to have to work together with their former enemies on the other side of the ball! Who is the new quarterback – Rothlisberger or Flacco? Don’t you suppose the whole thing might be just a little bit awkward?
YEP! And that is the sort of environment that Paul is writing about in our passage today. He is writing (in terms of our analogy) to the one fan base – the Gentiles – as he talks to them about how through the work of Christ they have been merged together with the Jews into a new team called “The Church.” He reminds them as to how they were seen as total outsiders, without hope, and completely foreign to all the promises of God in his covenants with the Jewish people. But now, that has all changed, they’ve been brought near and made one through the blood of Christ.
For you see, Jesus and what he has done is bigger than the things that divided the two groups before. The old laws of the Jews have been done away with, and the wall of hostility that separated everyone has been broken down. Christ has truly made them into one new people – one new team – the Church of Jesus Christ. Now there is a new peace, as each has the same access to the same Father God.
So what is the practical result? It is that they are all to no longer act likes enemies and strangers. They are rather to see one another in a variety of illustrative ways: as fellow citizens of the same country, as brothers together in the same household, as building blocks who together with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone now form the greatest building ever constructed.
So, there is no room in such an arrangement for the old squabbles to break out! There is no more yellow on one side and purple on the other, because there is only one new entity that exists. And the health and vitality of that new team is contingent upon the mutual support and love of previously disparate people now coming together to work together as one.
So today begins the first of five readings and devotionals that talk about point number four (of five) in our series on the vision statement of Tri-State Fellowship: We envision a multi-generational community of theologically-sound believers, who manifest Christ’s character, by applying biblical principles to daily life, encouraging one another spiritually and relating the Gospel to our culture. Yes, we are one body in Christ – one new team, and we need to be about encouraging one another in every way … so let’s talk about that this week.
Ephesians 2:11-22 – Jew and Gentile Reconciled Through Christ
11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)—12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.