Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands— remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. – Ephesians 2:11-22
We recently visited a church I served in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. That city is racially and socioeconomically-divided. There are many good people there, and – like any city this side of heaven – some real scoundrels. But the population is divided by location and race. For the most part white people like us live in the southwest part of town. The rest live in the other parts of the community. Housing costs reflect that division as well.
Our visit was delightful. The people welcomed us warmly. The celebration of Trinity Lutheran Church’s 125th anniversary was enriching. We were glad to have gone.
In many ways Trinity is like St. John in Cypress. We’re both Lutheran. We both have long-standing historical roots: the 1894 founding of Trinity, and the 1853 founding of St. John makes us long-time sister congregations. Another way in which we’re alike also has to do with the lack of socioeconomic and ethnic diversity in the two congregations. Our divisions may be more subtle, but their no less real.
Frankly – with a few exceptions at St. John – we’re not very racially diverse. We are not displaying the truth that Paul hints at here. We may not be enemies of those of different races or ethnicities, but it is not obvious that we are friends. We may acknowledge the legitimacy of brothers and sisters in Christ of other cultures and races, but it is difficult to see that on a Sunday morning. Birds of a feather…
I don’t say that to lay blame. But there are moments when I wish we were a more diverse gathering of people on a Sunday morning. Statisticians say that more than 90% of members of Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod congregations are white and Republican. How I wish it were not so! I’m not certain I would agree with those of a different political party than mine, but honorable people can disagree about such things and still be brothers and sisters in Christ. In fact, that’s what Paul is getting at here.
Jesus has bridged the most significant gap in his day: the wall of separation between Jew and Gentile. In the temple court that was a literal wall. We’ll talk about that tomorrow. But for now it would be enough for us to consider how we can live as though we are one in Christ with all who call upon Jesus as Lord. Race, ethnicity, socioeconomic class, or cultural differences are lost on God. Perhaps there are a few we could overlook when they show up in our neighborhood or our church.