This week’s readings.
I’ve been pondering the reading from Ephesians today. It seems appropriate both for the conversations that are taking place in our church, and the increasingly rancorous political discourse:
Remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision” — a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands– remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens 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 once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.
Scholars doubt whether Ephesians was written by Paul. The best guess is that it was written by someone in the generation or two after Paul who was seeking to preserve and extend Paul’s legacy and perspective. In this passage, there are deep resonances with Paul’s letters to the Galatians and 1 Corinthians, even as the author moves in slightly different directions( the law–Torah–being abolished and both Jew and Gentile losing their identity in a new community).
It’s relatively easy to assert that we need to stay together as Christians but the reality is much more difficult. It’s not just the deep divisions that persist, divisions of race, gender, political preference. There are also deep theological differences within denominations and traditions, as well as across them. There are disagreements about biblical interpretation.
We often proclaim how important it is to “stay at the table,” but often our actions and words make it difficult for those with whom we disagree to remain. If Christ is our peace, then we have to allow Christ to bring us together, to embrace us all as he embraced the world.
“For he is our peace.” One of the problems we face is that we tend to think we “own” Christ. We remake Christ in our image and likeness; we assert that our interpretation of Christ, our experience of Jesus Christ, should in some way be normative for all. If he is our peace, then Christ transcends our image of him and subsumes that image in him.
“For he is our peace.” We argue, debate, defend, seek to score points against the other. If Christ is our peace, we should proclaim him, and allow him to work through us, to break down the dividing walls of hostility. The peace we experience in Christ should be what we offer everyone.