Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Church Year and the Lectionary Commentary – 16th Ordinary (Day 3)

Ephesians 2:11-22

11 So remember that once you were Gentiles by physical descent, who were called “uncircumcised” by Jews who are physically circumcised. 12 At that time you were without Christ. You were aliens rather than citizens of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of God’s promise. In this world you had no hope and no God. 13 But now, thanks to Christ Jesus, you who once were so far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14 Christ is our peace. He made both Jews and Gentiles into one group. With his body, he broke down the barrier of hatred that divided us. 15 He canceled the detailed rules of the Law so that he could create one new person out of the two groups, making peace. 16 He reconciled them both as one body to God by the cross, which ended the hostility to God.
17 When he came, he announced the good news of peace to you who were far away from God and to those who were near. 18 We both have access to the Father through Christ by the one Spirit. 19 So now you are no longer strangers and aliens. Rather, you are fellow citizens with God’s people, and you belong to God’s household. 20 As God’s household, you are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 The whole building is joined together in him, and it grows up into a temple that is dedicated to the Lord. 22 Christ is building you into a place where God lives through the Spirit.


Reconciliation is the name of the game today. At every level every person, group, and nation is seeking reconciliation with someone or something from whom or which they are estranged. The centrality and passion of reconciliation in the thought and work of the church is enshrined in my tribe’s (PCUSA) Confession of 1967 (C67) in our Book of Confessions. Though adopted 45 years ago, C67 speaks with a breathtaking immediacy into our crises of the early 21st century. Here’s an excerpt:

9.43 In each time and place, there are particular problems and crises
through which God calls the church to act. The church, guided
by the Spirit, humbled by its own complicity and instructed by
all attainable knowledge, seeks to discern the will of God and
learn how to obey in these concrete situations. The following
are particularly urgent at the present time.

9.44 a. God has created the peoples of the earth to be one universal
family. In his reconciling love, God overcomes the barriers
between sisters and brothers and breaks down every form of
discrimination based on racial or ethnic difference, real or
imaginary. The church is called to bring all people to receive
and uphold one another as persons in all relationships of life:
in employment, housing, education, leisure, marriage, family,
church, and the exercise of political rights. Therefore, the
church labors for the abolition of all racial discrimination and
ministers to those injured by it. Congregations, individuals, or
groups of Christians who exclude, dominate, or patronize
others, however subtly, resist the Spirit of God and bring
contempt on the faith which they profess.

9.45 b. God’s reconciliation in Jesus Christ is the ground of the
peace, justice, and freedom among nations which all powers of
government are called to serve and defend. The church, in its
own life, is called to practice the forgiveness of enemies and to
commend to the nations as practical politics the search
for cooperation and peace. This search requires that the
nations pursue fresh and responsible relations across every line
of conflict, even at risk to national security, to reduce areas
of strife and to broaden international understanding.
Reconciliation among nations becomes peculiarly urgent as
countries develop nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons,
diverting human power and resources from constructive
uses and risking the annihilation of humankind. Although
nations may serve God’s purposes in history, the church which
identifies the sovereignty of any one nation or any one way of
life with the cause of God denies the Lordship of Christ and
betrays its calling.

9.46 c. The reconciliation of humankind through Jesus Christ
makes it plain that enslaving poverty in a world of abundance
is an intolerable violation of God’s good creation. Because
Jesus identified himself with the needy and exploited, the
cause of the world’s poor is the cause of his disciples. The
church cannot condone poverty, whether it is the product of
unjust social structures, exploitation of the defenseless, lack of
national resources, absence of technological understanding, or
rapid expansion of populations. The church calls all people to
use their abilities, their possessions, and the fruits of
technology as gifts entrusted to them by God for the
maintenance of their families and the advancement of the
common welfare. It encourages those forces in human society
that raise hopes for better conditions and provide people
with opportunity for a decent living. A church that is
indifferent to poverty, or evades responsibility in economic
affairs, or is open to one social class only, or expects gratitude
for its beneficence makes a mockery of reconciliation and
offers no acceptable worship to God.

9.47 d. The relationship between man and woman exemplifies in a
basic way God’s ordering of the interpersonal life for which
God created humankind. Anarchy in sexual re l a t i o n s h i p s
is a symptom of alienation from God, neighbors, and self. Perennial confusion about the meaning of sex has been
aggravated in our day by the availability of new means for
birth control and the treatment of infection, by the pressures
of urbanization, by the exploitation of sexual symbols in mass
communication, and by world overpopulation. The church, as
the household of God, is called to lead people out of this
alienation into the responsible freedom of the new life in
Christ. Reconciled to God, people have joy in and respect
for their own humanity and that of other persons; a man
and woman are enabled to marry, to commit themselves to a
mutually shared life, and to respond to each other in sensitive
and lifelong concern; parents receive the grace to care for
children in love and to nurture their individuality. The church
comes under the judgment of God and invites rejection by
society when it fails to lead men and women into the full
meaning of life together, or withholds the compassion of Christ
from those caught in the moral confusion of our time.

Now reread Eph.2:11-22 paying particular attention to issues lifted up by C67. Do you hear God calling you to act on these or other issues requiring reconciliation in your life? Your family’s life? Your church? Community? Nation? World?

If you do, take heart! Such reconciliation is not first a task laid on us but a gift given to us by Jesus Christ. He has made peace for us and between us – everyone, on every level, in every circumstance. We live out of a gift given to us, not our own resources. And therein lies our hope.

May this hope enliven you and stir you to stretch forth your hands to do justice and make peace in your own life!

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