Daily Update #142

Today’s Readings – Ephesians 2:12-22.     Psalm 85:7-13.      Luke 12:35-38.

I began to prepare this reflection on 21st September, this year’s United Nations ‘International Day of Peace’. The UN General Assembly designates this day as “a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, through observing 24 hours of non-violence and cease-fire.” The UN’s theme for 2020 is ‘Shaping Peace Together’ and is dedicated to “fostering dialogue and collecting ideas.” This is all admirable and worthy of our support each year. However, Ephesians 2 puts these international efforts towards reconciliation, forgiveness and peace into God’s perspective as our Creator.

Earlier in Ephesians 2 the apostle Paul wrote, mainly to new Gentile Christians, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Ouch! He then reminds them of God’s gracious intervention – “But, because of His great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:4). In Ephesians 2:1-10 Paul was dealing with his readers’ relationship with God the Father. He has saved them from being spiritually dead in sin and made them eternally alive in and through Jesus Christ. Then in verses 11-20 Paul also writes about people’s relationships with each other – exactly the same territory as that covered by the United Nations last month.

The change that has taken place is that through God’s grace and power, not their own efforts, Gentile believers have moved from isolation and exclusion to inclusion within God’s kingdom. “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” (v12). How stark is that? Apparently, the temple wall separating the Court of of the Nations and the Court of Israel had a sign saying ‘Any non-Jew found beyond this point will have only himself to blame for his death.’ This illustrates how until Jesus came non-Jews were seen as lower order spiritual refugees. Thanks to Him, this is no longer the case.

But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ” (v13). From being “far away” Jesus’ saving work on the Cross had seen them “brought near” (verse 13). This applies to each of us when we place our trust in Jesus! Though His death and resurrection, Jesus has smashed for ever all the old barriers between us and God, and between each other (v14). We are told in this verse that “He has become our peace” and brings reconciliation wherever there has been exclusion, isolation and alienation. Finally, verses 19-22 show how as a consequence of Jesus’ victory over sin and death, and the continuing work of the Holy Spirit, all who follow Him, whatever their backgrounds, belong to one household in the world-wide Church, “with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone” (v20). Through Jesus, we can be reconciled to God and to each other. As Jesus Himself is our peace” (v14), we can ask Him to bring true peace to the world as we bring Jesus into each hopeless situation. He alone can bring lasting reconciliation.

A PRAYER FOR GOD’S CHURCH, THE HOUSEHOLD OF GOD:

Lord Jesus, foundation stone,

Lord and Saviour:

bless those who are foundation stones,

bearing the weight of responsibility

and other people’s trust and vulnerability.

Bless those who are stones below our eye line,

those who do the little jobs, the unfashionable jobs,

but who keep the wall secure.

Bless those who are the capstones

sitting on the top for all to see,

the gifted ones, the ones that get the attention. 

Bless the misshapen stones

that fit in between the others,

plugging the gaps, the ones that can get looked down on.

And bless those who pass by this spiritual house we are being built into,

as yet unaware of your love for them.

This prayer was shared at St John’s, Southbourne on Sunday morning 25th August 2019 by Revd Graham Steel when he preached on ‘Jesus Christ, the Living Stone’ (1 Peter 2 v 4-8).

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