Act of Worship at Home
Reading Ephesians 2:11-22
One in Christ
So then, 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, so 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.
Robert Frost began his famous poem, “Mending Wall” with the words “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” It’s a wonderful poem full of humour and (I think) a sense of sadness. Its about two neighbours who go through the same ritual each spring, meeting at the wall to repair it– to refill the gaps that fallen stones have left and repair the damage done by hunters whose pursuit of their game has left the wall in disrepair. The neighbours have apparently done this for many years, yet it strikes the narrator in the poem to question just why it is they have the wall in the first place.
In the temple in the 1st century there was a literal dividing wall which separated the important part of the temple, the Court of the Israelites, with the Court of the Gentiles. Signs were posted in Latin and Greek warning Gentiles not to go any farther into the temple precincts under penalty of death. This was a serious divide!
In his letter Paul is talking to Christians who were Gentiles ‘by birth’, literally ‘by flesh’, but they were now Christians and now a part of the church at Ephesus. Paul tells them to remember when that wall had separated them from God. Christ has torn down that wall that had divided for so long.
We typically think of ‘Peace’ as the absence of war but that’s not the kind of peace that Paul is talking about here. Peace is not just the absence of hostility . . . it is much more. It has its roots in the Old Testament concept of “shalom”, a much more comprehensive term for salvation and life with God. It means wholeness, completeness, well-being. In other words: Shalom is the way things should be.
Christ has restored the ideal by destroying the wall and bringing Jew and Gentile together. The two are made one in Him. “His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace.” The Gentiles who had been so far away from God- separated by so much- have been
brought near. Israel, too, who had been awaiting this coming Messiah, but had failed him miserably in their keeping of the law . . reconciliation happens through what God has done in Christ. For Paul, all of this happens in Christ. We were walled away from God and Christ tore down that wall.
The church is founded upon the cornerstone of Jesus Christ.
This text is a call for the church to be the Church. . . to be family . . . to be a place of reconciliation. . . to be a place where the walls are let down and open, honest and real relationships are formed. . . to be a place where Jesus is central and at the heart and core of everything we do. And it’s a call for us to be Christians that can build a church such as this.
The invitation of Jesus is offered to us. Its an invitation that is always open. Its an invitation to all.
Hymn StF 608 – All praise to our redeeming Lord
All praise to our redeeming Lord,
who joins us by his grace,
and bids us, each to each restored,
together seek his face.
He bids us build each other up;
and gathered into one,
to our high calling’s glorious hope,
we hand in hand go on.
The gift which he on one bestows
we all delight to prove;
the grace through every vessel flows,
in purest streams of love.
E’en now we think and speak the same,
and cordially agree;
concentered all, through Jesu’s name,
in perfect harmony.
We all partake the joy of one,
the common peace we feel,
a peace to sensual minds unknown,
a joy unspeakable.
And if our fellowship below
in Jesus be so sweet,
What height of rapture shall we know
When round his throne we meet!
Time of Prayer
Let us ask God for rest for the weary …
We pray for those who are sick and weighed down in body or spirit,
for those who are overworked, for those who need a break,
for those who near the end of life.
May they know Your peace.
Let us ask God to guide those who are lost or perplexed …
We pray for all who need shepherding, and for those who teach and guide others, in their work, in their home, in their voluntary service.
May they give and receive Your peace.
Let us ask God to provide for the hungry …
We pray for all who hunger and thirst,
for relief organisations, for the governments of the world,
for those who rule in our Island state.
May they find peace, create peace, work for peace.
Let us ask God to open places for good news …
We pray for people who do not know how much You love them,
and for all who share the gospel.
May Your Spirit break down barriers, open hearts, bring peace.
Let us ask God to hear the prayers of our own minds and hearts …
These and all our prayers we ask in the name of Jesus, our Lord. Amen.
Do not fear or be dismayed – you are eternally safe in the arms of Jesus …
Now may the Lord God shepherd you with His Word and Spirit,
and gather you at the last into His fold.
And the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
be with you and those dear to you,
this day and every day. Amen.