REFLECTION on Friday 7th August
The reflections over the next two weeks (2nd to 15th August) are by Stephan Rand who is a writer and speaker who worked with Tearfund for many years, and then Open Doors, traveling widely. He now helps lead Fresh Streams - a largely Baptist church leader's network.
Over the next 14 days we will be looking at the Letter of Paul to the Ephesians. Are you excited when you get a letter. When this letter arrived, those Christians in Ephesus would have been so excited, full of expectation, keen to know what the apostle had to say to them.
How about you? For the next 14 days, this is God's letter to you. Are you excited? Full of expectation? Keen to know what he has to say to you? By God's spirit, this letter can be as fresh to you as it was to the Ephesians - part of God's ongoing conversation with you.
One new humanity
Reading Ephesians 2: 12-15 (NIV abridged)
that at that time 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. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought
near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the
two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility… His purpose was to create in
himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace.
Paul has already described what Jesus does as making dead people alive. Now he looks at this from another angle. It is as if the precious stone is turned so that a different facet can sparkle in the light.
He addresses a new dimension of the human condition. Before Jesus came, the Jews had a revelation of God and access to him. They had been chosen to receives God promises of blessing - the 'covenants'. None of this was available to the Gentiles, the non Jews. They were 'foreigners', excluded, alienated, 'without hope' and 'without God'. When Jesus died, however, the temple curtain that sealed of the holy of Holies was torn open - the barrier to the presence of God was seen to be removed. Now the gentiles, who had been so far away, were 'brought near' into God's presence. Their alienation was ended. Not only was the barrier to God removed, so they could enjoy a new relationship with him, but also the 'dividing wall' (as there was, literally, in the temple) between Jew and Gentile was removed. They, to, could enjoy a new relationship, made possible by Jesus' death.
He is the ultimate peace-maker. Indeed, he is peace personified, because when an individual is united with him, that person is also united with with all others who share in his life.
The church is the fulfilment of God's purpose to create 'one new humanity', to demonstrate to the world how ethnic, cultural and spiritual barriers can be broken down and positive peace can be lived, cherished and shared.
Make me, my church and the church worldwide a channel of your peace.