Sunday, July 26, 2015

Broken Divisions

I wonder sometimes if we are at all interested in listening to one another.
Our human tendency is to divide ourselves up into camps, groups, and Ideologies.
Democrats, Republicans, liberal, conservative.
Black, white, Latino, Asian.
Jew, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist.
Rich, middle class, poor.
Swedes, Norwegians, Iranians, French.
Red Sox fans, Yankee Fans…
We claim a group and hold onto to it.
We define ourselves not by what we believe but what makes us different from what others believe.
Consider that by some estimates there are over 30,000 different Christian denominations in the world.
What is sad is that this is not the intention of Jesus.
This morning in our reading from Ephesians we are told that the reason for Jesus coming is to bring together people who were previously divided.
It is to tear down walls that would divide us from each other.
In Jesus Christ it is supposed to be a new day of understanding.
People who were once enemies have been brought together in a new spiritual understanding of humanity.
Is it possible?
Is it even desirable?

It is important to know this because we are brought together here this morning in Christ.
And when we enter those doors we come here as brothers and sisters in Christ.
We come leaving behind whatever else is supposed to divide us.
I realize this is not easy, because we all have our own thoughts and feelings about the world.
We all believe what we believe politically, ethnically, and philosophically.
It is hard to leave that at the door.
Should we?

I know for a fact that we all have different ideas about the world.
I know that everyone in this room today has different political leanings.
I know because I have heard what people have to say about certain things and that gives it away.
But what I want us to think about is not how we are different, but the miracle that we are able to be together every Sunday and worship together.
We are able to put it aside and instead focus on what brought us here, what calls us here.
What really matters when we are together is that we have come to worship, and the center of that worship is Jesus.
This is not a political rally.
This is worship of Jesus Christ.
We worship the one who died so that all divisions between us might be gone.
“(Christ) has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.”
Jesus has made us one.

Jesus Christ who died so that we can have a new relationship with God.
A relationship that doesn’t demand of us going to temple to sacrifice, but one that all we need to do is call upon God’s name to be with us no matter where or what we are doing.
Jesus Christ who died so that you and I can see our common humanity.
We can see that we are all sinners, that no of us is better, smarter than anyone else here this morning.
That is what Jesus does for us.
That is what makes the church the Church is that it is about Jesus Christ the cornerstone of our faith.

I really do believe that we have too many Churches who have forgotten that fact.
And the Church becomes a place not of Jesus but of what the pastor thinks about the latest events of the day.
It is a place where people are concerned more about politics than about Jesus Christ.

I am so glad that we have a baptism today.
Because it should remind us all what we are about.
Elliot is being baptized this morning not so he can someday know the correct person to vote for in a political election.
Not so someday he can be for Keynesian economics.
It is so in his life he will know of God’s love given in Jesus Christ.
He will know that Jesus broke down walls that separate him from God.
Jesus showed us that if we wanted to access God anyone could have it.
All we needed to do was ask and it will be given, seek and we will find.
And we need that because in our lives we all go through difficult moments and I will say that it is helpful to have God to call on.
I hope that for Elliot that he will know how much God loves him and that God is always there for him.
That is why we come to worship.
We come to experience God together, to know God better.

I want to say that there is nothing wrong with politics.
There is nothing wrong with us engaging the world around us.
In fact, you all know that I believe in being engaged in the issues in our community and in the world.
I believe in speaking out when it is called for.
But I don’t confuse that with what it means to know Jesus Christ.
And that all the time I am asked by Jesus to love my enemies.
I am asked by Jesus to love those I disagree with.
I am asked by Jesus to be a person of peace who attempts to reach out and love all people regardless of their political ideas, their race, their ethnicity (Yes, even Norwegians!), their religion, the group they belong to (yes, even Yankee fans!).

I don’t know about you, but I like Church for this reason.
I like that we are different, and yet we are the same.
And that what brings us together is more important than things that might drive us apart.
I have noticed in the last decade or so how hard it is out in the world to be in relationships with people different than us.
I notice that people get very upset around others who express a different view of the world.
I notice that it often deteriorates into a very unpleasant moment.
We very quickly go into our corners.
I don’t know if this happens to you, but someone will put something on Facebook that makes my blood boil.
I find what they have posted to be offensive.
And my natural instinct is to shoot back and begin an argument.
To shoot down what that person said in a public way.
What I have learned is that this never amounts to anything good.
That it only divides us further and creates more animosity.
In one case I had to tell someone that I cared too much about our relationship to continue to have arguments through Facebook.
This is one of the ways that we are being tempted by the world to continue to build walls that separate us.
And I confess to you all this morning that I have at times not done enough to bridge gaps of understanding and peace.
But I think that here is the place that we confess Jesus as Lord and savior and for me it has always been a place that I could find peace.
As we read in Ephesians this morning, “Jesus Christ 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.”

This particular topic is helpful to us today because we are being asked by the world to divide ourselves, and build walls.
Jesus is asking for us to tear them down.
Today we see in the baptism of Elliot that God has torn down the walls that divide us from God and each other.
Today we confess that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.
Today we gather as one people to remember God’s love and grace that has broken down the walls of hostility between us.

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