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07.19.09 Ephesians 2:11-22 Building on the Foundation Sermon Summary

by on July 19, 2009

In Ephesians, the foundation upon which the church is built is God’s decision to save in Christ (Eph1.3-14). It is God’s decision, and not ours; we have no say as to who’s included. That’s what makes it grace.

Including Gentiles (non-Jews) in the church was challenging. They had to learn how to think of themselves as God’s people, no longer wandering around, but rather a people with a God, with a history, with a testimony; like the Jews.

The Jews of Ephesians had their own challenges. They had to learn to be inclusive of the Gentiles. This was hard for the Jews because the law had, throughout their religious history, characterized their identity. And Gentiles were not subject to the law and yet now were counted among God’s people.

So Ephesians envisions a new human community, made up of both Jews and Gentiles, a new community that testifies to God’s presence both in the old and in the new. All this is accomplished in Christ, who revealed an inclusive God, a God outside of Judaism, outside of religious practice, traditions, and history, while still being the God of history.

Other dividing lines besides “Jew vs. Gentile”: those who believe in the “rapture” and those who do not; between various ways of understanding what the resurrection of Christ means; between our understanding of the sacraments.

At Faith, some are drawing lines following our recent recommitment to be mission-driven. Much of it boils down to a line between growing as Christ’s disciples, and growing in Christ’s disciples; between depth of devotion and breadth of devotees. Ephesians says the church can do both, because God does both.

Ephesians leaves us three options: (1) be like the Gentiles, (2) the Jews, or (3) the new human community.

“Gentiles” try to ignore the great traditions, history, or earlier ways God has been present. God is in the contemporary, the new, the young, the Protestant, the Presbyterian, or the Christian.

“Jews” cling to the God of the past—practices, traditions, and history. They try to contain God within our theology, religion, and worship. God is in the established ways.

The “new human community” follows God’s lead in Christ, follows Christ into an inclusive community, into a transformation of religious heritage, is open to new revelation, revitalizing the old, and maintaining the revelation in Jesus Christ.

Being the new human community represents change for both Jew and Gentile. Change usually leads to gains, but it always entails loss. Loss means grief, which is why so many of us are anxious about or resist change. We have experienced a lot of loss in our lives.

But not to change, to remain the same, to be Jew or Gentile obscures the revelation of God in Christ. Ephesians calls us to be the new human community. The world needs us to be the new human community. As church, we must find ways to live the reconciliation God has given in Christ, not only between us and God, but more importantly, among us as the new human community. As we work out our differences, as Jews and Gentiles, as the new humanity, we reveal God’s presence, and we proclaim the gospel of Christ. In this way, we grow as Christ’s disciples, both in maturity as individuals and in numbers as a community.

Going Deeper

Think about the dividing lines in your life. What difference would it make if you firmly believed that those on the other side of your lines were included in Christ?

Reflect upon the losses in your life. How does the lingering pain of these losses affect your attitude regarding change today?

When faced with change, are you more of a “Gentile,” “Jew,” or a member of the “new human community”?

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