From the Well - April 14, 2016

Ephesians 3:14-21 (NRSV)
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

The Apostle Paul saw the world as his neighborhood. Jew and Gentile are under the banner of God’s love. Paul calls for all of Jesus’ followers to love radically because God loves all of humankind equally. Unfortunately, you and I are often about dividing the world up into “us” and “them.” Even those who follow Christ, show the limitations of their love by the harsh treatment of those who are different or outside the walls of our comfort zone. This human separation creates chaos, unrest, and pain.

In Brian McLaren’s book, Generous Orthodoxy, he talks about how we generally view our religion. First, we have a large circle which is us as individuals, then we have a smaller circle that is the church, and an even smaller circle that is the world. The focus for most Christians, he says, is first and foremost on ourselves and what God can do for us, then what God is and does for the church, and finally what God is and does for the world. McLaren says it should be the other way around: The world is primary to God, then the church, and then us.

This makes sense to me especially if we are going to talk about the body of Christ. There is the larger body which is the world, then the Body of Christ which we call Clemmons UMC, and finally us as individuals and our relationship to God through Christ. Being transformed by Christ means we are in the church and world bringing that transformation to others.

Harold Warlick, former Dean of High Point University Chapel tells this story:

At the 1996 Promise Keepers gathering of 42,000 pastors in Atlanta, an assembly that represented myriad different church groups and denominational affiliations, author and Pastor Max Lucado stood at the speaker's podium and made a simple request. "On the count of three," he said, "would you please shout out loud the name of the group or tradition or church body of which you are currently a member? One, two, three ..." Those present voiced their affiliations. Some were fortunate. All they had to shout was "Methodist" or "Presbyterian." One fellow rattled off "The Church of God of Prophecy Incorporated." What everyone heard echoing through the Georgia Dome was an undifferentiated blob of sound. 

Lucado followed with a second request. "On the count of three," he said, "would you please shout the name to whom you have trusted your heart, your soul, your ministry, and your entire spiritual future? One, two, three ..." And there rose, in unison, the sound of just two syllables that filled the entire dome: "Jesus!" In the memorable moment that followed there was absolute silence -- as if the leaders of God's people were suddenly struck dumb by the realization that perhaps they have more in common than first assumed.

The story reminds me that with Christ’s help we can get outside of ourselves and tear down the walls that divide. When Christ died on the cross, the scriptures tell us that the curtain that divided the holy of holies from the rest of the population was torn in two. If Christ can tear down walls, fences, curtains, and other human barriers that separate shouldn’t we be about the same thing? Think about it.

Matthew