Monday, August 31, 2009

Taking Down Walls




"For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility" (Ephesians 2:14)

As people of sin, building up walls comes naturally to us. And we are good at it. We have been building walls for a long, long time. When our first parents Adam and Eve first sinned they feverishly set forth building a wall - a dividing wall of fig leaves, and of trees. After turning away from the gracious address of their Lord, they set to work on the greatest wall ever erected. A wall to hide from God.


They take the lovely trees of the garden and build up walls for a fortress to hide from God and to prepare for war against their neighbors. The history of all humankind generation after generation has set about on the same work - building walls - separating themselves from one another by fleeing from the voice of God.


We all know from the news, or history, or economics class all the walls that have been erected. The Israelites have built walls to separate themselves from Palestinians - due to rocket attacks. The Berlin Wall was erected by the communists to wage war against their own people by keeping them captive - as if it were a jail. There is the Great Wall of China that protected the empire for hundreds of year, which happens to stretch out over the Mongolian border for 5500 miles.


No wall however, is more destructive is more wretched than being walled up against our Lord and against the needs of our neighbor. We build up walls by withholding our love from all those around us. Often times we retreat inward and build walls up against our dear parents and withhold the honor that Christ has given them.


As students we have walls against even our teachers. I am a student as well. Where we ought to respect and cherish our teachers and professors always and make their work pleasureable, we often make it toilsome through laziness or gossip. Furthermore, we may be tempted to build walls against God by fleeing from His tender care, by not receiving his gifts of heavenly communion and life in the midst of the congregation. When all is said and done walls cannot save us or protect us and meet our fundamental needs.

After Jesus is arrested, mocked, tortured, and crucified, and killed, the disciples in fear - flee to a locked room - a barrier - the greatest wall - to hide from God and hide from their family and neighbor. But our Lord in heaven says to Adam in paradise and to us today "Where are you?...do not be afraid...come out from your hiding place...come out from behind that wall...I will lift your veil so that you may see me."


Fresh from the grave, the resurrected Jesus enters the locked room of the disciples and graciously breaks down our own walls that we have fearfully made. And he enters into our lives speaking to us - continually inviting us - saying "peace be with you." And this is not the sort of peace that we announce to each other on facebook. It is not the sort of peace that we send a friend after a conversation in an instant message. Nor is this a peace like the hippies thought it in the 1960's with flowers and free love.


No this peace is very different. This is the peace that God brings. The dividing wall of hostility has been broken down and ended in the peace of Jesus. This is a word of peace that dries every tear from every cheek. It is the peace that breaks down the hostile walls between us and those around us. This is the peace the answers all that which has gone wrong in our lives. It is the peace, a heavenly word, the voice of the living God that speaks to you, "Dearest student of Walther Lutheran High School...dearest son...dearest daughter I am well pleased with you...because your sins are forgiven...I have paid for them in full..I have borne your sin and agony - your humiliation, your depression in your home. I have destroyed the walls that enclosed you from family and friends, from teachers and parents."


In this heavenly word of promise we are called to freedom to be students, and sons, and daughters, and teachers, and workers...to build one another up in love and charity and seek after the good for one another.


You have peace because God became peace and is peace. We have mercy and show mercy to one another because Christ is mercy and brings us mercy. Our Lord has broken down in his very flesh the dividing wall of hostility by reconciling us to God and to one another through the cross. All things are new. In the peace of Jesus which passes all understanding. Amen.

(painting above by J.M.W. Turner "The Angel, Standing in the Sun" 1846).

1 comment:

  1. How beautiful and ironic. I walked in my house minutes ago as I was just lamenting my backyard fence. It is actually a concrete wall and I can't see any of my neighbors. So I stood there this evening on top of a chair and climbed up so I could see over the wall and connect the sounds I heard to peoples faces. It was beautiful to look over the wall and see people. Yes, they may have thought me crazy or spying, but there is nothing more confining than a brick wall to keep you from the people that God wants you to reach.

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