Readings: 2 Samuel 7:1-16; Ephesians 2:13-22
I gotta tell you, I really like the theme of this years mission trip.
Reframed: A Jesus Centered Mission
I believe this is a perfect theme for us, because each one of us has been called to a particular mission in life. The way I see it is to be reframed in Jesus is more than just being renewed or remade in him. To me, it’s about becoming an important part of the overall structure and integrity that makes up the body of Christ. When we are reframed in Jesus we become a dwelling place where others can find God's love.
Now there are all kinds of dwelling places in this world. And in our country alone there are many types of houses to dwell in. From single family homes to oversized McMansions, and mobile homes to modular homes and now we even have tiny micro homes sprouting up like little sheds. There are also apartments, motels, cabins, tents, trailers, yurts, huts, caves, nests, burrows, shacks, shanties, adobes, and so on…
We have houses of government and the White House; and of course the Congregational Meeting Houses where we gather as a church every Sunday simply because we feel at home here.
In her book Anna and the French Kiss, author Stephanie Perkins writes, “For the two of us, home isn't a place. It is a person. And we are finally home.”
I think it's intriguing that we find in 2 Samuel the Lord asking such a pointed question:
“Are you the one to build me a house to live in?”
Here God is referring to David who feels guilty because he is living in a luxurious palace while the ark of God resides in a dusty old tent.This bothers the young king because he believes God is the one who deserves the better home. And he believes he is the one to build it. “One of the most fundamental of human mistakes is to think we can do God a favor.” Are we like David and believe we have the power to domesticate God? Or are our egos tricking us into believing we can?
I’m not saying it's wrong to want to build God a house, clearly our forefathers believed they could, and did a beautiful job too boot. If we believe we can control God by putting him in a beautiful box then we lose sight of the truth that God has chosen not to dwell in a building… but instead in our hearts. By grace alone, we are reunited with our Creator, and find our home in God's love. God too finds a home in our heart. But it is only in a heart that is free from ego...and the need to control, that can God be at home with us.
It’s our egos that harden our hearts and our desire to control others that builds up the walls of separation. God is determined to demolish these walls that keep us apart. God doesn't just want us to be reframed in Christ, but God wants us to receive a right heart suitable for God to call home.
Our reading from Ephesians gives us three distinct ways on how being reframed in Jesus create such a home for God. They are reconciliation, unity, and peace. Because of the sacrifice made by Christ, our sins are forgiven,...our hearts are made pure...and we are reconciled back to God.
The author states...those who were once estranged from God (the Gentiles) are now brought into the covenant with the Jews. This is a big deal since there has been open hostility and antagonism between the two parties since the covenant was made. Through Christ, those walls have been torn down. And there is to be no more division between us.
Yet we continue to created divisions among ourselves. In this church alone, there is evidence of different camps keeping us from achieving our mission. We might not all see eye-to-eye, but this should not stop us from reconciling our differences and standing united in Christ.
It's tough enough that we live in a “Us against them” society.The conservative right against the liberal left…mainline Christians against the fundamental evangelicals…Wolverines against Spartans. Have you ever had a day were you felt like it's just you against the rest of the world?
But Jesus taught us if we stand united, then judgment and gossip will not pass through us...people will not feel excluded...feelings will not be hurt...wounds will not fester...but instead be healed. When we stand united in Christ our spiritual house will overflow with God's Spirit because God is living fully within the hearts of each one of us. When our spiritual house shines...so too will our physical house.
Sadly, our egos, and our need to control have made it too easy to fall into our habitual battles of finger pointing and mudslinging. Unless we are reframed in Jesus then there will be no reconciliation, no unity, and therefore no peace among us.
When we put our own wants and needs before others, we forget that “Christ is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall.” God sent his messenger to tear down the walls we put up. And God continues to do so today.
The hard truth is, we like our walls. With them we can control who can come in and who we can keep out. You might recall last week God stood on the wall with a plumb line and measured the heart of the Jewish people. You might also remember that they failed to line up. And God promised to destroy their walls.
Today, Israel continues to separate themselves from the Palestinians with a wall that slithers through their land like a serpent. Likewise along our southern border, the United States is constructing a wall that is dividing communities instead of uniting them. How soon we have forgotten the joyous feeling that spread over the world as the German people reunited when the Berlin Wall came crashing down.
It could be argued that strong walls make for more peace. When my brother and I shared a room, we created a dividing line made out of tape. He got one half of the room. And I got the other. But it didn’t really do much for keeping peace in the rest of the house. The poet Robert Frost once said, “good fences make good neighbors.” But unlike my brother and I, neighbors don’t share bunk beds.
The truth is, walls separate and divide us. And more often than not, they cause hostility between the two sides. When there is anger and resentment, Then there is no reconciliation, no unity and no peace. Our divine peacemaker has been separated from us by a wall that we have created.
In his book Open Mind, Open Heart, Father Thomas Keating puts it this way: “The chief thing that separates us from God is the thought that we are separated from God we fail to believe that we are always with God and that God is a part of every reality – in people, in events, in nature.”
As we are reframed in Jesus, we begin to see how God chooses to be bound to us…to be nailed to us even. Together, in unity, “we are members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as our cornerstone.”
It is time to set aside our differences, to stop spreading rumors and start spreading love. It's time to stop pushing people away and start pulling them closer. It's time to tear down our walls, of jealousy, anger, and resentment. Let us come together to fulfill our mission and be reframed in Jesus. To be “one holy temple in the Lord, built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.”
We do not earn peace any more than we can control it or claim it as our own. Instead God give us peace through Christ Jesus. It's a gift giving freely to us so that God can make the only home suitable for God and all of creation. By the power of God, old saying rings true, “Home is where the heart is.”
Bartlett, David and Barbara Brown Taylor, ed. Feasting on the Word: Year B, Vol. 3. Westminster John Knox Press. (Louisville, 2009).
Wrencher, Brandon, ed. Living in the Word, Sojourners Magazine, July 2015.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”