by Erika Marksbury
Scripture Reading: Ephesians 2:14-22 (The Voice)
…Christ is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He 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. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to God. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.
“He came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.”
Thoughts on Scripture
The tense of this scripture passage intrigues me – it exemplifies the “already/not-yet”ness that scholars say describes the Reign of God. This letter tells us that Jesus has already accomplished the work of peace, that what died on the cross was hatred, division, inhumanity. What does it mean to proclaim that when we see so much evidence – heartbreaking, and horrifying – of its opposite all around us?
As I read this, I’m reminded of the ways that the proclamation of something not-yet realized can actually help to bring that thing into being. We “speak peace” to one another not only as a greeting but also as a hope, and just to get those words into the air, as if their sound can somehow make manifest their intention. Sometimes I say to my boys, “We are kind. We treat people gently and with respect.” Sometimes I say this as they are kicking each other’s shins. It feels a little dishonest, but my hope is that the lie of it will make them think about what they want to be true – and act accordingly. And, you know, it (sometimes) happens that way!
It could be that the Ephesians heard this letter and were reminded of the divisions that still existed within their community. And maybe it sounded silly to them. Or – maybe it sounded possible. Maybe it sounded like something that they wished they could bring about. And if it did – well then, maybe they got to work, bringing it about.
I wonder, for us today – how have the promises of this letter already been fulfilled? How are they still coming to be? Where do we find ourselves in that tension?
Questions to Discuss
-What are the things that keep people, or groups, apart?
-Are there people you encounter often – at your school, neighborhood, or church – that are strangers to you? If you wanted that to be different, how could you change it?
-What do you think it would feel like to join with other people in together becoming “a dwelling place for God”? What would a place like that need? Why is it important that different people and groups come together to form that?
-What peace do you want to “speak into being”? How can you practice it?
-Gather a collection of small sticks – enough for each family member to have two. Have a conversation about places where you see division. Maybe even use the sticks as props/puppets, and role play an encounter between people or groups that is healthy, an imaginary conversation that begins to break down barriers. Then join the sticks together in the shape of a cross using string, wire, twine, or another material that lets you wrap them together slowly, and prayerfully. As you wrap, talk about the slow, careful, intentional processes of reconciliation and community-building.
This prayer is just phrases pulled from the scripture itself. Say it together, or choose the phrases that strike you from the passage and craft your own prayer to say together.
…Christ, Our Peace,
Break down our walls.
Create in yourself one new humanity.
Join us together.
Grow us into a holy temple.
Dwell in us.