Monday, June 18, 2012

Second Sunday after Trinity

Ephes. 2:13-22 (ESV)
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. [14] For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility [15] by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, [16] and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. [17] And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. [18] For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. [19] So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, [20] built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, [21] in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. [22] In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.
This is who you are. Fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. Think about it for a minute. Think about who you are.
We don’t often think of Christianity this way. But I pull this text out to preach on as I contemplate the class I took this last week: “Christianity in Conflict: Second Century Faith as model for the 21st Century Church. It was all about this. Answering the primal questions of faith. For the early Christians being thrown to lions, burned on grid Irons, decorating Nero’s gardens as candles illuminating animalistic entertainment, the question wasn’t how do I know I’m elect, how do I know I’m saved, but who am I? And the answer given numerous times to official after official was, “I am a Christian.” That is I am a fellow citizen with the saints and a member of the household of God. I have been claimed by him in baptism, and I eat at his table where I receive grace and the forgiveness of sins.
Today we answer this question of who we are in so many different ways, yet few of them if any give much satisfaction. Sometimes we answer with vocation. I’m a pastor. I’m an electrician. I’m a soldier, and engineer. We answer with our last names. And yet we live in a society that is longing to belong, even as it longs to be an individual. I mean I find it funny Lil Wayne doing a Mountain Dew commercial saying he doesn’t live by any cliché. And if you drink Mountain Dew, you too can be as original as him. It’s the conundrum of society. Today, it is the question most often asked who am I, in the end it is the question we all want answered. Kids go to college today, spending thousands of dollars a month, hoping to “find themselves”. And most of them think they need to find themselves amidst frat parties, because supposedly that is where their parents found themselves 20-30 years before…
Now today, some of the most popular of Television shows are ones in which celebrities trace their family trees to shed light on who they are and why they are who they are. We all do the same to some extent. Try to answer who we are by our family tree. Who doesn’t like to hear stories concerning their ancestors, their grandfathers. And so on. We have not control over a family tree. In truth we have about as much control over our own destiny. But we delight in the stories of our family as if they were stories about us. And there is truth to that. Our families shape us. The close of the commandments tell us that God visits the iniquities of the Fathers upon the third and fourth generations, and we see it in our own lives. But he shows love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments, and we see that also. We need to take stock of that as parents. Children emulate their parents long after they are children. And so delving into a family tree and the history of those individuals we find a commonality. I laughed for days, and still laugh upon finding that one of my great grandfather’s emigrated to the United States from Brandenburg after shooting the game warden that caught him poaching. It’s a source of family pride that a great uncle twice removed or something like that invented the snowmobile. We find identity with these stories of our ancestors, even as others identify us with our stories, stories perhaps inspired by those who preceded us. I learned, for instance to be a sarcastic cad, not from watching my dad, but hearing his friends tell stories about him. And the good comes with the bad. It is not only the iniquities that are visited upon the third and fourth generations. But the love of God that is shown to a thousand generations of those who love him. And so it is that those who despite their iniquities, know the love of God, share that love with countless generations after him. Popcorn Sutton, the famed moonshiner, could speak of his father with equal admiration for both having taught him how to run a still, and paying for a church to be built in his community. But so it is with earthly families the good comes with the bad. And all these things to which we look to find our identity they come up short.
But there is another identity to which to look, a new family tree, a tree of life. The cross where Christ tore down the dividing wall of hostility, so that we would no longer be strangers and aliens, but Christians, being brought into that family, being made members of the household of God, heirs of his grace and mercy. This is what it means to be buried into his death in baptism, so that just as he was raised from the dead we too might walk in the newness of life. There in that font, we were made members of the household of God, fellow citizens with the saints. Now their stories are our stories. Now their stories shape us and tell us who we are. The whole old testament documenting the stories of Abraham, Moses, Samson, David, Solomon, Elijah and Elisha, These are our stories, because in the font, God raised up children for Abraham from those who before were stones. Now they are our stories because they find their culmination in Jesus Christ, who sacrificed himself for us that he might be our peace with God. That he might be our peace with the Father, who forgives our iniquities, that he might show love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. Now we have a different family tree, the cross, where the dividing wall of our hostility was torn down, that we might be restored to our true family, reconciled with our Father, and given a new identity, That of Christian, one redeemed by Christ.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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