March 8th, 2016

The Tragic and Triumphant Cross Leading to Hope for Us All”

 

cross27“So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth , called ‘the uncircumcision’ by those who are called ‘the circumcisim’ a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands, remember that yu were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenant of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he 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 so that he might create in himself our 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 our Spirit to the Father. 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.”  (Ephesians 2:11-22)

Reconciliation is another of the many ways that Paul describes the effects of the cross on the relationship between God and human beings. Reconciliation is overcoming alienation and healing broken relationships by ending the causes of division. In earlier letters Paul wrote about the vertical reconciliation of God and humanity made possible through the cross. Here he writes about the horizontal reconciliation of the Jews and Gentiles, their hostility ended by the cross. The two divided ethnic groups of early Christianity are brought together in Christ to create one new humanity, bringing about peace, where there was only hostility.

Paul reminds the Gentiles, called “the uncircumcision by Jews, that they have had the most to gain. The Jews were the ones who had a long history of covenant relationship with God and from whom the Messiah had come. The Gentiles who were without Christ, aliens from Israel, strangers to the covenant of promise, and without hope are now in Christ, fellow citizens with the saints, members of God’s household. The cross has cancelled all their disadvantages. There is no room for any sense of superiority and inferiority in the church on the basis of ethnic background or any other dividing line that alienates people from one another.

Christ has united all believers in himself by breaking down the dividing wall. This barrier might allude to the wall that prevented the Gentiles from entering the inner courts of the Jerusalem temple. This fence of separation was accompanied by inscriptions warning the Gentiles of deadly consequences if they crossed the line. But the wall at the temple was only symbolic of the higher ideological barrier created by the religious laws of the Jews, including circumcision, dietary laws, and a host of other prescriptions that in effect separated Jews and Gentiles from any social or religious contact with one another. Paul says that Christ has “abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances,” thus, reconciling both groups and creating peace. While not doing away with the moral law, Christ removed the condemnation for breaking it and he nullified the importance of the ceremonial and dietary laws. The cross became the sign that unites all people into a new humanity and offers access to God for all.

The letter makes clear that the message of the cross led not only to personal salvation but also to social transformation. Divisions between people create a desperate need for unity today. The social divide between rich and poor; the industrial divide between owners, and labor; the gender divide between men and women, the generational divide between youth and seniors, the racial divide between white and black; ethnic, political, and religious divisions, everywhere there is alienation and hostility between people. The need for reconciliation between peoples is high on the world’s agenda. Discipleship challenges us to be healers and reconcilers, recognizing that the new humanity created by the cross of Jesus is a reality still to be established among us.

Reflection

Why is it necessary for us to receive from God the power to forgive?

Prayer

Wounded Healer, you have reconciled all people through the blood of your cross. Heal the division between me and other people and make me a minister of reconciliation in the world today.

Amen

 

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