Sermon: Ephesians 2:11-22

Here is an English translation of today’s sermon.

Grace and peace in the name of Christ. Amen.

The psalmist prays: “…you have prepared a table before me in the presence of my enemies…”

God’s abundance is for everybody.

God’s mercy is immense.

God’s love is even for those we don’t like.

There are divisions among human beings. There are divisions among us.

Disagreement. Hate. Jealousy.

We make divisions and separations.

Without unity. Without friendship. Without love.

We build walls.

In the time of the prophets, there were divisions between the tribes of Israel, divisions between rich and poor.

We build walls.

In the first century of the Christian church, there were division between those who say that, in order to be Christian, you have to be a Jew first. When the author of Ephesians talks about circumcision, it has less to do with a surgical operation, and more to do with Christian identity. According to Ephesians, one doesn’t need to follow all the Hebrew commandments in order to live in union with Christ. Jesus takes care of that. But still, there are divisions and disagreement.

We build walls.

Also, in the time of the Reformation, there were divisions and disagreements. Martin Luther had put his ideas on the door to encourage conversation. Instead, he got kicked out of the church.

We build walls.

Last Wednesday, some of us from San Lucas went to the movies to see “For the Greater Glory,” a film about the Cristeros. After the Mexican Revolution, there was much persecution against the Church. Neither masses, nor weddings, nor confirmations were permitted. Priests were killed.

We build walls.

Also, last week, at another movie theater, in Colorado, there were more gunshots, more violence, more fear.

We build walls.

Today

In our world

In our community

Even in our families and congregations

We build walls

We make divides.

Without unity, without friendship, with violence and fear.

I’ve heard the nasty words. I feel an unclean spirit. I’m tired of conflict and jealousy.

We build walls.

Rich and poor

Men and women

Anglos and Mexicans

Jews and Palestinians

Democrats and Republicans

PAN and PRI

Gay and straight

Citizen and immigrant

With papers, and without

Catholics and Christians

Zetas and GATES

Those who give and those who receive

Near and far

Saints and sinners

Santos laguna and Monterrey

We build walls.

But Christ changes all that.

In the letter to the Ephesians, we hear words of reconciliation and forgiveness–a message of unity:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

All the divisions that we make, God destroys. Ephesians continues:

…In his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.

At San Lucas, we just started a citizenship group to accompany those who want to study for the U.S. citizenship test. We will learn together and encourage and support each other. Immigrants helping immigrants. It’s a great opportunity.

But, above all, our identity is not in our country, our language, or our favorite soccer team.

Our identity is in Christ.

Jesus is our peace.

Our citizenship is in the Kingdom of God.

We are all a bunch of wetbacks.

Wet with the waters of baptism.

In baptism, we remember our true identity.

“Child of God, you are sealed with the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.”

We build walls, but Christ destroys them.

We make divisions, but God unites us.

God’s abundance is for everybody.

God’s mercy is immense.

God’s love is even for those we don’t like.

Then, without walls, with open hearts and ready souls, upon eating at this table, we can pray with the Psalmist:  “…you have prepared a table before me in the presence of my enemies…”

Amen

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A pastor’s day

What does a pastor do?

Clint over at Lutheran Confessions has invited pastors to blog their day. Here is today (Wednesday, July 11, 2012):

Send an email to our local TV station, asking them to announce our citizenship group.

Read some posts on the ELCA Clergy group on Facebook.

Sat at piano and though about hymns for Sunday. Decided to be subversively ironic and sing “Vamos Todos al Banquete” before preaching about the death of John the Baptist.

Go into the office to photocopy info for the citizenship packets. Used the fancy laminating machine that some mission partner church donated to us years ago. I’ll try to have some of the foodbank volunteers collate them into folders tomorrow morning.

Call the regional foodbank office to place an order for a pallet of food. We’ve been running short on canned goods. Usually I don’t like to take chances with a big pallet of mixed items, but this month, we will.

Stop in the sanctuary and make sure I have enough wafers for my home communion paraphernalia.

Head over to the hospital conference room for Rotary. I had joined Rotary to be better connected in the community. No formal program today, but we updated each other on current events of Eagle Pass.  I turned in my unsold tickets for Saturday’s Rotary breakfast fundraiser. As a pastor, I don’t really feel comfortable selling tickets. I bought a handful myself and gave them to our foodbank volunteers. I know I should be better at showing appreciation, so this is my chance.

Run into a parishioner waiting in the lobby of the hospital. Greet. Chat.

Stop at the UPS store to copy study questions for the citizenship group. Our church copier doesn’t always handle higher volumes of things that need to be two-sided.

Drop by a parishioner’s house, who hadn’t been in church for a longer while. Turns out she’ll be having surgery soon.

In the church office, meet with a neighbor who had requested my help in filling out a health form in English.

Come back to the parsonage. Put together a handout for tonight’s Bible study. We’re using the ELCA Book of Faith perspective to think about how Lutherans read the Bible. I ran back to the church office to get the Book of Faith bookmarks and the leaflets with Sunday’s texts. We used the lectionary texts as examples.

Brought my guitar over to the fellowship hall early to turn on the AC and make coffee. Start to worry because it’s 6:55, and nobody is there yet. We ended up having a smaller crowd—total of eight, counting me. We had a bit of rain earlier this afternoon. I’ve learned that if there is any sort of yucky weather, attendance will be down. That’s what happens when most people walk.

San Lucas has the tradition of starting Wednesday night Bible study by singing the hymns for Sunday. It gets a core group of people who can show leadership from within the congregation. We also have a tradition of coffee and snacks after the study.

After Bible study, a parishioner showed me the progress he’d been making on cleaning out the rooms in the old schoolhouse building we don’t use. It’s looking good.

Headed back home into the parsonage. Took off my clerical collar and checked Facebook. I have the movie Koyaanisqatsi on in the background as I type this blog post.

What a day! Also, with the exception of the foodbank phone call, the Rotary meeting, and the trip to the UPS Store, all of today’s activities occurred in Spanish.


A wounded cross

Today as a communal prayer request/group liturgical art project/ visual sermon illustration, I passed out bandages, and invited worshipers to place them onto the cross.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In our lives, in our families, in our communities, there are moments that are difficult, painful, and tough. It is in this pain that Jesus suffers with us, taking on our suffering, our humanity, our brokenness. We have a wounded God.

God can handle all our emotions–sadness, consternation, anger. Our prayer life and our worship life needs room for our laments as well as our joys.

To the cross we bring all of who we are and all our situations. Life on the border is not easy. Many folks struggle with health issues. Others live with poverty and  unemployment. Violence and drugs are in our midst. But so is Jesus.