SERMON NOTES for 072218:
(TEXTS: Jeremiah 23:1-6; Ephesians 2:11-22)
From the perspective of the Covenant of God with Abraham and his descendants, the human race was divided into two groups: Jews and Gentiles (literally “races” or “peoples”). Paul calls them “circumcised and uncircumcised” (Eph 2:11). That’s it. The whole human race divided into “God’s covenant people” and “everyone else”. Which may sound harsh and cynical and frankly pretty narcissistic of the Hebrew people and stingy of God. Till you actually hear WHY the children of Abraham were called:
Now the Lord said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." (Genesis 12:1-3)
BLESSED TO BE A BLESSING
Abraham was promised that, through the covenant God was establishing, the world would experience blessing. That was the purpose of the special relationship. The people often lost sight of that. The covenant became a source of pride rather than humility, and the covenant became a wedge and a hammer rather than a source of healing and flourishing. Until finally Jeremiah had to say, “You’re going to be in captivity 70 years for your faithlessness. And after that time God will redeem and restore you.
In the meantime... return to your first purpose. Bless your neighbors. Put down roots and commit to your community like you love it, like you need it and they need you. For you will only be able to experience God’s blessings to the degree that you first bless others.” (Jeremiah 29:4-15 paraphrase) Those people in that other group, the ones who you consider “outsiders”, love them as you love me.
And then along comes Jesus, who “breaks down the dividing wall and the hostility between us, making of the two groups one people.” (Eph 2:14-16). Because of the work of Christ on the cross, there are no longer two groups of people. There is just one chosen people, the human race. The call still exists to be a blessing. Its extends now to all humanity, and those who hear it are drawn into it. Whether people recognize, believe, accept or embrace this, it is a true and completed fact. God has extended the call of “blessed to be a blessing” to the whole human race. Jesus is the redeemer and savior of all. There are no insiders and outsiders any longer. There are no hoops to jump through or requirements to meet.
YOU ARE BELOVED. YOU BELONG.
The witness of the gospel of Jesus as Paul articulates it to the Ephesians is that God through Jesus has done away with the distinctions that used to separate Jew from Gentile – chosen from excluded. The church has spent much time, spilling measureless ink and blood, to declare and prove that some are IN while others are OUT. It continues today, with people still arguing in word and practice the following: Male = In / Female = Out. Straight = In / Gay = Out. Rich = In / Poor = Out. White = In / Everyone Else = Out. God declares that the dividing walls are torn down. The borders and barriers that we erect between us, and even that scripture has been interpreted to construct, are eliminated.
You don’t have to change to belong. You already belong. Everyone belongs. Welcome home.
As you come, allow God to continue working in and through you to move toward fullness and flourishing. God accepts and welcomes us as we are, but does not leave us such. God calls and crafts us forward from chaos to wholeness.