Tearing down the walls that divide us
JULY 18 2021
- Welcome to St. Andrew's online worship service; may it be a blessing to your soul.
- Thank you Rev. Shirley Cochrane for leading our worship today
- St. Andrew's AGM will be held August 1st, 2021 following the service. Please bring a bag lunch and something to drink.
- July's Loonie Offering is going to NOSBIS (North Okanagan Shuswap Brain Injury Society). For more info see the "Recent Posts" to the right of your screen.
- Please remember Rev. Ena van Zoeren in your prayers as she continues her holidays; may she be refreshed in body, mind, and soul.
- This week we pray for: The Law Courts and all those who work for justice.
LIGHTING THE CHRIST CANDLE
CALL TO WORSHIP
In moments of anxiety, God leads us to still waters.
God, we come to you.
In moments of confusion, God leads us in right paths.
O God, we come to hear your voice.
In moments of loneliness, God is with us.
O God, we come into your presence, seeking your love.
In all our moments, God is with us.
So we come to praise the One who restores our lives.
PRAYER OF APPROACH
God our Maker,
in summer we easily marvel at the world you have made,
the colours of sunrise and sunset filling the horizon,
the intricate beauty of flower gardens and natural parks,
the quiet dignity of a river in its course,
and the steadfast presence of a rock face carved over time.
You show us how each small piece of your creation
depends in many ways on all the others.
Summer growth depends on spring rains;
health for each creature depends on the wise balance
you have set between each species;
the quality of life on the respect we show one another.
Wise and patient God, we marvel at the world you love.
Our worship joins the songs of all creation to bring you praise,
honouring you and the relationships you have set between us all,
through Christ, firstborn of all creation
Hear us now as we confess together before you ……
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
God our Maker,
as we marvel at your creation, we confess we often take it for granted.
We don’t know what to make of reports about the damage human life causes.
We prefer to live as if our lifestyles make no impact on the earth.
We confess we don’t really want to change.
Yet we wonder if the way we live is pleasing to you.
For all the ways we put your creation at risk and harm the earth,
we ask for your forgiveness.
Teach us how to live in this marvellous world with love and respect
for you and for your whole creation. In Christ’s name AMEN
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ.
Thanks be to God.
SHARING THE PEACE
The apostle Paul proclaims that in Christ, the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. God has made peace with us through the Cross of Jesus Christ. So in Christ, all things hold together. Accept the peace of Christ and make peace with one another in his name. Please share the peace with a wave to one another
MUSICAL INTERLUDE: 78 This is the day
Ephesians 2: 11 – 22
11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Tearing down the walls that divide us
Move among us with your Spirit, O God, and prepare our hearts and minds to receive your Word. Silence in us any voice but your own, that hearing you, we may obey your will and follow your ways in the example of Jesus Christ, the Living Word. Amen.
Imagine, for a moment, that when you walked into church this morning, a wall had been erected, right about where the first pew is, --floor to the ceiling. This wall suddenly separated you from
--the communion table, denying you a place at the communion meal.
- the Bible on the table giving the impression of restricting access to God’s Word,
-- from the cross at the front of the sanctuary, hiding the reminder that Christ died on the cross and then rose to new life again after three days, and hiding the fact that Christ wants to share this new life with you.
--from the candle on the table , symbol of God’s light in our midst, leaving you in darkness.
--separating you from the piano, silencing the music and leaving you without the powerful praise of God that music brings us.
-- now you could no longer hear the sermon, making sure you couldn’t hear the good news proclaimed –
A wall ! This imagined wall would isolate us from meaningful worship and connection with our God and Savior --would you feel comfortable ? We humans love building walls, don’t we?
Walls are actually a necessary part of life. Our homes are encased in walls . We rely on their strength to provide protection from a great variety of dangers . Yet they can be very vulnerable. Consider the recent huge number of home losses in uncontainable forest fires! This past Thursday a sudden late afternoon tornado in Barrie Ont. demolished multiple homes injuring multiple people . Flooding in Europe has washed away countless properties with great loss of life.
Walls both serve and separate.
The Great Wall of China is the longest in the world and has a main-line length of 3,460 km - plus 3,530 km of branches and spurs. The wall was built 2300 years ago to help keep out northern invaders like the Mongols. The first Emperor of China, decided that he wanted a single giant wall to protect his people in northern borders.
During the Cold War, the Berlin Wall was built in 1961 to stop an exodus from the eastern communist part of divided Germany to the more prosperous west. Between 1949 and 1961 more than 2.6 million East Germans, out of a total population of 17 million escaped, much to the annoyance of the Soviet government Yet in November 1989 political stances changed and the wall was demolished unifying East and west Berlin once more.
I’m sure we are all aware of the USA/ Mexico wall fiasco proposed by the former US President being big topic of controversy during the four years of his presidency
All walls are built to create boundaries of one sort or another. Sometimes it’s for good reasons - like keeping people safe, from weather, from robbery, from enemies - or for clarity, so that people can live up to agreements they have made. Any therapist or counselor can tell you that healthy boundaries are good. In fact, they’re absolutely essential for good relationships. But healthy boundaries are always porous. That is, you can move from one side of the boundary to another, with permission, for good reasons. People who have been wounded often have damaged boundaries: sometimes they have no boundaries at all and they get into what are called co-dependent relationships, and sometimes the walls are so high that they can’t develop relationships at all.
There was a wall in Jerusalem when Paul wrote this letter to the church in Ephesus. Actually the wall was within the temple itself. There was an outer court, the Court of the Gentiles, which was open to everyone, but the most important inner part of the temple, the Court of the Israelites, was separated by a wall- with signs posted on it in Latin and Greek, warning the Gentiles not to enter under penalty of death. Thus everyone who wasn’t Jewish, were separated from the temple by a solid wall
Why did they do this?. It was to protect the Jewish way of life.
You see, from the time Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with the Ten Commandments, the Israelites had been required to observe a lot of pretty complicated rules in order to come near to God, and their access to God was the most important thing in their lives. There were over 600 separate regulations Jews had to observe to come into God’s presence, and obviously Gentiles weren’t following the rules. They didn’t even know most of them! And so it wasn’t just prejudice, or mean-spiritedness that kept the walls up, it was to protect their special relationship with God.
The Jews of Paul’s day were extra touchy about their boundaries because they’d been religiously abused over the previous few centuries by Samaritans, Greeks, Syrians, Egyptians, Idumeans, and Romans, as each empire in turn fought for dominance over this vastly important land bridge between the Mediterranean and African and Asian worlds. They were scared - not only of losing their access to God, but of their very identity as a people. And so the wall in the temple was duplicated in the culture itself, with most Jews refusing to so much as drink water from the same cup as a Gentile.
So when Paul tried to convince the Jews that it was time their wall came down, it was very hard for them to swallow. When you’ve spent your entire life believing that another group of people is not only inferior, but actually unclean, it takes more than a ribbon-cutting ceremony to change things.
While it would be incorrect to say these groups of people had no interaction, it is important to understand that they did not sit at the same table together; they were not interested in sharing life. They weren’t about to give up their access to God just to develop relationships with people they didn’t much like anyway. But Jesus changed all that.
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, I believe Paul may have had this very wall in mind when he writes: “Remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by those who are called ‘the circumcision’ – a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands – remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”
Here, Paul is talking about two groups – the Jews and the Gentiles –Paul says, remember when you were strangers, walls kept you separated, and you were left on the outside, left without hope and without God in the world. The Greek word used here for ‘without God’ is atheos – where we get our word atheist from. People who lived without God in their world were essentially atheists.
If this were the end of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, this would be very bad news. If the Scripture ended with walls of division between God’s love and those who live without hope and without God in their world, we would have nothing to celebrate this morning. If God allowed these dividing walls to remain, we would have no cause to worship and no reason to give thanks.
Verse 13 goes on to proclaim, “But now in Christ Jesus you who were once 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.” (Ephesians 2:13-14)
Paul traveled widely on his three missionary journeys converting more and more Gentiles. The membership of the church shifted from being predominately Jewish to being predominately Gentile. Eventually The Jerusalem Council (Acts 15), decided not to require circumcision for church membership.
The tensions that existed between Jew and Gentile in the early church continued as Gentiles assumed a larger role. Some Christians, both Jew and Gentile, looked askance at those on the other side of the line.
Early Christians understood that God brought people into the church whom they would not have included otherwise. Philip went to the half-breed Samaritans, and they received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Peter had a vision of going to unclean gentile “dogs,” and he not only went to Cornelius’ house, but he preached the gospel, and stayed at his house. Jews ate with gentiles, and rich people let dinner get cold until slaves got off work, so they could eat together.
Being saved is a movement from one sphere of life to another. These verses remind us: salvation involves more than forgiveness of the individual sinful self; it is the integration into God’s work of redemption and reconciliation, Paul says that God in Christ has made one humanity of the two., both Jews and Gentiles become united in Christ as Jew and Gentile. The point is that God’s reconciliation and transformation of humanity finds expression in a unity marked by welcoming and hospitality. Once Jesus completed his work, there was no longer a need for a wall in the temple. Jesus became the temple, and there was no room in his heart for a wall to separate Jews and Gentiles.
19So then you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, 20being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone; 21in whom the whole building, fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22in whom you also are built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.
We seldom notice the foundation of a building, but it is essential to the well-being of the building and its occupants. A contractor once said, ”I have learned over the years that, if you get the foundation right, the rest of the house will go well. If you get the foundation wrong, you’ll never recover.”
Architecturally, a cornerstone is a large stone—typically the largest and most perfect stone in the building—selected to span both sides of a corner, anchoring the two walls. Spiritually, a cornerstone is that which holds us together through the shakes and rattles of life. Christ is our cornerstone.
The household of God (v. 19) has as its foundation “apostles and prophets.” Prophets are God’s spokespersons. Theirs was a thankless calling, and often led to their being persecuted or killed for delivering an unpopular message. The church at its best today is still prophetic—challenging power structures—fighting for the well-being of widows, orphans and other vulnerable people.
The whole building is ours. It’s a co-op, not a hotel. There are many rooms in this mansion, but the building is all one piece. And we do need walls. Not sound-proofed walls, to keep us from noticing one another’s presence, but load-bearing walls, to hold each other up in the storms.
One of the secrets of successful living is remembering the things that can help us—and forgetting the things that could drag us down. For many of us, church is like a family; we have lived together, so sharing in family life comes naturally. In a healthy, growing church, people are continually welcomed into the family.
The walls we have to deal with are the walls of distance and ignorance. As every home owner knows, buying the house is only the beginning. You then have to maintain it. If there is a leak in the roof, or a window gets broken, you fix it or find someone who can; you don’t just ignore it.
“For he is our peace who made both one, and broke down the middle wall of partition” (v. 14). Peace is a significant word, Eirene- in greek. having its roots in the Hebrew word shalom, which was used frequently in the Old Testament.
Both can refer to an inner kind of peace—the kind of well-being that is derived from a deep relationship with God—the kind of wholeness that comes from having the image of God, once shattered by sin, restored in the believer. But both eirene and shalom can also refer to an external kind of peace—the absence of rancor or violence among individuals or nations.
People construct walls in their minds and hearts—walls that do not necessarily express themselves in physical form. We know invisable but definitive walls in current ongoing racist attitudes toward indigenous folks ,blacks and asians which seem to have grown unacceptably in the ongoing months of the current pandemic
We all have a tendency to think in terms of “them” versus “us.” We are drawn to those who are like us and repelled by those who are not. But Christ calls us to love our neighbor, even if our neighbor happens to be a person from a different place and following a different religion. God wants to bring down the walls that divide us.
We can build up all the dividing walls we want, but Christ breaks them down. And with the walls broken down, we can see the result that Christ brings – Christ creates one new humanity from divided groups. Christ didn’t make all the Jews into Gentiles or all the Gentiles into Jews. Instead, Christ creates “in himself” a new people – the people of the church. So Christ gives to the church unity – not unity through uniformity by making us all exactly the same, because later in Ephesians we hear about the distinct gifts of the Holy Spirit that make us different from one another – but unity that comes because all Christians are centered on the one Christ: “for through Christ both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.” The walls that we can build up, Christ can tear down!
The church is God’s household, God’s building. He built the foundation long before we were born, beginning in the Old Testament, and continuing with the apostles. God has been building his church for centuries, and he continues to build it. Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of the building,. The church does not belong to us, and therefore we do not get to decide who should be part of it.
In our church life, we want to welcome people who are questioning or seeking faith, or those who are hurting, or those who are rough around edges. Jesus made room for people like that, and he rejoiced as they came to him.
Pray that God will bring into our fellowship many who have not yet found place in God’s church, or who feel disconnected. There is a place for them in God’s household, and we may be the ones to welcome them home. The walls that we can build up, Christ can tear down! AMEN
God’s goodness flourishes around us in this season of growth and re-creation. Our gifts to God are a token of our gratitude for all we receive in Christ and in creation. These gifts will also help God’s goodness flourish through the ministries we undertake in Jesus’ name.
God of goodness and growth, receive our gifts and our gratitude for the fruitfulness you provide. Bless our gifts with your Spirit so that they may accomplish more than we can ask or imagine, for the sake of Christ, our Friend and Saviour. Amen.
GATHERING PRAYER REQUESTS
PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING AND INTERCESSION
Holy and awesome God
We are witnesses and story tellers; We are part of the unfolding tale of faith.
Precious words and sacred memories are carried in every one of us.
IF we “go and tell what we have seen and heard”
Each one can recite a chapter, a verse, a paragraph.
When we risk spinning theses yarns When we listen and speak
When we carefully gather these fragments up …
We discover the Good News all over again
Keeper of stories and weaver of dreams Set our voices free.
Grant us the courage we need to be tellers of truth and speakers of the sacred.
Unstop our ears, that we might recognise the wisdom Of witnesses in our midst.
Empower us with your love ,That we might spin new yarns
With confidence and grace
Good and generous God,
in Jesus Christ you came to us, promising life in abundance.
We give you thanks today for the abundant gifts we receive in him—
the assurance of your love day by day;
the relief of your mercy when we recognize our own failings;
hope to sustain us when things seem bleak;
and peace that comes when we trust ourselves to your eternal keeping.
These are the gifts that matter, O God,
Creator God, you make us for work and rest. We pray for physical, mental and spiritual restoration so that we may shed our weariness and enjoy peace and fellowship
so for all these gifts and other blessings we recognize around us,
we give you thanks in these moments of silence:
(Keep a brief silence)
Generous God, today we pray for all whose lives seem empty of joy—
because the going is tough, and friends still seem far away…
because their hearts are filled with disappointment…
because their sorrow and grief are keen this day…
We lift to you the workers who died in the crane accident in Kelowna this past Monday . Comfort their families , co-workers and friends as they greive this sudden loss.
For the people in Barrie Ont and their instant trauma with losses of homes For the uncountable many who have lost family, friends, home and businesses in the overwhelming flood in Germany and Belgium. Support each one in your abundant compassion.
(Keep a brief silence)
We give thanks and pray for deployed military chaplains who bring life, hope and joy to those who are far from home. Closer to home we lift to you All those who work for justice in the Courts of Law .
we remember before you those who lives are empty of peace and hope—
because they are struggling with illness or disability…
because they are powerless in the face of violence
or other forces beyond their control…
Especially today we pray for all those facing discrimination
because of their culture or their religion,
and those still struggling to overcome the effects of the pandemic…
Send your peace and promise with signs of new possibility and real hope.
(Keep a brief silence)
we remember before you those for whom life is frustrating—
because they are without work…
because they have made poor choices and cannot find a way forward…
because what comes next does not seem clear…
Support each one in your abundant mercy and lead them in new paths.
(Keep a brief silence
Good and generous God, fill us with energy & compassion to reach out to those facing difficult times. May we become the gift we have received in Jesus, for it is in his name we pray, saying the words he taught us:
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever. Amen
MUSICAL INTRLUDE; # 479 The church’s one foundation
In you journeys to and fro, God direct you; in your happiness and pleasure, God bless you; in care, anxiety or trouble God sustain you; in peril or in danger God protect you. The grace of God, the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit be with you now and always
CLOSING SONG: Take o Take me as I am