By Elizabeth Baumann
A Reading from Ephesians 2:11-22
11 So then, 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 — 12remember 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. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14 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. 15He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. 17So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, 20built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.
One of the few non-fiction books I come back to again and again is Forming Intentional Disciples, essentially a how-to for converting cultural Christians who are already sitting in the pews by helping them to understand what the gospel really is and what it demands. As I read this passage from Ephesians for today, I’m reminded of a long quote toward the end of the book in which a young woman who started attending a church as a totally uninitiated teenager reflects on the difference since she’s come to know Jesus and been baptized. She begins by speculating that life-long Christians simply don’t know the difference that Jesus makes, and if they only knew, would be much less afraid of evangelizing.
Paul does something similar here: he asks the Ephesians to remember what it was like when they were without God. Wandering in the world without hope, divided into Jews and Gentiles with no way to surmount the divisions between them. It seems impossible to read it without feeling that this is the very world we also live in now: people divided by their hurts and sins, seeing no way to break down the divisions, without hope and thus doomed to anger and fear.
We life-long Christians really don’t know. But perhaps we could ask — ask adult converts if you know any, or just ask the Holy Spirit to help us imagine. If we better understood the plight of those outside the peace that is the gospel, don’t you think compassion would compel us to find more ways to share it?
Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Agra (North India)
Trinity Church Wall Street, New York, N.Y.