St. Matthew’s Sermon 07-22-2018


St. Matthew’s Sermon 07-22-2018

Tear Down This Wall: and This One, and This One…

2 Samuel 7:1-14a , Psalm 23, Ephesians 2:11-22, Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

It never ceases to amaze me; how much information can be found on the internet; and how much of it, even from various reputable sites, is conflicting.

I was looking to find when human civilization began to enclose their cities with walls and found 3 options for the first known walled city; Jericho of Biblical fame, Sumer and Uruk; and dates ranging from 10,000-4,500 BC. So, all I can tell you as fact right now is that we’ve been building walls for a long time.

Of course, the kind of walls I’m talking about were built as defenses to keep invaders out or, at least, give the occupants of the city a good advantage in their final line of defense.

In more recent history, many of you, I’m sure, are familiar with the Berlin Wall erected in the early 1960’s; that one, oddly, was intended to keep people in, not out, when so many were defecting from the east, under Soviet control,  to the west, under British control.

A bit closer in time still, Israel began building walls to regulate the flow of Palestinians across their borders. I emphasize “regulate” because Israel doesn’t want to keep all Palestinians out, they rely on them for cheap labor; they just need to keep the militants and terrorists out.

My only personal experience with such walls was on a much smaller scale, in terms of size; but much larger scale in terms of numbers. It was when I traveled to India where one of the first things we, as a group, noticed was that nearly every property was enclosed by a wall; even single homes in rural areas. There, however, the “enemy” being kept out was, only in part, other humans, but just as much a menace were the roaming animals in a land where cows, wild dogs, elephants, and other creatures wandered freely.

Remnants of similar efforts can be found here in our own neighborhood, in fact right here on our own property, with the old cemetery wall; not intended to keep us in or other people out, but to protect the gravestones from being damaged by free roaming cattle in the days before modern fencing.

And, of course, here in our own nation, in our immediate time, we hear so much about building a wall across our southern border to keep ‘the others’ out of our great nation.

From their inception walls got bigger, stronger, and built at an ever increasing expense; but seldom, if ever, did they accomplish their intended use flawlessly. We all know what happened to the walls of Jericho. Even the Great Wall of China was penetrated several times. Those of you who remember the construction of the Berlin Wall may also remember the words of President Ronald Reagan in his speech of June 12th, 1987, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”. And even today we can see the horrid, wretched, oppression resulting from Israel’s walls that, no doubt, will be torn down in the near future. Likewise, even if our nation ever manages to build a wall all the way across our border with Mexico, I doubt very much that it will solve any problem, real or imagined, and also will not long stand.

Yet, sadly, the physical walls we build are also walls built in our hearts where they do even less to protect us and even more to do harm to others andourselves.

When we believe that building walls in our hearts will protect us from the others, those that might do us harm, we also keep out the others that will do us good. When we close out a perceived threat we also close out potential love; we shut off the free-flow of gifts going out and coming in. When we build walls out of fear we simultaneously build distain for those on the other side.

 

When contemplating the teachings of Christ and the early Church I see the desire of God for us to tear down walls; both the physical barriers and those in our hearts. Think about when Christ took his mission outside Judea, think about how he took down the wall that separated him from the Samaritan woman, think of his parable of the “Good Samaritan”. Look at today’s Gospel reading; when he wanted a chance for him and his Disciples to get away and rest; did he put a wall between himself and the crowd? How about the moment he died on the cross and the “veil of the temple…” that separated the people from God “…was torn in two from top to bottom”. (Mark 15:38)

And the tearing down of walls continued. When Christ rose from the grave and appeared to his Disciples the wall between life and death crumbled. In the book of Acts when Peter, moved by the Holy Spirit, baptized the centurion Cornelius a wall was taken down. (Acts 10:47) And as Paul writes in today’s Epistle reading “For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken downthe dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us”… “He is our peace…”

 

In our Christian faith there is no place for walls that either keep in or keep out; there is no place for dividing walls between nations, between races, between factions of any kind, and there is no place for walls in our hearts.

In our Christian faith, the only walls that should be built are those that establish the “household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone”!

Christians, tear down your walls so that all people may be “built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God”.

Amen

 

2 Samuel 7:1-14a
7:1 Now when the king was settled in his house, and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him,
7:2 the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.”
7:3 Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the LORD is with you.”
7:4 But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan:
7:5 Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the LORD: Are you the one to build me a house to live in?
7:6 I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle.
7:7 Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”
7:8 Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the LORD of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel;
7:9 and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth.
7:10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly,
7:11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house.
7:12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.
7:13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
7:14a I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.

 

Psalm 23
23:1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
23:2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;
23:3 he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
23:4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff– they comfort me.
23:5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

 

Ephesians 2:11-22
2:11 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–
2:12 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.
2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
2:14 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.
2:15 He 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,
2:16 and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.
2:17 So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near;
2:18 for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.
2:19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God,
2:20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.
2:21 In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord;
2:22 in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.


Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
6:30 The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.
6:31 He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
6:32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.
6:33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them.
6:34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
6:53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat.
6:54 When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him,
6:55 and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was.
6:56 And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.