2012 ELCA Youth Gathering
“Practicing Discipleship” Opening Worship
July 19, 2012
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
So what’s all this business about walls in our lives? Are walls really all that bad?
I want to push back a bit and challenge the notion that walls are always awful—forever a problem.
Sometimes walls are pretty important—some walls are good, even necessary in our lives.
I’m grateful for the walls of my house and all the houses I’ve ever lived in. Walls keep the roof from falling on our heads. Walls keep blizzards outside in northern Minnesota. Walls keep air-conditioned air inside here along the Gulf Coast.
Walls protect us. Walls keep us safe. Walls give us privacy, some space where we can relax and be ourselves.
Same goes for those walls we call boundaries. Thank God for boundaries in our connections and relationships with one another—boundaries like: “respect others” and “no bullying allowed” and “keep your hands to yourself!”
Thank God for these kinds of walls….physical, psychological and social. Some walls are good. Some walls we can’t live without!
But like every other good thing God has created, walls can be misused, turned into obstacles, transformed into weapons that stifle and even kill. There are walls that diminish us, disrespect persons, divide us from one another. Some walls rob us of the rich, full, free life God intends for us.
That’s what the writer of Ephesians is talking about in our Gathering theme passage when he speaks of a “dividing wall….(of) hostility.”
You see, running right thru the middle of the Bible’s story of God and God’s people is one huge wall. It's the wall separating God's chosen people from everyone else. Over many centuries this wall fostered hostility between God’s chosen people--the Jews--and everyone else--the Gentiles.
So there’s this “dividing wall (of) hostility”….and God has said this wall has to go….and so God sent Jesus to be the wall-defying, wall-busting One.
And this Jesus, at his Cross, made peace permanently between God and God’s one new humanity….peace that is meant to permeate and fill this one new humanity….
And this same Jesus now invites and equips us to join him defying and tearing down dividing walls wherever we find them in our world.
But what might that look like—following, living as disciples of Jesus the wall-buster?
President Abraham Lincoln, once was asked why he was always reaching out to his political enemies. “Mr. President, why don’t you use your power to destroy your enemies?” Lincoln was asked.
…to which Abraham Lincoln responded: “Isn’t that what I am doing? Am I not destroying my enemies, when I make them my friends?”
In this last verse of our reading from Ephesians, we see how God through Jesus the wall-defier, transforms us from being foreigners and strangers….to becoming fellow citizens with the saints, members of one new household, best friends forever in Christ.
The “Jesus-method” of doing away with enemies is by making them friends, sisters, brothers, neighbors.
And Jesus gets us into the act. Today, our “Practice Discipleship” day, Jesus will fashion and form and equip us to join him in God’s work of breaking down dividing walls in order to create one new humanity.
Discipleship is about living the forgiven life, forming new habits of being together in Christ, and fanning out across God’s world, starting today here in New Orleans….
· Substituting service for selfishness
· Filling resentment with prayer
· Placing worship at the center of our lives
· Inviting others to join us, studying God’s word, giving ourselves away, and through it all (because this isn’t an easy path) encouraging one another to grow deeply into God’s one new humanity in Jesus Christ.
So, get ready to go and live the adventure of destroying enemies by making them friends—friends of Jesus, friends who walk with us in our Lord’s footsteps, on the road of discipleship—always, always toward God’s tomorrow.In the name of Jesus. Amen.