The Dividing Wall of Hostility
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility…” — Ephesians 2:13-14
Saint Paul tells us, in the scripture quoted above, that Jesus has broken down the dividing wall of hostility. Walls divide people. Robert Frost, in his poem “Mending Wall”, quotes the aphorism “Good fences make good neighbors.” Then he proceeds to ask the question, “Why do they make good neighbors? Before I built a wall I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out. And to whom I was like to give offense.”
Walls divide people. However, as we saw in the introduction to these meditations, God desired that His people rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. But he also commanded that they rebuild the walls of the Temple first. The walls of the Temple hold up the roof, His covering over the worshipping community.
There has been a dismantling of the familiar things in the church–things that have brought us comfort in the past. For example, on this Ash Wednesday, we will not be in a position to receive the imposition of Ashes. We have gone an entire year without being able to hug one another at the passing of the Peace. We cannot take the Lord’s blood from a common chalice. And there are many other things that we have grown accustomed to which have been taken away from us. God is dismantling our “familiar structures” and rebuilding His Temple according to His purposes and will.
God is calling upon his people to rebuild the walls of the Temple of his Body, the Church. But what will these walls look like? Of what will they be constructed? These are not to be walls that divide people. They are to be walls of virtue, to hold in righteous hearts and to keep out works of the world, the flesh, and the devil. These walls will need to have open windows through which those outside can peer into the righteous workings of Christ’s body. These walls will need to have wide, welcoming gates to heartily receive those who desire to come in. These walls will need to look like the Lord himself, for he says that He Himself is a wall of protection around those who belong to him (cf. Zech. 2:5).
God does not want us to build walls to shield us from those outside the body, to separate us from the world. On the contrary, Jesus said that we are to be in the world, that the world may know him (John 16:33; 17:15-18). Jesus prayed that the Father would keep us from the evil one, not from one another. The walls we are building are walls of virtue, walls that keep us in right relationship with God, safe from evil but not isolated from the world.
Jesus is breaking down the dividing wall of hostility, and calling upon us, His body, to build walls of virtue and righteousness, that the Temple of his Body may be a covering over all people.
2 thoughts on “Ash Wednesday”
In your paragraph describing the “dismantling” of the church, the description sounds almost like a demolition. I believe that God is about a remodeling and a renovation, if you will. When one engages in an extensive house remodeling, the first stages look like total destruction, but as things progress, it becomes clear that the aim is a rebuilding that is an improvement on the original. Many things will look different, but some precious and important features will be retained–certain design features, pieces of furniture, keepsakes. In like fashion, when God remodels His church, I think we can feel confident that those precious things (communion, both of the Body and Blood and of the people) will be retained. They may look different, but they will not be discarded. So we should not despair during the demolition phase, when it looks like there will never be a house again and that all is lost. The Architect know what He is doing.
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While I agree with your assessment that the “dismantling” paragraph sounds like a demolition, I must ask, is that such a bad thing? In some cases when a remodeling is needed, SOMETHING must be torn out and that is never an easy or gentle process. You’re correct about the “core” things remaining, but one must ask the hard question; “Can the original really be improved on?” If our Messiah set the perfect standard of conduct and worship, can that really be improved on? And perhaps there are some traditional things that are precious that need to have a close examination. “Does this bring me CLOSER to Him or does it just make me FEEL good because it’s familiar?” You know me, I’m all about certain traditions, but I’ve found in recent weeks that I needed to examine what I was doing and determine how important they really were. More importantly, was I willing to toss them out if they didn’t work with the decor that He is trying to set up? OUCH!
You’re too much like you’re other half, Sis. You two make me THINK! I know this might come as a shock (LOL!) but I usually find out that I’ve missed the boat on some things. HATE when that happens.