Foundry United Methodist Church

Rev. Dean Snyder, Senior Minister

 

 

 

The Broken Wall

Sunday, October 2, 2005

 

 

Ephesians 2: 11-22

Luke 6: 27-36

 

Rev. Dean Snyder

 

Please hear again these two verses of Scripture from the book of Ephesians 2: 13-14:

 

“But now in Christ Jesus you who were once afar 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.”

 

The broken wall: In the temple in Jerusalem there was a wall that divided Israelite from goyem. It divided “God’s people” from the people of the nations, the Gentiles. In fact, in the Temple there were many dividing walls.

 

There was a wall that divided men and women.

 

There was a wall separating those who had the luxury – the wealth, really – to follow the rules of ritual purity and the poor who could not take hour-long lunch breaks to wash their hands a dozen times as they ate.

 

There was a wall that divided differently-abled people.

 

There was a wall that divided the diseased – the lepers, the infected – and the healthy.  

 

There was a wall – in this case, a curtain – that divided the Holy of Holies from the merely Holy.

 

The Temple – the humanly designed space that was supposed to represent, in its architecture, the realm of heaven – was a building full of dividing walls.

 

What Jesus Christ did, according to the post-Pauline Book of Ephesians, was to break down the dividing wall.

 

“But now in Christ Jesus you who were once afar 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.”

 

There are still dividing walls in the Temple. The 6 ˝ inch step at the Communion railing may as well be 6 ˝ foot high if you are in a wheelchair. If I found myself in a wheelchair tomorrow, there is no possible way I could be your pastor. The dividing wall.

 

And there are other walls – walls we can’t see or touch but which are just as high, just as thick.

 

Today we are celebrating October 3, 1995 when the Foundry Church board voted to become a reconciling congregation and announced to the world our commitment “to be in ministry with all people of all races, sexual orientations, ages, or physical conditions.”

 

When this happened 10 years ago tomorrow there were United Methodists all over the world who predicted the doors of Foundry Church would be closed within a decade. They were wrong – unless you all withdraw your membership between now and midnight,

 

Ten years ago, a dividing wall was broken down.

 

But, actually, the wall was not broken down 10 years ago tomorrow. It was actually broken down 1968 years ago in a city named Jerusalem at a place called Mount Calvary; it just took us 1958 years to get around to realizing and proclaiming it.

 

“But now in Christ Jesus you who were once afar 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.”

 

I want to talk about two kinds of spiritual dividing walls that exist within most of us, in one way or another.

 

The first is a dividing wall we use to protect ourselves from people we think are different and who scare us.

 

At 25 years of age, recently graduated from seminary, hardly knowing what I was doing, I was the pastor of a church in Philadelphia. A member of my church, a married man, asked to meet with me. He wanted my help, he said, because (and this is the word he used) he was a homosexual.

 

I asked him to tell me about it. I listened. After he was done talking, I told him we had not covered this in seminary. I asked him to let me read up on it, and we’d talk again next week. We had a prayer and ended our meeting.

 

The next day I went to the public library near my church. I used to spend a lot of time there reading and writing sermons, so I was a familiar presence. I looked up homosexuality in the card catalogue. I went to the section of the library where the books on homosexuality were, and started taking them off the shelf and browsing through them.

 

One of the librarians walked over to section of book shelves near me. I recognized him by sight, although I’d never spoken to him. He was a neat dresser and always wore bowties. I nodded at him in a friendly way, and kept browsing through the books about homosexuality. He moved closer to me, and, although I wondered why he was standing so close, I nodded at him and smiled again.

 

Then he came so close to me that he brushed up against my arm. Suddenly I realized something I hadn’t expected was going on here. I felt a leap of panic in my stomach. I dropped my books and almost ran from the library, upset and shaky.

 

When I got home, I began to ask myself why I had reacted the way I had. It bothered me. The librarian hadn’t done anything to me. Why had I gotten so scared?  I called a psychologist friend, and that day a dividing wall within me began to break down.

 

There are walls within us we use to divide ourselves from those whom we do not understand and who scare us. Jesus Christ longs to break down those walls within us. Jesus Christ can break that wall down within you.

 

Then, there are other walls within us – perhaps even more serious walls. Walls meant to keep us back. They exist, I suspect in all of us. 

 

I can only understand this through my own experience, so I am going to talk about myself for just a moment more. I was born to and raised by parents whose first language was not English but Pennsylvania German. My father dropped out of school in the 4th grade to work fulltime on the farm. I grew up with an accent so thick people laughed at me when I got to college. I talked funny: Throw the cow over the fence some hay.

 

This sense of growing up poor, with uneducated parents, talking funny, has been a spiritual dividing wall within me my whole life, and especially these past three years since I have been here at Foundry, one of the most important Methodist pulpits in America.

 

For three years, there has been a voice in the back of my head saying: You talk funny. Your English isn’t polished or erudite. You aren’t all that smart. You are a phony. You don’t belong here.

 

And for the past three years, there have been one or two people out there where you are sitting who have said: “Snyder talks funny. His English isn’t very polished or erudite. He isn’t all that smart. He doesn’t belong here.” Every time I have heard about someone in the congregation saying this about me, I have said to myself: They’ve found me out! I knew it! I was right! I don’t belong here!

 

Listen, now: there is not one person of color in this congregation this morning who has not felt the way I have felt, somewhere and some time in their lives. There is not one woman in the congregation this morning who has not felt the way I have felt. There is not one immigrant in the congregation who has not felt this way. There is not one LGBT person in the congregation who hasn’t felt it. There is not one differently-abled person who hasn’t felt it. There is not one person who struggles with their weight who hasn’t felt it. There is not one recovering person who hasn’t felt it. There is not one person who struggles with emotional disabilities who hasn’t felt it.

 

There is a wall inside of us that has been planted there – a voice that keeps whispering: You don’t really belong here.

 

Here’s what I want you to know this morning –I want you to know it —Jesus Christ has broken down that wall inside of you and me, and we need to let it fall. Let the wall fall. Step through it. We belong here. We belong here. We belong here.

 

(Softly) I know this is a hard struggle. There will always be someone who will communicate to you that you don’t belong here. This is their space, and you don’t belong here. Why do we keep fighting it? Why keep trying to find a place for ourselves where they don’t seem to want us?

 

Because…here’s what the book of Ephesians says: “… you have been brought near by the blood of Christ...in his flesh...he has broken down the dividing wall."

 

The blood of Christ was shed; his flesh, his body was broken to break down the wall to get us in here. Do not let the blood of Christ be shed in vain. Do not let his body be broken in vain.

 

And understand that the body and blood of Christ is not just the body broken and the blood on Mount Calvary 1968 years ago. Jesus Christ is a cosmic Christ. Jesus Christ fills all space and time. This is part of what the Book of Ephesians says.

 

The body and blood of Christ includes the body and blood of thousands upon thousands of poor German immigrants who worked their bodies into early graves, dying of diabetes and broken hearts, preparing for the day when a Pennsylvania Dutchy could preach in a Methodist pulpit a mile from the White House in Washington DC.

 

The body and blood of Christ is the body and blood of Africans who died in slave ships and whose bodies were beaten and whose backs were whipped bloody on plantations in Virginia and Alabama.

 

The body and blood of Christ is the body and blood of black men who were lynched.

 

It is the body and blood of women who were raped and wives who were beaten.

 

It is the body and blood of lesbians who were burned at the stake and gay men who were castrated. It is the body and blood of babies, born with little deformed bodies, who were smothered with a pillow before they ever made it home from the hospital.  

 

We “have been brought near by the blood of Christ...in his flesh…he has broken down the dividing wall.”  You have been bought with a price.

 

Because so many have given their bodies and their life blood, we need to step through the dividing walls – the really hard ones…the lives that live in our souls.

 

This is what we remember this morning as this bread our Communion stewards have prepared becomes the body of Christ and this wine becomes the blood of Christ. We eat and drink, and rise to find the strength to step over the walls in our souls Christ has broken through.     

 

 

 

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