Into the Body, Out of the Fog

Reference: Ephesians 2:11-22  

A long time ago, Christians should already have realized the law has a new revised status. We need to ensure the dividing walls are destroyed. Those who have come as foreigners and aliens must be granted citizenship and any hostility towards them must cease.

Calm down. I am not talking about the United States, but rather your other, more enduring citizenship in the Kingdom of God. St. Paul, in the Ephesians segment referenced above, unfolds the whole process of transcending the former ethno-religious divisions into Jew and Gentile to realize a new unity in God. Formerly, he says, Gentiles were excluded from citizenship among the chosen people, designated as foreigners to the covenants of the promise. Now that has all changed.

The difference is that Jesus Christ has come among us. It has not changed because he was a wise prophet, although he was that. It has not changed because he proclaimed a better morality, although he did. It did not change because of his miracles, though he did many. But it changed, says Paul, because “now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” His action on the Cross, the bloody sacrifice and subsequent Resurrection makes the difference. By so doing, he has fulfilled the law, “by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.”

Paul tells us Christ acts to literally incorporate, to fuse into one body, all those humans who in baptism “put on Christ,” as the hymn describes it. It is much closer than all joining the same organization or group. We are made part of the one Body of Christ. The early Fathers of the Church, as they struggled to accurately describe this, termed it an “hypostatic” union. The divine and human natures combined in the person of Jesus Christ, and in baptism we are also joined into this Body. The fusion of persons is complete, even if not, in our case, biological. In the mystical union we have our being in the Body of Christ, even as we are renewed as we receive the Body in the Eucharist in material form in conjunction with the bread. Your and my person is absorbed into the loving reality.

Paul is indeed describing a reality here, not an analogy. But to further make his point, he also uses an analogy, that of a building. In Christ, the apostles and prophets have made a foundation, into which we are joined as the construction rises to become the Lord’s new temple, a dwelling for us and the Holy Spirit to live in. “We are God’s house of living stones,” as Bishop Grundtvig has hymned.

In this Body, in this temple, the law and commandments do not dwell. Instead, the lifeblood is the love and grace of the Lord, the gift won by the Cross. Therefore, says Paul, the old rules are abolished. That means the old divisions and exclusions are abolished as well. If a body is divided, the result is tragic and fatal. If a part is amputated, it cannot survive on its own.

I can remember in seminary being advised that, although this is all true, it is best not to preach on it much, because people might become undisciplined if they thought the Law no longer applied to them. Further, people might become upset if we proclaimed that anybody and everybody could be part of the same close union that we, the self-designated elect, were part of. Those who cautioned us did so from experience.

St. Paul could have given the same advice. He also knew from experience just how upset people could get when you told them this truth, that God is love, God loves all people and invites them all to be baptized into his Body. God doesn’t ask us if we approve, rather he expects us to love as he does.

There is, of course, no point to Christianity without this truth. But in our context, the mangled, confused message delivered by the multiple messengers of the Faith has so distorted the reality that it can be embarrassing to call yourself Christian because of what the term can mean to many people.

So I am afraid we have no choice but to preach the Gospel of love, unmitigated, and we need to do it in conjunction with those who, without Christianity, would be strangers and aliens to us. Ultimately, half-truths make things worse. We live in a time when the clarity of God’s love is badly needed. Will you get in trouble for that proclamation? Maybe. St. Paul, among others, certainly did. But we will never get out of the current muddle that American Christianity finds itself in other than through some very clear and defining words and deeds.

Therefore, since we, the members of the mystical Body, have these truths, and are fed by the love of our Lord and Savior, let us just blurt it out:

We are sinners, who fail to keep the Law when we try, and therefore cannot save ourselves from the massive mess we have made. God, in his mercy, has provided the means for a new life, in love, and has himself demonstrated that love for us, on the Cross. We therefore do not live by the Law but absorbed in the love of God, in which we seek to please him and be free from sin and separation. Jesus Christ loves all people, and seeks to reconcile all with himself, through love. All, by the way, means all. Even you. It absolutely means there are no divisions by ethnicity, race, class, economics, national origin, economic or social status or anything else; the waters of baptism wash all that away.

The only solution to the world’s problems that works is the love of God. The only meaning to our life is to accept and express that love.

Repeat as often as needed, or until they throw you out. But it seems to me that where this is the clear and only message given, people do eventually get it. Eventually, they may even try it themselves. That is, after all, how Christianity came to permeate the world. It might even permeate how we run the other nation that says it is “under God.”