The great divide happened again this week as NSW Covid cases spiked at the start of the week into triple figures. The resultant action was to declare red zones and shut down borders so we don’t get infected. This is their problem – we don’t want them here. While that might not be what they are literally saying, that is how many perceive it. Sadly this is human response all too often. Build walls in time of adversity and protect ourselves.
I was watching a show on TV the other day called American Preppers. It is a show about people who prepare for the end of the world. Instead of building walls they build bunkers – fill them with food and water – arm themselves with weapons – and lock themselves away until it’s safe to venture out again. And that’s what walls do. They don’t just keep people out- they also keep us locked in. We laugh at “preppers” – call them nutcases – the tin-foil hat wearing brigade. But tell me how we are any different in the way we respond in a crisis. Try buying toilet paper when there is even the hint of a lockdown – the shelves are stripped bare – every man for himself. In a time of crisis, our mindset doesn’t think about leaving one or two for others but making sure we have more than enough for ourselves.
There have been many famous walls in history. The walls of Jericho that came tumbling down. The Great Wall of China – so great that it can apparently be seen from outer space. And the infamous wall separating the USA and Mexico. Walls can make us feel safe like those who chose to live in gated communities. But walls can also send a message of “not welcome” to outsiders, like the walls and gates built by the Exclusive Brethren Churches and schools. Walls are not only physical walls that we build but they can also be personal walls that we build in our own lives that keep others out of our lives – and maybe even our churches that send a message of “not welcome”. I know that for me these lockdowns and restrictions have had a massive impact in my life that we cannot put the “All Welcome” sign up – because we are restricted in how many people may attend. And when suddenly a visitor arrives we can sort of make them feel less than welcome – did you book?
Jesus came, according to Paul, to break down walls. Paul describes it as: 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.
In his ministry time on earth Jesus broke down walls between the righteous and sinners – between Jew and Gentile, the clean and the unclean. In his final act of sacrifice, by dying for our sins, he broke down the greatest wall and divider of all – the one dividing us and God as the symbolic act is seen where the Temple curtain is ripped in 2. A curtain that was used to divide the temple from the most holy place – the holy of holies. Jesus came because walls needed to be broken down – and continue to need to be broken down.
Paul says, he came to create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, to reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross. Paul describes that new one humanity as no longer being strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. Citizens with the saints and household of God. Do we feel like citizens at present? I don’t. And I’m sure those citizens trapped overseas don’t feel like citizens. And that’s what fear does to us. Fear isolates us. Fear alienates us.
As Christians we are called to not let fear direct our behaviour. King David wrote in today’s Psalm – Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for you are with me; I’m not suggesting that we live irresponsibly but I am suggesting that we look at how we are living our lives.
Are we allowing our fear to create walls and barriers?
Jesus takes down whatever walls we have raised to create divisions amongst us. Insiders and outsiders? The walls come down. Citizens and foreigners? The walls come down. Jesus does all this through his own body that was broken for us so that we may be one. In Holy Communion we partake in the one bread and the one cup even though visually because of Covid that is not what we see. But remember, we also don’t see his body and blood but the physical presence of bread and wine. But what the world displays before us Christ breaks down and presents them to us as his own body and blood given and shed for us.
When Jesus saw the crowds running after him he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; Can you picture sheep without a shepherd? Just as Jesus had compassion on the crowds today he continues to have compassion on us because we too at present are like sheep without a shepherd.
Walking aimlessly. We need to regroup in times like this and remove fear as our cornerstone and replace it with Jesus Christ as our cornerstone. The cornerstone is the first stone laid on which everything else is built.
What is your cornerstone? Is it Christ or is it fear?
God laid your cornerstone in your Baptism so let us not give it up so easily. Paul describes it so eloquently when he says: the life of a Christian is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God. Let us be vigilant in our fight against this pandemic but don’t let fear be the driving force – the cornerstone. Remember back to when the disciples were in the boat and through fear thought they were going to drown until Jesus got up and told the wind and the waves to be quiet. Who is this that even the wind and the waves obey him.
Do you think that Jesus is any less powerful today? In fact, that was before he had defeated death. Jesus told his disciples: Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
Let us be vigilant but with Christ as our cornerstone let us put our faith in Jesus Christ and trust in our Shepherd because the Lord is our Shepherd.