Fences serve multiple purposes. They protect, preserve and create a safe environment for those within the boundary of the fence. They also keep out, restrict, or deny access to those outside the boundary line of the fence. It all depends on what you wish the fence to do. If you’re protecting livestock, it serves to preserve against those outside. If you’re keeping prisoners, it serves to protect those outside by denying them freedom. The standard of the fence, the materials used, and the maintenance all reflect the importance of the fence. We use fences in many ways, but in the end, they exist to separate those within the fence from those outside the fence.
Too often we the church build fences around us. Sometimes it is intentional. Sometimes we do it accidentally. We do it in all sorts of ways, through the way we talk, the things we find important, the way we worship, the friendliness we show, and the attitudes we display. Every time we do it, we run the risk of separating people from the heart of our faith, Jesus Christ. We alienate people and place them in a position of hopelessness. Our fences create a hostility that prevents the broken and lost from finding peace and hope. They never get to know a God whose love form them breaks down the fences and restores hope and life to them.
Paul reminds the Ephesian church that they were once aliens to God’s grace. As Gentiles they were excluded from the promise of life with God. They knew no real hope, and the law and customs ensured this remained intact. But Christ comes, and through his death, he makes peace. It no longer becomes something we do to win God’s favour. Our traditions, customs, laws, commandments, are abolished by Christ. We have become one in Christ, fellow citizens with all the saints, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ as the corner stone. The church to which they belong is joined together by Christ and called to grow in Christ by the Spirit’s power as a dwelling place for God.
The world in which we live is lost and living without hope. We look to the present, as if in this moment we can find the hope to live another day. It has become all about the individual, their desires, wishes, inclinations, living for the moment and ignoring the future. Death is final, science promotes a depressing fatalism, and belief in anything by the individual and material is nonsense. In such a world, the church has a powerful message. It now only knows a God of hope, that God now dwells with them. The church bears the very presence of a God of grace and love, who brings hope not just for tomorrow but for all eternity.
There was great joy when the Berlin wall as brought down. There should be even more joy with the church’s message of Christ pulling down the walls that divide us. In the church, in us, the Spirit works building us into the dwelling place of God. The cornerstone, Jesus Christ, forms the foundation of all our hope, for only in him has the walls been destroyed and hope offered to a hopeless world. We come together as church not for us, but for a world that desperately needs to hear, see, and experience the power of God’s unconditional grace.