I hope you have never been in a church where KEEP OUT signs — cutting as barbed wire — dictated who could, and could not, enter. I’m guessing that many of you have been in churches that had unspoken barriers, as certain as invisible electric fences.
Jewish people of Old Testament times lost sight of the Gospel’s sweeping promise. They forgot that Abraham was blessed in order to be a blessing to the nations. Christians today often lose sight of the Gospel’s power and forget that the hard work of friendship and fellowship across cultural lines is “vale la pena.”
Our church has been reading Ephesians. In chapter 2, Paul explains the mystery of the Gospel as the inclusion of Gentiles as fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the same promise of the Gospel.
The Law of God divided humanity into two groups: the Jews (who kept the Law) and people of every other cultural group (who were all unclean lawbreakers). Jewish people were heirs of the promise; all other people were strangers to it. Jewish believers had hope; Gentiles had none. Jews could enter the Holy place where sacrifices were made to atone for sin. Everyone else was barred — kept away from the cleansing sacrifices by a dividing wall.
Then Jesus took on the sins of His people so His righteousness could be applied to those who believe, opening access to the Holy God for people from every ethnicity. According to Ephesians, Jesus died so that those who were far off — alienated — might be brought near. He died to break down the dividing wall that separated the clean from the unclean. He died to create a redeemed humanity of believers from every culture.
God’s Word says Christ “killed the hostility.”
According to Ephesians, God’s people of many different backgrounds — even those from groups which have long histories of conflict and mistrust, exploitation and hatred — have unity now because Christ has killed the hostility between them. According to Ephesians, God’s people maintain that unity of the Spirit as, through repentance and faith, they live and love like Christ.
City Church aims to be a community of people from diverse cultural and socioeconomic groups, united by the gospel. If we live united with Christ, we will not be haunted by the hostilities that Christ killed. If we return to the Law and human effort as the basis for our access to God, we “are severed from Christ.” Cut off from our Head, like slaughtered chickens afrenzy, we will allow hostilities (and the stench of death) to arise.
According to Ephesians, however, God’s people of many different backgrounds — even those from groups which have long histories of conflict and mistrust, exploitation and hatred — have unity now because Christ has killed the hostility between them. According to Ephesians, God’s people maintain that unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
The prophet Isaiah called the Israelites to justice and reminded them that “no foreigner who has bound himself to the LORD should be excluded.” He said the broken and the maimed, who were forbidden to enter the Temple, would have a memorial within it. He prophesied that foreigners would come to the Temple Mount and find joy in that “house of prayer for all nations.”
City Church longs to be that place where the wrecked and the ruined find rest and wholeness — holiness — in Christ. City Church longs to be a place where the Christian in humble circumstances is celebrated, like a wildflower that grows through a crack in the concrete, and where the believer who is rich glories in his low position, knowing that he will pass away like a summer flower. City Church longs to be a place where people of various cultures celebrate the intercultural kingdom of Christ. City Church longs to impact York City, so people are changed from those who kill because of hostility to those who celebrate the hostility-killing crucifixion of Christ.
According to Ephesians 3, God’s plan is to reveal His manifold wisdom through His church, which displays the beauty of His diverse creation in humanity and the unity of His new creation in the Spirit. And He is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” for the glory of His name in City Church.