I have a friend called Kenton, he is from Hong Kong and he lives in London. Recently he was being taken to Heathrow airport by a Romanian taxi driver and who he led to Christ during that journey.
Three nations and one Christ is a beautiful picture.
December 1st, 1955, on a bus in Alabama, Rosa Parks did something that would be a catalyst for a whole new world-wide movement. This was the moment she was born for. James Blake, a white bus driver, ordered that she gave up her seat for a white man who had boarded the bus. This black lady had become so tired of the treatment of her minority. We will never know what was in her mind that day but something broke in her heart as she spoke out, “this time I’m not moving, this time I’m not going to the back of the bus because my skin is black. This time I’m not going to subject myself to indignity.” She was arrested that day and sent for trial.
That was on a bus but not in Church.
What Rosa Parks did opened the pathway for Martin Luther King Jr.
King wrote what he believed the Apostle Paul would have said to the church if he were alive in 1956, “I understand that there are Christians among you who try to justify segregation on the basis of the Bible. … Oh my friends, this is blasphemy. This is against everything that the Christian religion stands for,” he wrote. “I must say to you as I have said to so many Christians before, that in Christ ‘there is neither Jew nor Gentile, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.’”
That was America not Britain.
Archbishop Welby, issued a statement following a debate on social inequality in November 2019 outlining a story of Doreen Browne, who made a 14 day journey from Barbados to London in 1956, aged 16, and described the racism her mother experienced as “very unfair.” Browne recalled that a priest barred her mother from even entering his London church for Sunday worship.
That was 1956 not 2020.
Recently in Britain a new movement different to previous social justice movements has emerged that is not attached to the church or any religious leader. There is no organisation or charismatic figure leading it. We are all one. Which is at least part of what King quoted Paul as saying. But where is the Church? It can be said it is nervously sitting at the back of the bus because this movement has activists who in supporting ‘we are all one’ does so for the LGBTQ community amongst other things. Some of the Church are not even boarding the bus because it wants to be known for what it opposes and not what it supports.
King earlier quoted of course from Paul in his letter to the Galatians.
But in our next verses in Ephesians, Paul says this:
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (2: 14-18)
The greatest barrier in Paul’s day was in the Temple. The Temple was built on a platform. On the same level around it was 3 courts. The Court of the Priests, next to that was the Court of Israel, a place for the laymen and next to that the Court of the Women, a place for the laywomen to worship. From this level there would be steps down to a wall and then on the other side of the wall, more steps to another wall, beyond this was the Court of the Gentiles, this would run right around the Temple. The Gentiles could look up and view the Temple but could never approach it. On this dividing wall there were warning notices not to enter. In fact one was found in 1871 which stated, “No foreigner may enter within the barrier and enclosure round the Temple. Anyone who is caught doing so will have himself to blame for his ensuing death.”
Paul says in our verses, this barrier has been broken down because of the death of Christ on the cross. Yet at the time of him writing from prison it was still standing. It didn’t get knocked down until AD70.
So Paul is saying spiritually it is broken down, it may still be standing, but it is worth nothing, it is out of date. Through Christ everyone can have access to God. Everyone is equal.
That is the Temple not the Church.
I think you can see what I am moved to say. It’s a bus, it’s another nation, it’s in another time period or it is in another culture. It isn’t now. It isn’t here. It isn’t in my Church. It isn’t in me. Is it?
The Church is really good at building walls of division. Barriers for people that say if you want to come in here then you are going to have to change and if you cannot change then you cannot come in. Paul would say that kind of Church is worth nothing. It knows nothing of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Church needs to reflect what the new heaven and new earth will look like.
The explosion of Paul’s first century Church came about because people would look at it and see they were all one in Christ Jesus. There was no ethnic division, no racism, no class structures, it was unique, different, every one treated equally. There was a body on earth that said Jews, Gentiles, black, white, slaves, masters, men and woman, the horrendous segregations of their time and culture that came together as one. The world observed and said, ‘that’s the body I want to belong to.’
There have been many times when God allowed the Church to be silenced. There have been times when He silenced it Himself. He spoke through one Pastor at a time when God’s people were loving their singing and each other’s fellowship. Yet at the same time the people were ignoring the poor, oppressing the minorities, guilty of spiritual hypocrisy, deception and lies. God said, “That’s enough singing. I cannot stand it. It is just noise, worthless noise to me. You might be enjoying it but I’m not.” The name of the Pastor was Amos.
There hasn’t been much gathered singing lately around the world. Our Church buildings have been silent. We are all looking forward to going back to congregational worship. I hope God is. I hope we have changed. I hope we will want to do better.