Many of us have been through a long dry spell this past year, and I'm not just talking about the weather. When it comes to our jobs, our relationships, our wealth and our health, many of us are waiting for the drought to break, for the creeks to run, for the hills to green, for the growing, healing season to begin... When the forecast doesn't give us much hope of rain anytime soon, it's good to be reminded that our reservoirs are already full to overflowing with spiritual blessings. That's the message from Ephesians for this first Sunday of the new year.
The early Christians figured that if there were no salvation outside the church, then they were going to have to bring more folks inside the church. And that's what the Creed does. It includes all those poor souls who just happened to miss out on the Messiah. By including this line in the Creed about Jesus descending into hell, ancient Christians extended the boundaries of the Church into the past. And that's important for us to know, because a lot of Christians today want to expand the Church in the present.
Ephesians says that Christ came over 2,000 years ago to break down the dividing wall of hostility between Jews and Gentiles, but wouldn't you know: the Israeli government has put it back up. Over 400 km long and not yet finished, the wall that separates the West Bank from Israel has been called a security fence by the Israelis and an Apartheid Wall by the Palestinians. Either way, it is a "wall of shame," and it stands as a symbol of the enduring hostility between Jews and Gentiles, between Israelis and Palestinians. And that wall poses a very challenging question for us: Does the God we worship through Jesus Christ have the power to take down that wall and make peace in our world?
Can you see what I'm getting at here? Christianity didn't come to us fully formed with the birth of Christ. It was God's plan to reveal to us the "boundless riches of Christ" through the spread of Christianity into Gentile cultures. This was Paul's task: to reveal Christ to the Gentiles and to build up the Body of Christ in lands outside of Palestine so that "through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known…" [3:10]