Have you seen this picture? It’s gone viral on facebook, which is where I saw it. For those who haven’t seen this before, what would you guess was happening? . . .
We’ll get back to that in a minute, but I want to make sure we talk about the text for today (not just Facebook), because this reading from Ephesians gives this photo context.
Ephesians continues in chapter 3 with the same basic theme from the last two weeks: God is in charge of eternity and includes all people in God’s plan of redemption. And, therefore, in Christ all of us–all people–are recreated into one new humanity; all of us reconciled together in peace.
Here the author pushes it further. The author asks that this God of universal love, peace, and reconciliation help the churches comprehend that. Because in so doing they become aware of the love of Christ overflowing from then and they willingly participate in it.
For the author, this isn’t merely an intellectual exercise. It is the very meaning of the cross–it is the work of Jesus himself. It is the power and purpose of God made real. Yes, God’s plan of reconciling the whole world is in place, and therefore all humanity is brought together in peace. But that has to look like something! It has to be revealed, it has to be lived!
The churches in Turkey, including this one in Ephesus, have the opportunity to take that to heart. It starts with the two factions in the churches–Jew and Gentile–recognizing they are now one new humanity. And as they grow in their comprehension of that, they can begin to reveal that same reality of peace and love to “every family in heaven and on earth,” because it is just as true for them.
Reconciliation in peace has to have skin on it. And that’s what the church is for. To help one another live as one new humanity redeemed in Christ, so that comprehending that, show the rest of God’s redeemed people how that looks.
That’s what the church was created to do–put flesh on peace and reconciliation and forgiveness. But that doesn’t mean God is sitting around waiting for the church to figure that out. God is still doing that peace and that work of reconciliation in all kinds of ways with all kinds of people.
Do you want to know what’s going on in this picture? This was taken recently outside the state capitol in Charleston, SC at a Ku Klux Klan rally. The man on the right was there as a supporter of the KKK, a participant in the rally. The police officer’s name is Leroy Smith.
Officer LeRoy Smith, who you notice is Black, saw this man, this white KKK supporter, struggling in the intense heat. Officer Smith is actually taking the man to get medical attention.
That’s what the author of Ephesians is describing. All people are included in God’s plan, and the church is to show them that. We are to put skin on it, make it real, live it in the world. A black man giving assistance to a KKK supporter in Charleston, SC. That’s what God’s reconciliation looks like. That’s what the church looks like.
Most of us who are here today and who are part of this congregation are able to recognize God’s love and care here in this place. We can articulate that pretty well and recognize it as a strength here.
But how many of the “families in heaven and on earth” don’t experience care in this place? How many people have no idea how loved they are by God? How many don’t know they’re already included in God’s plan of reconciliation? How many have no idea what that looks like?
We used to say, “Get them in the church so they can experience God’s love.” In the first place, how’s that strategy working out for the church in the US? But in the second place, it’s a good thing Officer Leroy Smith didn’t wait for this man to come to him to find help. Leroy Smith went out into the heat and saw a man in distress. A man Officer Smith deeply disagrees with (I imagine). And yet, Leroy Smith found him, he helped him, he showed this man what God’s love looks like.
All that mattered at this moment was that there was a person God loves who was in trouble. Leroy Smith showed that man that God’s love includes him. Leroy Smith reached out in peace.
According to this third chapter of Ephesians, Officer Leroy Smith shows us all what the church looks like. Amen.