14 For Jesus is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.
15 He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16 and might reconcile both groups to God in one body[c] through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.
17 So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God. Ephesians 2:14-19 (NRSV)
In May 2016, when family and I were in California, we visited the Reagan Presidential Library. Displayed there is a very large piece of Berlin wall—11 foot high, more than two feet thick, solid concrete. Yet upon this immense piece of wall, someone had drawn a huge butterfly ascending into the sky above clouds and flowers in vibrant colors. From behind the wall someone had chosen to decorate it with symbols of hope, perhaps as a statement that the wall would not stand forever. “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, that wants it down…”
The Apostle Paul declares that Jesus came to bring down the walls between Jew and Gentile; between God and all of humanity. He did so at great cost to himself. On the cross, and by his resurrection, he demonstrated that love triumphs over division, that sacrifice overcomes hostility, that hope outlasts hatred.
Out of brokenness he brought peace and reconciliation. And while the cross is the definitive act of reconciliation, as his followers we are called to be reconcilers after Jesus’ example, working to bring down walls that divide.
We will ponder all this on Sunday as my sermon examines both this passage and the story of Jesus encountering the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-26)