Nearly a year ago I was sitting in a beautiful room, glorious fall sunlight illuminated the space; leaves aflame in reds and golds hung from trees and littered the deck and ground just below the windows. I was with a group of new friends—Kingdom co-workers—at the Constituency Leaders Council meeting.
During our Dwelling in the Word time, we were focused on the passage for Convention from Ephesians 2:14-22. I found the exchange of ideas—what stands out, what strikes you as new—to be so invigorating. We really do each bring our own context and bias to a passage. Hearing what was significant for these fellow believers at different stages of life (an empty-nester, a new retiree, a seasoned pastor), triggered interesting discussions and new flashes of insight. I was bubbling over with ideas and applications; something within was coming alive while studying scripture in this way.
In between sessions, I sneaked back to my room to check on my precious four-month-old daughter who was spending time with her grandmother there. I would scroll through my emails and Facebook updates with one hand while I snuggled with my little bundle of joy with the other. That afternoon, waiting in my inbox, was an invitation to preach at church during Advent. What might seem ordinary to you, was one of those moments where time stands still for me. Personally, preaching is a big stretch and in this congregation, it would also be a big risk.
As I scanned the particulars, I noted that the Sunday I was being asked to speak would be focused on the word “peace” and the suggested text was the exact passage we had been dwelling with during the meetings. For me, it was a moment of clarity—as if the Spirit were speaking right to me—not only was there an opportunity, but God had already laid the message on my heart. It was exciting and terrifying, but I have found that’s just the way of things that God calls us to.
Our Advent theme for 2011 was “Accepting the Gift,” and the message of peace that I shared on a cold December Sunday at Kidron Mennonite Church was based around the image of a wall. In the passage, what had been pointed out to me in our dwelling together in October, was that the wall was not differences, but the wall was hostility. It was the emotion that differences had built up.
In my sermon, I shared about times I had allowed walls of hostility to build up in my own life, and how, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I had worked to break them down. I invited people to reflect on walls in their own lives. Was there a wall between them and God? Between them and a family member? A church member? The invitation was simple—begin to break down the wall of hostility in your own life.
The other profound thing (in my mind) that I had discovered in my October dwelling session was that Christ is our peace. The call in this passage is not to somehow create peace, but to accept Christ, for it is through him that we find peace.
Too often when we find ourselves in disagreement with others we are quick to put up a wall. Life is easier when we deal in neat categories, black-and-white, tidy little boxes for each idea. But when we read and live into the biblical story, we notice that faith is mystery and mess. As we embrace mystery, as we accept Christ, making Jesus Lord of all of life, we are able to find our way through the mess.
It seems that Convention at Phoenix is a invitation to embrace mystery and mess. It’s acknowledging that faith and relationships take hard work. Participating in the learning tours, discussions and discernment is part of breaking down the hostility. Worshiping together will help us turn our eyes to Christ who is our peace.
“For Christ himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” Ephesians 2:14
Sherah-Leigh (Zehr) Gerber, works for Ohio Conference half-time as Coordinator of Volunteers, planning resourcing events and relating to the ministry teams of the Conference. A graduate of Eastern Mennonite University and Seminary, she has served in a variety of congregational and Conference ministry positions. In addition to spending time with her family, Sherah-Leigh enjoys reading, baking and blogging about her kitchen adventures (www.shergerber.blogspot.com). She and her husband, BJ, live in Wayne County, Ohio with their daughter Anna. They attend Kidron Mennonite Church.