–By Elizabeth Ahlman
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit (Ephesians 2:11-22, ESV).
Yesterday, we posted about several Baptisms and Confirmations that took place in Leipzig, Germany. Today’s devotion is based on the Confirmation verse (and the surrounding passage) chosen by the 74 year-old man who was confirmed. Sunday’s Baptisms and Confirmations were full of people who were both far off, and people who were somewhat near. The 74 year-old German man had been Baptized as an infant, but he had never been a church-goer. He has lived just outside of Leipzig in Chemnitz for all those years. So near to St. Trinitatisgemeinde, and yet so far. Along with him, 13 others were Baptized, confirmed, or received into membership. Some were children and some were adults. They came from Iran for the most part. They came from so very far away! From a Muslim upbringing and perhaps an agnostic life, from Iran to Germany, from a different culture and a different language. And it is so easy to see how “far off” they and the older man were. Unbaptized, or unrepentant and unbelieving.
And there they stood among a congregation of mainly native Germans. People who would consider themselves as those who were “near.” After all, they are native Germans, they have been attending church for many years, they are already Baptized. Of course they are “near.”
What about us? What are we? Why, near, of course. Right? We have been Baptized. We belong to a church. We volunteer on committees and teach Sunday School. Maybe we’re missionaries or deaconesses or pastors or teachers. We partake of the Lord’s Supper once a week. We go to the Elder’s Meeting one Tuesday a month. We mow the church’s lawn and fill Easter Eggs for the annual hunt. We have our own children baptized and raise them in the church. Surely, we are near.
But Paul calls us to remember that we at one time were not, and sometimes still are not, so near. At one time we—and the members of St. Trinitatisgemeinde who have been there for many years, and the Iranian immigrants, and all others—were “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers to the covenant of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” When was this? Maybe it was only for a few days or weeks before our parents had us Baptized. Maybe it was up until only recently that we were these strangers. Maybe we were Baptized as infants, but there were a few faithless years somewhere back there in the middle of our lives. One thing is for sure: We WERE all those strangers. We were dead, cut off, alienated, separated, strangers, hopeless, and godless in our sins because we were born into that sin. We were born into Original Sin and so from the very beginning, we were strangers and aliens.
But now, we, along with the members of St. Trinitatisgemeinde, the 74 year-old German man, and the Iranian immigrants, have been brought near to God and to one another! How? By the blood of Jesus! We may come from the East or the West or the North or the South, but when Christ Jesus speaks “Peace” to us, we are no longer strangers and aliens. We are citizens and members of His Church and of one another by virtue of our Baptisms into His name. You are not far off. You have been brought near!
Let us Pray: Lord Jesus Christ, we thank You that You have brought us near as citizens and members by Your blood, and we ask that You would continue to draw us near to You and to one another so that we may serve our neighbors and experience the unity of the family of God; for You live and reign with the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
- Did you miss last week’s devotion on Psalm 19? You can read it here.
- During Lent, the Eurasia Blog will do another series on hymns, this time on Lenten hymns chosen by our missionaries. Be sure to keep coming back to see these special devotions, which will include audio. We’ll kick it off with a special Ash Wednesday devotion on March 5, so be sure to keep checking in!