Making Room For The Divine Refugee

Scripture: Ephesians 2:11-22

Jesus was a refugee. The Gospel of Matthew plainly shares the story of Joseph and Mary fleeing a hostile political climate of Herod’s Palestine in search of a safe place of refuge in Egypt. Fortunately, these middle eastern refugees found a welcoming people in a foreign land.

So it should come as little surprise God continues to be a refugee. Paul, one of the early leaders of the Jesus revolution, began to reimagine where God might find refuge in the world. Paul astonishingly declared God would take refuge in the community of opposites. Paul proclaimed the Jesus movement was bringing together divergent and divided groups of people to bring them reconciliation with one another and with God. This new humanity would embody the peace of God. The community created by the cooperative coming together of former foes would be the place where God dwells. Paul pictures our diverse lives of differing perspective being joined together as building blocks for the residence of God.

This challenges us to get beyond God as property of a particular tribe. There can be a subtle temptation to imagine God belongs to a particular country, race, political party, or denomination. Yet in 70 AD the Temple in Jerusalem was obliterated by the Roman government. The Christian hope is not in rebuilding the past of divided and homogenous worship. The Christian imagination sees God’s Spirit on the move, departing from the rubble of religious and political violence, and searching for refugee in a new community founded on the reconciliation and peace work of Jesus the Messiah.

The life of Jesus moves us out of our comfort zones and seats us at a table next to people who were born into a world much different from our own, so we might be reconciled. This table is no melting pot of conformity, but a beautiful buffet where different dishes are placed on one expansive feasting table. Because wouldn’t the banquet be so boring if everyone brought the same dish? The Jesus Way seeks to subvert the kind of violence-seeking, culture-disregarding, oppression which led to the Jerusalem Temple’s demise.

Imagine a new temple. Impressive, not because of its ornate flourishes or expansive architecture. Imagine instead this new temple is jaw dropping, because of the justice found among its diverse population. In this temple people see God, not in the wealth or elaborate worship rituals, but in the caring for the poor and peacemaking between former hostile groups. People see God in the new humanity founded on the self-giving life of Jesus the Christ. People wonder to themselves, “When have I ever seen such an eclectic and ragtag group of disparate people living as brothers and sisters?”

This is the place where God finds refuge. This is where God lives.

What differences will we need to overcome if the breathtaking embodiment of the God of the whole world is to be seen in a united and cooperative community of faith?

-Christopher Mack