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  • Spectacular

    Day five of seven posts to inspire and unite our prayer this week. This one draws on the spectuacular description of the gospel and the Church in Ephesians 2:13-22.

    Spectacular - primary image

    Supertree and Sands by Mike Rowe used under CC BY-SA 2.0

    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 2:17-22)

    Paul wrote this letter under house-arrest in Rome, waiting for a hearing with Caesar. His journey as a prisoner had started four years previously in the temple in Jerusalem. He had history in Jerusalem. It was where he had lived and served as Pharisee for many years. It was where he had hunted down the early followers of Jesus, in his own words, ‘obsessed with persecuting them’1. It was where he had voted that many of them be put to death. It was there he had guarded the coats of the people who stoned Stephen to death—the first follower of Jesus to be killed for their faith. It is also possible that he was in Jerusalem when Jesus was arrested on the charge of comments about the temple being destroyed, and then sentenced to be crucified to satisfy the mob.

    Twenty-four years later he stands in the temple having followed all the Jewish purification laws to be there, and yet is surrounded by a mob, and falsely accused of bringing a Gentile (an Ephesian) into the holy place of the temple. He is beaten by the mob until Roman soldiers break it up. After that he is passed between the Jewish authorities and Roman officials facing trumped up charges of defiling the temple and stirring up trouble. You can read this story from Acts 21:17 onwards. It’s a page-turner.

    Here’s the point we’re arriving at; the temple was a big deal to Jews and Christians in the first century, so much of their identity and history was bound to a huge building in the middle of Jerusalem, an ornate structure that symbolised God living with His people.

    When someone asks you what kind of church you go to, what’s your response? When asked the same question, Paul reaches for the most powerful, beautiful and spectacular language he can think of. In this section of the letter, Paul has described how Jesus has reconciled Jews and Gentiles by breaking down the dividing wall of Jewish rituals and ceremonies. By dying on the cross He has made ‘one new man’ out of the two groups, giving Jews and Gentiles access to the Father by the Spirit. They are now as inseparable as stones in the temple, and have inherited the privilege of being the place where God manifests Himself in a special way.

    How is your level of passion for the church? When Jesus appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus, where Paul was heading to hunt Christians, Jesus says to him, “I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me… I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light…”2 These words we read in Ephesians are the words of God, written by Paul, commission by Jesus to open our eyes to see who Jesus is and what He has done.

    Let’s pray today that our eyes are opened to see the significance of being part of Jesus’ body, this new temple, the dwelling place of God; to see the privilege of gathering and sharing our lives, having access to the Father together.

    Many people think that the church is a building. Though these buildings are great and help us to glimpse God’s majesty and holiness. I love being part of a community people, a church, the building of God, that displays many of His attributes; His power to reconcile different people together, His humour, His passion, His creativity, His mercy, His compassion, His love, His joy, His justice, His healing… we are the church, His new temple.

    ‘[the church is to be]...a single new humanity, a model of human community, a family of reconciled brothers and sisters who love their Father and love each other, the evident dwelling place of God by His Spirit.’*

    Prayer Prompts

    1. Ask God to help you see how you can bless and build relationships with others at Crown who are different from you.

    2. Pray for the musicians who gather every Thursday evening to rehearse for Sunday. Ask for God to help them lead us in sung worship that focuses on Christ and draws people together from many cultures.

    3. Pray for Jewish people today, to see that all their prophets point to Jesus, the resurrected Messiah.

    1Acts 26:11

    2Acts 26:16-17

    *The Message of Ephesians p112 (John Stott)

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