Well good evening everyone! It’s great to see you all and it’s a pleasure to have the chance to open up God’s word for us now – after all these months online this is going to be my first in-person sermon for 16 months! Hopefully that won’t have too negative an effect. I think I’ve remembered to dress appropriately from more than just the waist up, and I will try to speak a bit louder! Do forgive me, though, if it’s a bit clunky just getting back into it.

Thanks also to all of you for helping get the meeting house and garden all ready for tonight. It’s such an encouragement to us to see the church growing and so many people excited to serve, and I know it sent Andy away with a spring in his step to know that everything was in good shape here, so thank you.

Tonight we’re going to be carrying on with our series in Ephesians, getting to grips with the second half of chapter 2. For the reading, though, I’ve included the whole of the chapter in the service sheet to refresh our minds on what we heard last week but also to help us as we press on into this evening’s material because it really builds on what Paul writes in the first few verses. So let’s dive in now and read it. But before we do that, let’s pray:

The first thing we need if we’re really going to get our heads and hearts around this passage of scripture is a sense for the place Paul is writing to. We can’t be completely precise –­ this may have been written originally as a circular letter aimed at churches in ‘the Ephesus region’ not just at Ephesus itself. But that doesn’t stop us getting at least the gist of the context. 

And that context tells us this is a very different place to the place where most of the rest of our Bibles is set. You know that moment in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy dusts herself down after being whisked away by a whirlwind and says to her dog, ‘Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.’ Well that’s our situation here. 

The book of Ephesians may only be divided from the gospels by a few millimetres in our Bibles but its written into a totally different world. We’re not in the land of Israel anymore. We’ve landed in one of the major cosmopolitan hubs of Graeco-Roman culture with different languages, different gods, different customs, different foods. Geographically, this is what we now know as Western Turkey. Spiritually and intellectually, it’s a million miles from Jerusalem.  

If there had been a Lonely Planet guide to cities in the Roman era, the Ephesus entry would have been a major feature article – the Greek historian Strabo tells us Ephesus was second only in size and importance to Rome itself. It would have had sections on the vast amphitheatre, on the library of Celsus, and on the gigantic temple to the Roman goddess Artemis, who turns out to have been really just a lightly-airbrushed version of the local goddess the Ephesians had been worshiping for centuries. There would have been big splash photos of the dazzling architecture, suggestions about where to eat and worship with local temples reflecting regional preferences from all over the Mediterranean. 

But for all that difference, there were still Jews in Ephesus. Jews had spread out to a surprising extent during the years after their exile in Babylon, and by the time we reach the New Testament era, we have Jewish communities and synagogues in every major Roman city in the region, as well as huge numbers in North Africa. Some historians think Jews may have made up as much as 10% of the entire population of the Roman empire at this time. So in places like Ephesus and its surrounding cities we have Jews rubbing shoulders with Gentiles.

And there were different ways of doing that of course. Some Jews lost their distinctiveness, and intermarried with the local people. They took Greek names, and over time they ceased to be Jewish in any meaningful sense. But the majority of Jews weren’t like that. 

The majority of Jews held onto their sense of being a different people with different rules. They didn’t eat the same things, they didn’t attend the same events, they saved up and sent money back to Jerusalem for the upkeep of the temple there. They lived alongside Gentiles, they worked with Gentiles and traded with Gentiles, but they kept their distance. Because for them, when it came right down to it, Gentiles were idolaters. They made gods in their own image to worship instead of worshipping the God who made them. And for all the efforts they made to live together peacefully with Gentiles, that sometimes made things, well let’s say, a bit tense.

Let me read you an extract from the first-century Roman historian Tacitus to give you a bit of a sense of it. In a chapter in his Historiesdevoted to the Jews, he tells us that they show…

‘Stubborn loyalty and ready benevolence towards brother Jews. But the rest of the world they confront with the hatred reserved for enemies. They will not feed or intermarry with Gentiles… They have introduced the practice of circumcision to show they are different from others… Proselytes to Judaism adopt the same practices, and the very first lesson they learn is to despise the gods, shed all feeling of patriotism, and consider parents, children, and brothers as readily expendable. …They erect no images in their cities, still less in their temple. Their kings are not so flattered, the Roman emperors are not so honoured… Jewish belief [he writes] is paradoxical and degraded.’ (Hist. 5.5)

All that, then, to say that the relationship between Jews and Gentiles in the kinds of places Paul was writing to here was always jittery, and sometimes openly hostile. And it’s against that background that we have to read what he has to say about Jews and Gentiles not just getting on but living as brothers and sisters in the same churches. Paul is dealing with a massive social divide here – centuries of suspicion with real differences on both sides. And it’s only if we grasp that that we’ll see what a big claim he makes in this chapter, and how big the implications are for the similarly intractable divisions in our own world.

0. Recap: The First Great Consequence of the Cross of Christ

Last week Andy led us through the first 10 verses of chapter 2 and opened up so helpfully the ‘What?’ the ‘How?’ and the ‘Why?’ of God’s grace. Do you remember how Paul began by diagnosing the human problem – ‘we were dead in trespasses and sins’ and how God responded with undeserved kindness. Verses 4-5:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved.

This week, before we dive into the second half of the chapter, I want to begin by just noticing the way that, even in the first half, Paul also hints at the underlying racial distinction between Jews and Gentiles we’ve just been thinking about. You can hear it in the pronouns he uses. Verses 1 and 2:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sinsin which youonce walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience –

And then the switch in verse 3:

among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

With that shift from ‘you’ to ‘we,’ Paul is including himself, moving from an argument aimed primarily at Gentiles to an argument that takes in the whole of humanity, Gentile and Jew included. 

And it doesn’t pull any punches. We can really hear that typical Jewish negativity about Gentile religion in the first part, can’t we: ‘You followed the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience’ – Paul is basically telling them their former lives were devoted to Satan whatever gods they thought they were worshipping. 

But the striking thing is his negativity about the Jewish situation too as he goes on. Paul doesn’t bring Jews and Gentiles together here by toning down the bad news for Gentiles, by apologising for all the negative things Jews had said about their gods. No, he does it by dialling up the bad news for Jews. ‘Whether we know much of God or little,’ he says, ‘we’re all headed in the same direction unless God acts to save us.’ He makes the same point in Romans 1-3. Our natural situation as human beings, whatever privileges of upbringing and education we have is bleak. We’re rebels against God, and will not share in his plans for the future of the world. We are all, by nature, children of wrath.

But the point of chapter 2 verses 1-10, isn’t just to highlight the problem, is it? The main reason Paul wrote it is to unveil the solution. God has acted to save. Amazingly, wonderfully, God has acted to save in Christ – allowing us to inherit the future hedeserved, even as he experienced the future we deserved. And just as the bad news here affects everybody, so does the good news.

As a Jew, Paul sees the cross as the hope of the Jews. And not just in the present. When we read on into Galatians and Romans we find out the great substitution of God for people on the cross was the hope the Jews had always looked forward to. Paul tells us Abraham looked forward to it. Paul tells us Moses looked forward to it. Paul tells us every sacrifice and every rite of atonement the Jews ever practiced looked forward to it. And this was the reason they had hope.

But it isn’t hope for Jews alone. Now that it’s happened, Paul thinks the cross has brought hope to the Gentiles too. Whether you’ve been following the prince of the power of the air as a Gentile, or the king of kings as a Jew makes no difference. Jews and Gentiles all share the same problem, and they can all look now to the same solution. The only difference is that Jews had advance notice of what it was. The cross is God’s total response to human sin. It’s wonderful, gracious, and universal. The cross is the place where everybody finds the way back to him that they need.

1. The Second Great Consequence of the Cross of Christ

All that then gets us ready for the seismic implications Paul spells out in the second half of the chapter. And I really mean seismic – not just for his world but for the world we live in now. This is the passage of scripture where Paul tells us the enmity between Jew and Gentile has been annihilated by the cross, and by extension that enmity based on all racial and social distinctions in all places and at all times has also been annihilated. In the first half of the chapter we discovered that the cross has made a way for all people to be reconciled to God. Now we find the cross has made a way for all people to be reconciled to each other.

Paul shows this in four complementary, overlapping ways – and we’re just going to look at each of them in turn.

1. The Cause of Difference between Jew and Gentile Abolished

The first way he does it is on show for us in verses 11 and 15. And this is going to be the technically challenging bit of our sermon. So take a good gulp of oxygen here and stay with me for the next few minutes because it’s all downhill skiing from here once we get this.

Verses 11-13 get us started by reviewing the situation of Gentiles we looked at in the first part of the chapter:

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.

The Gentiles were alienated from God and disparaged by God’s people as ‘the uncircumcision.’ They had no hope. But now Christ has come and something remarkable and new has happened to the relationship between Jew and Gentile as a result. ‘For he himself is our peace,’ continues Paul,

‘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.

We can see the target Paul is aiming at here pretty clearly, can’t we? The effect of the cross is to ‘[kill] the hostility’ between Jew and Gentile. If the first part of the chapter gave us ‘the death of death in the death of Christ’ the second part gives us ‘the death of disunity in the death of Christ.’ But how does Paul get there? It seems he gets there by telling us that Jesus’ death on the cross abolishes the law. And that seems to totally contradict what we’re told elsewhere in the Bible. 

Jesus tells us boldly in Matthew 5 that he hasn’t come to abolish the law. On the Emmaus Road, after his death and resurrection, Jesus is still pointing to the law to help his disciples see who he is and why he came. And Paul too seems pretty positive about the law in many other places, upholding the basic ethical framework we find in the Old Testament, submitting to discipline in the Synagogue, circumcising Timothy, carrying out purification rites in the Temple. So what’s going on here?

The answer, I think, lies back in the material we’ve just covered. 

What was the great difference between Jews and Gentiles in the past? The difference was that Jews had advance notice of God’s plan to save and Gentiles didn’t. Jews had hope, and Gentiles didn’t. Jews had promises from God recorded in their scriptures. The great means of reconciliation with God had not yet come for them, but they knew it was coming. They saw this hope, and they were given the means to lay hold of it – in the law. And this is what Paul is talking about when he says that the cross has abolished the law of commandments expressed in ordinances.

How can I illustrate this? Imagine the Jews as a group of people given special privileged access to a movie trailer. Nobody elseknows anything about this film, so they have no basis to believe it will be good or bad, no basis for believing it even exists. But the Jews are different because they have the trailer. They don’t have the whole film, mind. But they do have a glimpse of it – they have a few choice scenes and snatches of dialogue gathered together very deliberately to whet the appetite, to hint at the main themes and the main characters, to intrigue, to pose questions, to make them long for it, to make them want to see it when it comes out for real. 

My point, though, is that when that day comes, when the film comes out, that privilege is ended, it ceases to be a privilege. Because now everyone can see the whole thing. Before the film comes out, every Jew can say ‘I have seen that limited-access theatrical trailer!’ But none of them should be saying that after the film has come out, should they? No-one should be looking for the bootleg version of it on YouTube anymore. 

The trailer has been ‘abolished’ in the sense that Paul uses the word here. It hasn’t ceased to exist and it hasn’t ceased to have value. It still tells us a lot about the film. And now we’ve seen the film, going back to it tells us a lot about director’s intentions crafting the trailer. It tells us where they thought the main plot lines lay, what the key questions were that the film posed. That’s what Jesus is doing with the law on the Emmaus Road. But the trailer doesn’t divide the ‘haves’ from the ‘have nots’ anymore. It was a privilege for a particular group of people then. But after the film comes out, it isn’t.

Think with me, then, what this meant for the mixed congregations Paul was writing to in Ephesus and the surrounding cities. 

In verse 12 we listened as he summarised the situation for Gentiles before Christ came. They were ‘separated,’ they were ‘alienated;’ they were ‘strangers to the covenants of the promise.’ In verse 17 he tells us they were ‘far off.’ In verse 19, repeating the vocabulary of verse 12, he tells us they were ‘strangers and aliens.’ 

But now he says this is over, ended by Jesus’ death and resurrection. The thing that divided Jews and Gentiles in the end was not moral. It wasn’t that Jews were better, more holy, than Gentiles, and Gentiles were worse and less holy. Of course, Jews knew a lot more of God than their Gentile neighbours did and that helped them live well when they put it into practice. But that wasn’t Paul’s point in verses 1-10, was it? Paul’s point was that, however much or little each group had received from God, they were all children of wrath unless God did something to help them. The difference was simply this – that the Jews knew he would

But now that was gone. The Jews accused the Gentiles of idolatry and they were right. The Jews were twitchy about socialising with Gentiles in case they broke the laws that pointed forward to the coming of their great hope. But now it had come. Gentiles were emerging from idolatry. And Jews were free to loosen their grip on their ceremonies: to enjoy the trailer in the light of the film, or to leave it in the cupboard, as they saw fit. Can you imagine what that would have done in these churches?

In a culture habituated through centuries of prior experience to the fact that Jews and Gentiles live in parallel realities, suddenly these little churches showed them living together, loving and trusting one another, serving one another and being served by one another. This was social revolution!

And it still should be today. Did you notice that, when Paul describes the effect of the cross – consigning privileged access to God’s ‘salvation movie trailer’ to history, he sees no other source of division to take its place? Isn’t that interesting. He doesn’t say, ‘Now that Christ has come and Jews no longer have this advantage of seeing what God is going to do before it happens, the only things that divide you will be your skin colour, and your language, and your gender, and your class, and your educational attainments.’ No, Paul says that, now that Christ has come, the dividing wall is broken down and God’s people are one body. He acknowledges the difference between Jews and Gentiles prior to the coming of Christ as a real source of division. It was substantial. It was significant. These two groups had a reason to look at one another with suspicion and resentment. But now they don’t. They have no reason to look at each other with suspicion and resentment. In Christ, he sees no legitimate basis for division at all.

He doesn’t think that somehow Jews and Gentiles have suddenly become the same. Elsewhere in his letters he’s very open about the fact that our different backgrounds continue to shape us in positive and negative ways as we go on in the Christian life. We need to recognise these things in ourselves and in our Christian brothers and sisters. We have much to learn from one another and a responsibility to steward one another where our backgrounds clash and what works for one of us causes problems for another. 

But within that larger picture of difference, the striking thing is Paul’s emphasis on unity. There is difference. But not division. There are different backgrounds, and interests, and characters, but not racism, sexism, elitism and all the other distasteful ‘isms’ that are used to distinguish between the privileged and the underprivileged in a world that doesn’t know about the cross. Paul sees the church as a place – as the­ place – where the page has been turned on all of that, consigning it all to the past.

2. Difference between Jew and Gentile Relativised by Union with Christ

But how does it happen? That’s a good question and it brings us to the second way in which Paul talks about the reconciliation between people that flows from Jesus’ achievements on the cross.

The point Paul wants to communicate here is actually closely linked to something we’ve been learning in the mornings with John. Paul tells us that there are no longer any legitimate sources of suspicion and resentment among Christians because we are all one in Christ.

The place where that really jumps off the page is verse 15. How is peace made between these two previously estranged groups? ‘[Jesus] has made peace by creating in himself one new man in place of the two.’ But the same idea is peppered through the passage from verse 6 onwards:

  • ‘God has raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.’
  • Or verse 7: ‘So that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.’
  • Or verse 10: ‘For we are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.’
  • Or verse 13: ‘But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.’
  • Or verse 14: ‘For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.’
  • Or verse 16: ‘[That he] might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.’
  • Or verse 22: ‘In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.’

We can’t miss this, can we? Eight times in the course of single chapter, he explicitly tells us that God’s solution to division between people, just like his solution to division between people and himself, is union with Christ. By dying with Christ on the cross and rising with Christ to new life on the third day, every single one of his people is now fundamentally bound to him. Our life is his life, and without him we have no life. 

This is the reality Jesus describes to us so memorably in John’s gospel with the image of the vine and the branches. Every one of Jesus’ people is a branch in the vine, a living, fruit-bearing part of him. Whatever vines we grew up in and were cut from, none of us can now say, ‘I am better than her,’ ‘I despise the fruit produced by him,’ because in Christ we are the same plant. Slighting another Christian is slighting ourselves, and more importantly, slighting Christ. We may look different, and be called to serve in all kinds of different settings but we’re in it together now. 

When God looks at each of us now, he sees Christ. And when we look at each other we must see Christ too. When God assesses our lives in his court he says ‘justified’ – because he sees the obedience of Jesus credited to us. How then can we look at another Christian and see or say anything else? None of this is intended to cover over sin in the Christian community. When one branch hurts or abuses or manipulates another – repentance is essential. But forgiveness follows because of what we’re reading about here. United to Christ we have resources to offer people who wrong us that we simply can’t offer alone. United to Christ, we have an otherworldly patience and generosity to call on. It isn’t ours. It’s his. But now it flows through us as the sap of a vine flows into its branches. The same thing is true of every Christian – those we wrong and those who wrong us.

3 Difference between Jew and Gentile Reset by Dying with Christ

But even there Paul still isn’t done. He’s told us things have changed now that Christ has come – no-one has advance access to the plan now, we can all see what God has done in history to save. And he’s told us that when we’re saved, we’re incorporated intoChrist, we’re made part of him and seen in him, and that impacts the way we see each other. 

But he also wants to tell us we’ve been levelled in the process – and this gives this passage its real edge. Paul doesn’t picture Christians in churches looking at each other saying ‘well you’re a branch and so am I and we all look back now to what Christ has done but even so, I brought more to the table than you did when I was grafted in! I was already three feet long when you were just a twig!’ No, union with Christ in this chapter is founded on union with Christ in his death. And that creates a new way for Christians to see each other. 

Look closely with me at verse 16: Paul tells us that God ‘[has reconciled us to himself] in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.’ And that’s important. The means by which this process of reconciliation happens is by uniting us to Jesus as he dies. And that does something very profound to our perception of difference between us and other people. 

If the point at which we were brought into God’s family was really one where we had our virtues on show – if grafting into the vine was really conditional on some kind of branch beauty contest, where the branches with the most potential for fruitfulness were picked out because of what they were already producing, we can imagine all sorts of reasons for division within the vine ever afterwards. ‘I have always been more fruitful than the rest of you, so I deserve a privileged position.’ ‘You’ve always been dragging us down so please be quiet and let me decide what to do!’

But the point at which the grafting happens is actually death. The start line for the Christian life is death. Entering into life in Christ begins with death. The old us dies with Christ. It is left at the foot of the cross. And though God takes and raises our personalities and begins the work of transforming us into his image in very individual ways, uniform deadness is still the place it starts. And that’s amazing news for our lives together in the church, and in eternity. Because differences in life and liveliness breed comparisons. But nobody’s interested in differences in deadness. 

I’m reminded of that great scene in The Princess Bride where Miracle Max tells Westley’s friends to cheer up because he’s only ‘MOSTLY dead.’ And then he makes a funny but also profound point:  

‘There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there’s usually only one thing you can do.’

‘What’s that?’ says Inigo

‘Go through his clothes and look for loose change.’

And that’s the point, isn’t it? If we enter this Christian life dead. Not just mostly dead, but all dead, we bring nothing through with us worthy of comparison or distinction. Everything we have from that point forward is grace. 

If we have little and do the best we can with it, we shouldn’t be despised by our brothers and sisters. Despising us despises God’s choice in giving us what we have, if we really were dead in the first place. And if we have great gifts and great opportunities, we owe God great thanks and we bear great responsibilities, don’t we? We didn’t carry them through with us by right from some past where we earned this life we now live. God is the architect of it all. God gave us what each of us has beginning with nothing. If we have a problem with the details we have a problem with him.

4 Difference between Jew and Gentile Challenged by Ongoing Dependence on Christ.

All that, then, brings us to the final verses of the chapter where we discover the last of the four ways Paul talks about the reconciliation that God has worked between his people. 

First, we saw none of God’s people have an inside track on what he’s doing, or what he’s going to do, like the Jews had before Christ came. Second, we saw God’s people enjoy union with Christ, and an attack on any one of them now is an attack on the whole. Third, we saw God’s people become God’s people at the cross. The start line is death – and everything beyond that is grace, not a reason for conceit. Now lastly, let’s see how Paul points us to the church as a temple and Jesus as the cornerstone from which it derives its shape and strength.

I don’t know about you but I think I have often misunderstood this image of the cornerstone – reading it with an emphasis on the relationship between Jesus in the past and the church in the present. Jesus got this whole thing going two thousand years ago and, since then, course after course of stones has been laid on the foundation he laid. And though that foundation is fading further and further into history, we still have some sense of distant connection to it because we rest on predecessors who rested on predecessors who rested on predecessors who rested on him.

Does that sound familiar?

That is emphatically not what Paul is talking about here. The first place we see the contrasting picture he actually has in mind is in verse 17. Did you notice the strange way Paul talks about the Ephesians’ religious history there? He doesn’t look back to the time when he and Apollos first visited the city and remind them that, ‘we came and preached peace to those who were far off and peace to those who were near.’ No, with Jesus still squarely in his sights Paul says ‘he came and preached peace to those who were far off and peace to those who were near.’ Jesus himself preached to the Ephesians.

What does Paul mean? Well, he might be talking about Christ coming and preaching in Ephesus by his Spirit, or he might be talking about Christ coming and preaching through Paul and Apollos themselves – that perhaps makes better sense after all his talk about Union with Christ. But either way, the important thing here is that Christ is the active agent in this initiative. He isn’t involved only as some historically remote foundation being pressed slowly but surely into obscurity under the weight of those who come after him. Christ is the preacher now – a generation after his death and resurrection in Paul’s experience, and a hundred generations later in ours. Christ is still leading the work of building his church.

So how then are we to think about this cornerstone image Paul introduces in verses 20-22? I think he has two quite specific things in mind. 

First, the cornerstone of any building defines its shape, and the shape of the building Paul is describing here is the shape of a temple. And that couldn’t be more relevant to the larger theme of this chapter, because after telling us that God has brought Jews and Gentiles into his family by dealing with the single shared problem of their vulnerability to his wrath, after telling us that they are welcomed into a single shared community now in Christ, and after levelling them at a single shared start point in Jesus’ death on the cross, now he tells them that they have a single shared purpose. As the cornerstone of a temple, Jesus was and still is pointing Christians of every different background toward the business of connecting heaven and earth, representing God to people, and people to God, carrying on the great work of reconciliation by acting as a place where it can be discovered and received. 

Do you see God is dealing with division here by giving us something far more constructive to do instead? He doesn’t just intend to form churches where we spend our time looking at those around us for the rest of our lives thinking, ‘Hmmm… I’m not sure about this, that person is so different from me.’ No. He forms churches as places where we roll up our sleeves and get stuck in together in the business of temple service, and where our differences are worked out and gradually forgotten as we lay down history together, serving others.

But that’s not the only function of this cornerstone image. 

Paul also describes Jesus as the church’s cornerstone because the cornerstone defines the orientation of the building that grows up around it. A cornerstone lines a building up to the points of the compass. It says, ‘this structure faces north, or west, or east, or south’ – and once it is laid every other feature of the building is organised according to these foundational axes. 

And that too speaks into this matter of division and unity in the church, doesn’t it? You see division depends on where we’re looking. Spend too much time looking at others, and we begin to envy or despise them. Spend too much time looking at ourselves and we begin to expect others to fall in line with our preferences. But, in the temple Christ is building, the cornerstone points neither to others nor to self but to God. 

God is the point of the compass toward which everything in this building is oriented. And if God is our focus, if our eyes look always up to his unity, into which he is welcoming us, and to all he has done for us, and to all the resources he has for us when we feel weak and weary in the task of loving our brothers and sisters, we can do this. We can live a colour-blind life, we can be the church that affirms and enacts the reality that, after the cross, there is simply no basis for division among his people. For we are ‘no longer strangers and aliens, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of the household of God.’ And unity despite difference is what the household of God does.