Grace church, white plains

It’s been just over one week since the close of the Church’s General Convention, and I feel the Holy Spirit is breathing fresh and new and exciting life into the Church. The day after I came home, my neighbor, Wen, reached over the scraggly fence that marks the boundary between where she and her family live and where I live, and planted a cucumber plant complete with stick supports as (more than) a gesture of good will. (Wen is an accomplished gardener even with a concrete back yard!) So when I looked at the lessons for this Sunday and read such verses as that Christ is our peace, because he “has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us” (Ephesians 2:14) – I was very moved. And I began to think – not for the first time(!) – about things like walls, fences, and neighbors.

But there are many walls which still need to be torn down: the Arab-Israeli wall of hostility which many of our world’s leaders are working toward tearing down; the ethnic hatred in Bosnia; the horrendous walls of hostility that result in the killing of the people in Liberia and other countries in Africa; the walls our own country continues to build ostensibly for "security" purposes, yet I can’t help thinking that it’s really out of fear and sometimes, even, hatred. Should we not be tearing down the walls that separate us, rather than building them? Could we not at least reach across the fence and shake hands? And if we can’t tear down the walls, the fences, the barriers that keep people apart – there is yet something else we can do.

Rita Snowden, the English writer, tells a story from World War II. In France some soldiers with their sergeant brought the body of a dead comrade to a French cemetery to have him buried. The priest told them gently that he was bound to ask them if their comrade had been a baptized adherent of the Roman Catholic Church. They said that they did not know. The priest said that he was very sorry but in that case he could not permit burial in his churchyard. So the soldiers took their comrade sadly and buried him just outside the fence. The next day they came back to see that the grave was all right and to their astonishment could not find it. Search as they might, they could find no trace of freshly dug soil. As they were about to leave in bewilderment the priest came up. He told them that his heart had troubled him because of his refusal to allow their dead comrade to be buried in the churchyard. So early in the morning, he had risen from his bed and with his own hands had moved the fence to include the body of the soldier who had died for France.

That is what love can do. The rules and regulations put up the fence; but love moved it. Fears, prejudice, and differences had built that fence. Love moved it to include the “other”. Jesus removed the walls between people because he abolished all religion founded on rules and regulations and brought us to a religion whose foundation is Love. Jesus rocks! I pray that, in this church, and in the rest of our lives as the Body of Christ, we may do the same. With much love in Christ, +Mary