This past Sunday, I preached from Ephesians 2 on the subject “Jesus the Reconciler.” As I was preparing the sermon, consulting commentaries and what not, I became intrigued by the claim that most of the earliest manuscripts available to us do not actually read, “To the saints at Ephesus,” but “To the saints who are faithful.” Some scholars even suggest that the letter was intentionally left blank and readdressed to various communities experiencing social tensions – “To the saints at ___________.”
This intrigue led to a creative excursion that resulted in a few exegetical remixes, if you will, of Ephesians 2:11-22. I penned the exegetical remixes attempting to channel the spirit of Paul, whose letters, I believe, most clearly chronicle the faithful struggle associated with participating in the ongoing project of broadening the circle and bringing folks in, as initiated by Jesus. I share two of the exegetical remixes below to add to the conversation and in effort to continue processing the joys, sorrows, and frustrations I experienced last Friday, June 26, 2015 while watching the funeral of Rev. Clementa Pinckney (one of the nine victims of the terrorist attack at Emanuel AME Church on June 17, 2015) and scrolling through my newsfeed after SCOTUS voted in favor of marriage equality.
If this letter were still circulating today, might it read something like…
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From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will. To the holy and faithful people in Christ Jesus in America. Grace and peace to you from God our Source and our Lord Jesus Christ. I’ve heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, that’s why I’m writing to you. It seems your country is divided as a result of the passing of marriage equality – some are celebrating, some are angry, some have promised to set themselves on fire… and many hold these conflicting positions in the name of Christ. Remember, at one time you queer people by birth… by choice… by gift of God, damned to hell by those who claimed to love you most, called faggot, called dyke, called less than, called sinful, called everything but a child of God by those who unquestioningly called themselves “straight.” You were once not welcome at the table, assumed to have no desire for God. But now in Christ Jesus, peace has been proclaimed to you – to those who are far off and those who are near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Creator. With his body, he broke down the barriers of heterosexism and homophobia that divided us. So, now, you are no longer called sinful. There’s no need to be ashamed! You belong to God’s household. You are part of this beloved community in every single way.
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“Paul, to Emanuel AME Church and black and brown people around the world. I see that you have a passion for Christ like no other and are excited about the good news that comes with his life, death and resurrection – the good news of forgiveness, the good news of healing, the good news of grace. But you don’t have to settle for quick forgiveness. You don’t have to settle for superficial healing. You don’t have to champion a message of cheap grace, because what God is really after is reconciliation. Remember at one time you were called dirty, called less than, called dumb, called ugly, called colored, called nigger by those who called themselves the “superior race.” They once called you three-fifths of a human being, said that you were godless pieces of… But now in Christ Jesus we have peace. In Jesus’s flesh God has made both black and white; white and black; black, brown, red, and white into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the racism between us.”