“No longer strangers”–Scripture for Sunday, Nov. 13

Ephesians 2:11-22
So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision”—a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands—remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens 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. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, so that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace,and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near;for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God,built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord;in whom you also are built together spiritually* into a dwelling-place for God.
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Comments:
In this passage, Paul asks those reading his letter to remember what it means to be a stranger, an alien, to live without hope. Paul’s contention is that through Christ, that alienation is done away with. He says: “You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.” We are included. We belong. A sense of belonging is a primal human need. It is met in many ways. But many types of belonging are contingent, conditional. When we belong to the household of God, it is a kind of belonging that cannot be lost. This Sunday, when we are receiving new members into our congregation, and when we are dedicating our pledges for the coming year, it is appropriate that we think together about what it means to belong to the household of God.

 Questions:

1.  When in your life have you had the deepest sense of “belonging”?
2.  In what situations have you felt alienated? A stranger?
3.  What is your place in “the household of God?”  What is your role in that  household? 

Rev. Dr. James GertmenianJim Gertmenian
Senior Minister

About PlymouthSpirit

Plymouth Congregational Church is a progressive faith community grounded in the Christian tradition. We are spiritual, loving, relevant and transforming.
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2 Responses to “No longer strangers”–Scripture for Sunday, Nov. 13

  1. Hazel Lutz says:

    1. When in your life have you had the deepest sense of “belonging”?
    Like Larry my answer is very personal. I decided in college after a few visits to the cathedral across the street, that I didn’t have much use for religion. I became involved with South Asian Area and Language Studies as my college major, then after graduation spent a year and a half in India at a graduate school, then came back to the US and entered the U of M graduate school in Anthropology. I read the early anthropological analysis of religion, which still makes sense to me—basically religion is the place where we negotiate with others what our proper relationship to people in the world should be. I married a man from India and our marriage lasted 12 years, during which time I sometimes lived in India, and sometimes lived in an Indo-Western social circle in Minneapolis. The religious celebrations in which I was involved were all Indian—Hindu or animist (my former husband’s religious tradition). I participated as a social responsibility. After my marriage began to break apart and I put myself into therapy for co-dependency, I was encouraged subtly to find myself a community of faith in which to participate. I chose Plymouth for my planned investigations of churches because I had attended some 12-step meetings and singles group meetings on the premesis. I neverwent on to other churches after checking out Plymouth’s religious service. I’ll never forget the feeling I had that first time attending church after a 20 some year hiatus from Christian religious celebrations. I felt like I had come home. The familiarity of the religious and social rituals of church and the beauty of the music and architecture were very important, as also the fact that there seemed to be a broad range of people in the church, from “suit-boot” types as they are called in India to people wearing jeans. And I felt that I could find some niche to fit into in this large congregation with its many ministers. I was right. I found myself back home at Plymouth. I felt no anxiety about being in Plymouth. I belonged.
    2. In what situations have you felt alienated? A stranger?
    Interestingly enough, the most recent experience of feeling alienated is also at Plymouth. Before that, growing up, I was the daughter of a career Air Force officer and was moved from state to state until I entered 5th grade. I was always the outsider in schools and suffered for it. The Summer Choir is the exact situation in Plymouth that most feels like being the new kid in school. I have participated for close to 20 years, but I still am treated like an outsider. The Summer Choir is unfortunately structured to always make the summer participants feel like outsiders, because at the core a group of regular choir members continue in the summer, and naturally always talk to each other in the breaks. They have their own robes and folders, and some are very territorial. I think that any stable organization will always have to struggle with ways to make new people feel included. Without meaning to, very good people can make new people feel like unwanted outsiders. It takes a lot of effort on the part of the new person to overcome obstacles to inclusion in the already formed and stable group. I always appreciate efforts that people make to include and greet new people. They are few in number.

    3. What is your place in “the household of God?” What is your role in that household?
    Well, one of my roles in life is to greet new people, when I have the energy to do so. It does take energy. This role comes from my background of being a military brat, always moving from place to place, always being the new kid on the block. Like the canary in the underground mine, I am highly attuned to anything that makes a new person feel alienated. I try to help out. In particular, I am attuned to what it feels like to be a cultural and racial outsider, from my years of living in India. I try to find energy to welcome the foreigners who come into my social and work worlds. I have made some very good friends this way, as they appreciate being included. Mostly they face indifference from those around them who fear foreign accents and modes of dress, as well as foreign appearances.

    Beyond that I feel that I am a child of God. I have some particular gifts in textiles production. I try to share this gift from God (via my mother’s teachings). Beyond this gifts, I want to contribute in the other ways I can to the betterment of life on earth. I find it hard to find ways and energy to do so, as just being responsible for myself can seem overwhelming some days. Speaking up against oppressive views expressed by others who come in contact with me is fairly easy, but it is harder to find energy to go out and meet oppression in its strongholds. WE tend to be surrounded by people like ourselves. Some days the most I can contribute to the world is to keep from making myself a burden to others. Also, to be honest about what I am feeling and doing, rather than putting on a good front. Showing others my weaknesses has allowed others around me who feel them selves weak to see that they are not alone.

  2. Larry Erickson says:

    This is a tough one; the answers very personal. My dad converted our hay wagons into suitable wagons for corn picking by adding wooden sides and diagonals in the rear corners. It was in the triangles created in the corners I would ride and ultimately fall asleep. The rocking and rolling as we travelled the field, the thumping of the ears of corn as they hit the wagon, the putt-putt of the tractor and the knowledge of my dad in control, me being 8 or 9 years old, this experience of belongning was as good as is the memory.
    But why now do I have to put the word progressive in front of the word Christian? Do I progress like the person sitting next to me? Are we on the sidewalk for the same purpose or is the person walking next to me headed for his parking place while my goal is the bus stop? I guess those questions are only answered if I involve myself enough to really get to know those around me and let them know me.
    My prayer for this Sunday is that some “oldsters” in the pews and some “newsters” just joining find each other.

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