Jesus is our peace. In his life and death on
the cross, Jesus broke down the dividing walls so that we are no longer
strangers and outsiders, but we are citizens with the saints and also
members of the household of God. The foundation of God's house was built of
apostles and prophets, and Jesus, the cornerstone, holds it all together.
Ephesians 2:14-20 — Gathering Paraphrase
What does it mean to be citizens with the saints? Quite simply, it means that Jesus Christ has given us all one primary identity: we are Jesus' own. Through his life and death on the cross, Jesus has made us members of the household of God.
This was a radical teaching that Paul gave to the Ephesians. It freed all Gentiles from the battle for acceptance that they had been fighting with Jewish Christians. It declared that the cultural citizenship that named each side Jew or Gentile was no longer primarily valid, nor was it ever a measure of righteousness in Jesus' eyes.
Paul proclaims that it is Jesus who has the power to give citizenship to the kingdom of God. It is Jesus through the cross who has ended the argument between Jews and Gentiles. It is Jesus who has torn down the dividing walls, proclaimed peace to all, and built a new home for his people using himself as the cornerstone. To be citizens with the saints means that Jesus Christ has chosen each of us for a life together with all the saints glorifying God. Citizen and saint, saint and citizen; we all are both, we all are one, because of Jesus Christ.
Yet, it can be confusing to think about citizenship as a word that has bearing on life in this era of the body of Christ. In the United States, the term
"citizen" rolls more comfortably off our tongues when we talk about politics or US history. We tend to use the term
"citizen" in debates about borders and fences.
However, as Christians, we have a language already embedded in our mouths from the words we sing in worship. It comes to us in hymns stretching as far back as the faith communities of the seventh century. Instead of singing the word
"citizen," we sing words about unity in Jesus across race and global identity.
it in the lyrics of "In Christ There is No East or West":
"Join hands, disciples of the faith whate'er your race may be. All children of the living God are surely kin to me." In
"Christ is Made the Sure Foundation," the words come from a seventh century Latin hymn. The first verse declares:
"Christ is made the sure foundation, Christ, our head and cornerstone, chosen of the Lord and precious, binding all the church in one." The traditional Christmas carol,
"I Am So Glad Each Christmas Eve," reminds us that "[Jesus] opens now
for every child the palace of the king."
In New Orleans this coming summer, we challenge all the members of the ELCA to join with Youth Gathering participants to consider our identity as citizens with the saints. This journey includes looking at baptism, discipleship, peacemaking and justice through the lectionary texts for Sunday, July 22, especially Ephesians 2:14-20.
We will be proclaiming the following truths that we believe deepen our understanding of being made into
"citizens with the saints":
- Jesus gathers us as citizens with the saints to learn to love like Jesus through practicing discipleship that works for peace with justice.
- Jesus makes us one new humanity through baptism.
- Jesus is the source of our true identity.
- Jesus makes all people free and calls us to be disciples.
- Jesus makes peace and calls us to see each other as God sees us.
- Jesus makes creation right with God and calls us to live boldly in the face of injustice.
- Jesus makes us one new household through the cross and we are all part of it.
These truths will be proclaimed at the Gathering so they may be shared in every corner of the world and in the places from which Gathering participants come. Jesus frees us for the life of others and to carry out the ministry of reconciliation through the Holy Spirit. These seven truths are platforms from which to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to every nation, so that everyone may hear that Jesus has already claimed them and made a way for them to be reconciled to God.