Remnant of the Berlin Wall, Bernauerstrasse, August 2017.
Walls are made to be broken!
Do you ever find yourself in unexpected places? Right now I am in the UK due to some family illness – I was not expecting on the weekend to be here.
Two weeks ago we were in this building:
Not the best photo I admit. What is it? It is the Chapel of Reconciliation built in part of the what was the death strip that separated East and West Berlin. The original, much larger church building of similar name was demolished by the East German authorities in 1985. It had stood empty since the Wall went up:
Demolition 1985, photo from the Berlin Wall Memorial Information Centre (worth a visit!)
In going to the memorial site, we had really not expected to find this chapel. It was very peaceful to sit inside and spend some moments to pray. But also to reflect on where this chapel had been built and the divisions there had been.
The Berlin Wall was so iconic of the West-East Europe split. For the people of Berlin it was more than that, it physically tore apart families, disrupted city life and of course people died trying to escape to the West. I remember being amazed when the Wall came down in 1989 – it had seemed such a permanent feature!
Walls are made to be broken!
The word ‘reconciliation’ is part of the name of this church in the former Wall area. In the New Testament we can read of how Jesus Christ has ‘destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility’ (Ephesians 2:14). By His sacrifice on the cross and taking on himself the wrongs of humanity, He broke the division between people and God. Yet also in the context of what the apostle Paul writes, Christ broke the division, between Jews and non-Jews (racial/cultural barriers).
Elsewhere in the New Testament, we can read these words,
‘So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:a The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation’. 2 Corinthians 5:16-19, New International Version
There is a lot to take in from those verses. May be read it slowly two or three times and see what strikes you.
Through Christ we are made right with God. But also for those who have received this into their lives, there is a call to live this out. In a later verse, followers of Jesus are referred to as ‘Christ’s ambassadors‘. We have been called to a message of reconciliation.
That is what the chapel in the former death strip stands for. It is linked to other church congregations in places like Coventry (UK ), Hiroshima(Japan) and Dresden(Germany) who emphasise the call for reconciliation.
How do we help encourage reconciliation? Between people and God? Between people who are divided?
In the previous blog I wrote about prejudice and racism linked to our visiting the Holocaust Memorial. For those of us reading this who see ourselves as followers of Jesus Christ, how can being reconciled to God impact into our world around us?
‘we regard no one from a worldly point of view’ – what does that mean for our lives?
What does having a ‘ministry of reconciliation’ look like in our neighbourhoods, study courses, work places, families? How does it speak into our political views that we hold?
Let us take some time to pray and reflect on these words from 2 Corinthians 5. Be freshly encouraged that it is possible through Jesus Christ for people to be reconciled to God. It is possible for all, including people like you and me. Yet also let’s consider how we can live out this message among others around us and whenever we speak up about issues in the news for instance.
Walls are made to be broken – through the ministry of reconciliation!