How Reconciliation Begins

A reflection on Ephesians 2:11-22 by Andrew Stephens-Rennie originally preached at St. Brigids, a Vancouver-based emerging Christian community rooted in the Anglican tradition.


We found ourselves waiting for the bus in the heart of San Francisco’s Castro district just after noon. We had spent the morning downtown, and were on our way back to our Air B’n’B in the Noe Valley, a few bus stops up from the Harvey Milk plaza where we now stood.

And as we stood there, two things caught my attention.

The Gourmet Hot Dog shop across the street; and

Three well-dressed, distinguished older men – probably in their 60s – harassing some younger men who had recently been awakened from their slumber in the park.

You might not yet see how the two are related, or how they relate to this letter to the Ephesians, but I hope that it’ll all come clear soon enough.

The hotdogs, for their part, caused us to leave the bus stop and cross the street. They brought us into the middle of the dispute. They made us witness to the divide. Perhaps they made us participants in the divide.

There were walls that divided each of us.

There was the wall between the elder men and the street sleepers, to be sure. But there was a wall that separated us from each of those two parties as well. And in the midst of it, the question of how to play out – or perhaps how to transgress – our prescribed roles.

Oppressor, oppressed, bystander. But which one was which?

It’s too bad this letter to the Ephesians didn’t come to mind in the moment. Maybe then I would have had some sense of where to go or what to do. But I did not. And the experience still leaves me with troubling questions.

I stood there, watching, heart breaking as three elder gay men – men who by their age had no doubt endured similar abuse, possibly in the same neighbourhood – spat at, berated, and dehumanizingly mocked these street-involved men sleeping in the park. They called the cops. Demanded that “those people,” be removed from the neighbourhood. All the while, they hurled insult after devastating insult.

Had this been 1973, and not 2015, the ones doing the dehumanizing would have been the dehumanized. And what’s the role of the bystander in all of this?

“So then, remember that at one time you were divided from one another,” the author of Ephesians writes. “Remember that you were alienated, estranged, without hope or connection.” But now, you who were once far off have been brought near, through Christ.”

Oh that it were possible. Oh that it could be true. Is it possible that Christ could bring reconciliation to such division? And if so, how?

Our gospel story a few weeks back told of the way in which Jesus attended both to the needs of the dehumanized, hemorrhaging woman and the daughter of a local power broker – inviting both into his alternative community. And I suppose that’s how reconciliation begins. As Jesus calls each of us into community with himself, he offers a wide welcome to one and all. He offers a wide welcome, and calls us to offer to others the same welcome that we too have received.

Christ brings peace to situations of unrest. And he calls us to be peacemakers.

Christ breaks down the walls that divide us. And he calls us to do the same too.

Christ brings reconciliation. And he calls us to seek reconciliation with all people.

This pastoral letter to the Ephesians reminds the Gentiles that they were once outsiders, but it’s not done to beat them down. It’s not to make us feel bad. Rather, this letter invites into the grandest and most basic of Jewish traditions – the Exodus. In different words, and in a different way, the author echoes the formula that plays repeatedly throughout the Hebrew scriptures.

“Remember that I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt.”

Remember that you have experienced oppression. Don’t be like the oppressor. Once you were considered by others to be no people at all. But now you’ve been called into a convenant relationship with Almighty God. Remember, and live differently.

Live differently. Each and every day, make it your mission to find a progressively better way to be faithful to God, to one another, and to the land you have been called to steward. Be reconciled one to another. Let all things be reconciled in Christ.

Such reconciliation starts here. It starts now. In this place. In this community. The labels that divided us before? Jesus calls us to hold them loosely. Christ decimates those dividing walls so that we might be one new humanity, not one divided by labels of violence and hostility that we use to oppress or demean one another.

This isn’t some abstract spiritual principle or intention. It’s a call to live this way with each other, in flesh and blood.

And here, at St. Brigids, in the liturgy, and in our ways of being together, we have the chance to practice what it means to live reconciling lives. And it all starts with a confession. The confession that we have wounded one another. That we have inflicted hurt. That we have unhelpfully labeled one another, and denied each others’ humanity.

Which is to say, we have more in common than we think. 

We have all gone through struggle and pain. We have all had our moments of slavery, exile, oppression. We have all been labeled in ways that are unhelpful.

Which is to say, we have more in common than we think. 

We have all stood idly by, not knowing how to respond to a situation of injustice taking place before our very eyes.

Which is to say, we have more in common than we think. 

But Christ has come to free us. Christ has come to free us from all that divides us as he invites us into what we are becoming: One New Humanity (Ephesians 2:15). Reconciled in Christ, we are a part of God’s new creation. And we’re invited to live in relationship with God through Christ, with one another, and with God’s good creation.

Which is to say, we have more in common than we think. 

Reconciled in Christ, we are offered peace, and we are called to extend that peace to each other. And we practice this each and every week in our liturgy so that we can be ready to live it in the world. And the best part is that we’re all invited to the party. We’re all invited to Christ’s table. It’s through broken body and spilt blood – through bread and wine poured out for each of us – that we are reconciled in Christ.

No matter who we are, no matter what we’ve done, no matter what people say about us. Christ invites us to the banquet. Not just for ourselves. But so that we too can extend the table to help feed the world. To offer bread and wine. To offer peace to those who are near, and peace to those who are far off. To be peacemakers. Barrier smashers. To be agents of reconciliation in a world that too often defaults to vengeance.

And we are called to do this wherever God sends us: our homes, our neighbourhoods, our relationships. Because in spite of all that divides us, in Christ we are reconciled.

Which is to say, we have more in common than we think

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Andrew Stephens-Rennie
Andrew is a writer, dreamer and organizer with a keen interest in developing leaders in faith, compassion and justice.

He currently serves as the Director of Missional Renewal for the Anglican Diocese of Kootenay on the unceded territories of the Sinixt, Syilx, and Ktunaxa nations. He previously served as the Director of Ministry Innovation at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, BC.

Andrew is cofounder and contributing editor at, and co-editor of "A Sort of Homecoming: Essays Honoring the Academic and Community Work of Brian Walsh" with Marcia Boniferro and Amanda Jagt.

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