Lectionary Commentaries for July 22, 2012
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


Commentary on Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

Emerson Powery

The disciples return from the mission (Mark 6:30-31)

Mark reported the re-gathering of Jesus’ “apostles” (6:30) from a successful mission (see Mark 6:7-13) after depicting the death and burial of John.

As John’s mission came to an end, the apostles’ mission had just begun.  The only other time Mark used the term “apostles” for Jesus’ disciples was in 3:14.  (It could be argued that “disciples” was the term Mark used for the broader group of followers, which included the twelve; see Mark 4:10.)  While closely associating the two missions (John’s and Jesus’), Mark also clearly delineated between the two leaders and their bands in the story.  Jesus’ immediate reaction was to secure a private place for his disciples to rest.

The “wilderness,” which had provided Jesus with relief earlier (Mark 1:35), seemed like a logical choice (see Mark 1:3-4, 12-13, 35, 45; 6:31, 32, 35).  This is a place of “rest” and “restoration” in the Markan narrative (1:35; 6:31, 32), but is also a location on the periphery (1:45).  Locating a place to eat leisurely was becoming increasingly difficult (3:20).  The reference to food again expressed how Jesus’ mission was directly tied to basic economic realities.  Food and eating were two prominent themes of the narrative (Mark 1:6; 2:16, 26; 3:30; 5:43; 7:2-5, 28; 11:14; 14:12-24) and received specific attention in the two “feeding” narratives (6:34-44; 8:1-9).

While the success of Jesus’ “apostles” loomed large for the future of the mission, the death of John at the hands of Herod(ias) loomed larger.  The mission may not be completely defeated, but drastic persecutions would be part and parcel of the operation.  The message was clear: do not expect to take on the ruling authorities and not suffer the consequences.  That was the message for the Markan community.  That was the warning for all future followers.

One final note about the literary structure of this section is in order.  It is difficult to determine where this section breaks.  There is no clear division here, because verse 33 follows verse 32 neatly.  The New Revised Standard Version editors prefer a “significant” break between 6:29 and 6:30.  But this separation ignores Mark’s intercalation, disconnecting the disciples’ return (verse 30) from their departure in 6:7-13.

For Mark, 6:30-31 seemed to function as an inclusion with 6:7-13, whereas 6:32—and its repetitive language—apparently started the next section.  Overall, whatever literary structure was intended, the theme of constant “disturbance” on/of the mission continued.

“Sheep without a Shepherd” (Mark 6:32-34)

This short summary showed just how large Jesus’ following had become.  Not only was the mission expanding—as the work of the apostles had shown (6:30)—but many regularly attempted to track down Jesus.  In this passage, Mark described them (“many” from polloi in 6:33) as running faster on foot than those traveling by boat.  They were intent on locating Jesus.  Yet, when Jesus saw them, he viewed them as “sheep without a shepherd,” an image of their vulnerability.  (“Compassion” [from splagchnizomai in 6:34] was one of Jesus’ more common emotions expressed in the Markan narrative [for example, Mark 8:2; 9:22; cf. some manuscripts at 1:41].)

All references to this phrase (“sheep without a shepherd”) in the Hebrew Bible support this idea: it was used in scenes in which God stands over against abusive shepherds who no longer care for their sheep (e.g., Ezekiel 34:2-5 and Zechariah 11:4-17); and, Moses requested that the people not be left as “sheep without a shepherd” in light of his own failing (Numbers 27:17), to which the Lord responds by suggesting Joshua “in whom is the spirit” (Numbers 27:18).

At this stage in the Markan narrative, Jesus’ reaction must be a critique of Herod in the previous scene.  Herod held feasts for the “leaders of Galilee,” but Jesus fed common people.  Mark’s juxtaposition of these two “shepherds” and their activities centered on issues of food and associations in the first century.  Here was one instance of how, for Mark, Jesus “shepherded” the “sheep” of Israel.  Jesus’ feeding was a reminder of how Moses provided food for the people of Israel in the ancient wilderness (cf Numbers 27). The importance of food and community cannot be overstated as a primary function of first century life in the Mediterranean life.

The constant presence of the crowds (Mark 6:53-56)

Summary statements, as in 6:53-56, were significant asides.  On the one hand, they provided transitions in the overall story.  On the other hand, the narrator often provided insight into the flow and development of the plot of the story in these narrative asides.  Repetition would have been a key feature in such summaries, because they reminded listeners (in an aural environment) of several key features of the overall story.  In a fine study on summary statements, Charles Hedrick concludes that summary statements generally “summarize some new aspect of the ministry of Jesus … and seem to function as narrative devices that broaden, expand and intensify the ministry of Jesus and its effect.”1

Such was the case in this instance.  In comparison to earlier summaries, 6:53-56 reminded its audience of the impossibility of Jesus entering towns unnoticed (6:54-55).  Also, this summary statement addresses the idea of touching Jesus again.  The desire to touch him, in an earlier summary statement (3:9-10), has now shifted to a desire to touch his garments (6:56).  In between these two summary statements, readers witnessed a successful healing story through only a touch of his garments (cf. 5:28-29).


  1. “The Role of ‘Summary Statements’ in the Composition of the Gospel of Mark: A Dialog with Karl Schmidt and Norman Perrin” NovT 26 (1984), 289-311 [311].

First Reading

Commentary on Jeremiah 23:1-6

David G. Garber, Jr.

Leadership is a buzzword in many disciplines these days: business, law, medicine, education, politics, and congregational life.

The study of leadership has become a sub-discipline in many academic and professional fields, and in the past ten years it has become a major component of various Master of Divinity curricula.

As we enter into a new political season, pundits from all perspectives will be pontificating on what makes for a good leader. Politicians will blame the nation’s woes on the policy decisions or leadership styles of their opponents, while lauding their own leadership experience. While leadership as a discipline is a relatively recent phenomenon, the concern for upright leaders remains timeless.

The shepherd metaphor for leadership that Jeremiah uses here has a long history in the biblical and ancient Near Eastern tradition. The prologue to Hammurabi’s law code lauds him as “the shepherd, selected by the god Enlil, he who heaps high and plenty.”1 The Hebrew Bible applies the shepherd metaphor to both God (e.g., Psalm 23) and humans (e.g., Ezekiel 34). In the Christian tradition, Jesus uses the shepherd metaphor to refer to the masses who were “like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34), and the metaphor inspired our standard designation of clergy as pastors who tend their congregational flocks.

The Ancient Near Eastern Game of Thrones

The years of the prophet Jeremiah’s activity were the most turbulent time for the leaders of ancient Judah. The seats of power in the ancient Near East had shifted. The Assyrian imperial dominance of the past hundred years was waning, and the Babylonian empire was on the rise. Assyria and Egypt, who had once been rivals, now had a tenuous alliance to vainly attempt to buffer Babylonian expansion. This international upheaval left the kings in the small nation of Judah with some very difficult decisions.

King Josiah perceptively realized that Babylon would be the winner of this ancient Near Eastern game of thrones. His confidence, however, precipitated his untimely death as he led troops to intercept the Egyptian army at Megiddo 609 BCE. By 605 BCE, the Babylonian empire conquered what remained of Assyria’s empire and began moving their interests southwards to the borders of Egypt.

The kings who followed Josiah — Jehoiakim, Jehoachin, and Zedekiah — were in a very precarious predicament. Would they pay taxes to the new empire in Babylon, whose territory extended over a wide range and whose capitol was far away? Or would they side with Egypt in the conflict, a nation that was much closer to their own borders? Which imperial alliance would yield the most benefit for the people of Judah? Could there even be an opportunity for Judah to stand independently of these empires, not paying taxation to either one?

Around 600 BCE, one of Judah’s shepherds, Jehoiakim, chose poorly and withheld tribute from Babylon, angering the Babylonians who invaded Jerusalem shortly after Jehoiakim’s death. The Babylonians took his successor, Jehoiachin, into exile with the upper class leaders of Jerusalem, and replaced him with Zedekiah. Zedekiah, however, was another bad shepherd, who by 590 BCE, decided to withhold tribute once again to Babylon, against the advisement of Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 27:4-8).

Jeremiah 23:1-6 as a Model of Prophetic Leadership

The first two verses of this passage address Jehoiakim’s and Zedekiah’s failed leadership that led to exile. A shepherd’s role was to gather the sheep together and protect them. The shepherds of Judah, however, made policy decisions that placed the people in peril and ultimately led to their exile.

Many scholars view verses 3-6 as a later post-exilic redaction, especially because of the emphasis on a renewed Davidic line.2  The restoration oracle in verses 7-8 that follows also seems to support this view. As the text stands in its final form, two aspects of prophetic leadership emerge: the ability and willingness to speak truth to power and, perhaps more importantly, the recognition of the need to express a future hope to an exiled people. This stands in harmony with Jeremiah’s mission as it is outlined in 1:10: “See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

As the book presents it, Jeremiah’s prophetic leadership consisted of critique for past and present ills balanced with constructive hope for the future. Verses 3-4 promise the rise of multiple good shepherds who will help YHWH gather the exiled flock and return them to their homeland. The return from exile would, in essence, be a new creation where the people will once again be fruitful and multiply (verse 3).

The words in verses 5-6 creatively express both critique and hope. Here, the writer envisions a new leader whose name would be YHWH Zedekenu, “the LORD is our righteousness.” This epithet recalls Zedekiah’s name, which means “the LORD is my righteousness.”

With one phrase, the passage reminds the reader of Zedekiah’s failed leadership while offering a vision for new leadership. The change in the pronoun in the name from first person singular to first person plural also seems significant. While Zedekiah’s leadership may have been primarily self-serving, the new leader would extend God’s righteousness to the entire community.

Cultivating a Prophetic Vision for Leadership

What then might we learn from this passage as we prepare to teach or preach? First, I think it could tell us something about our own leadership potential promises and pitfalls. It could call the Christian community to its prophetic ministry to urge our current leadership to reevaluate our policy decisions in both religious and secular community settings. Do these decisions threaten to divide and disperse people, sending them into exile? Or do these policy decisions offer the hope of bringing people together and engendering productivity?

The message, however, is not only or primarily for religious or political leaders. It is a message of optimistic realism to those of us just making our way through life. It would be tempting, especially in a political season, to fixate on verses 1-2, to completely remain in a critical mode that fosters apathy and cynicism. Verses 3-6 however, temper the judgment on current leadership with a hope and optimism that there is a possibility of good, pure, and productive leadership that can lead to communal wholeness, holiness, and creativity.

1Roth, Martha T. Law Collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor. (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1997), 77.
2Brueggemann, Walter, A Commentary on Jeremiah: Exile and Homecoming. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 206.

Alternate First Reading

Commentary on 2 Samuel 7:1-14a

Robert Hoch

“I am living in a house of cedar, but the Lord lives in a tent.”

David’s determination to build God a suitable house is, according to Walter Brueggemann, part royal-aggrandizement and part genuine piety.1

Self-aggrandizement is an understandable if not laudable reason for wanting to improve the Lord’s living quarters. Understandable because David has come a long way since his days as a shepherd in the field: he was finally “settled in his house” for “the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him” (7:1). 

Perhaps he was in a reflective mood. Before reflection for David was a luxury, but now, “settled in his house,” inhaling the sweet, clear pungency of cedar, he felt he was seeing things in a new light, or at least in a different light. A different light from that light which seems always clouded with the urgency of conflict and political intrigue. He lived in a cedar house. David had arrived; he had settled or, more to the point, David had succeeded in climbing the royal ladder.

And so we might appreciate the incongruity that confronts him: why should the presence of the Lord be huddled in a tent while David, a mere mortal, luxuriates in the aromatic house of kings? If David had proven his mettle as a warrior, the Lord had proven Godself as a God of power, a God capable of delivering David out of every adversity. It was time that God joined David in a more upscale way of life, a more dignified house where the Lord’s “arrival” on the world scene would be evident to all.

Maybe we have an easier time with David’s piety: he’s grateful to the Lord for all that the Lord has done, and this is especially so of his finally having found a place to call home, a place to put down roots.

David’s larger story reflects this sense of unrest, of unease, an inability to put down roots: “If you do not save your life tonight,” Michal warned, “tomorrow you will be killed” (1 Samuel 19:11b). David’s story quickly becomes one of fugitive hopes rather than realized dreams, a story of escape rather than arrival, as he runs, hides, and flees from the rages of Saul (18:12; 20:1, 5; 21:10). David even feigns mental illness in the city of Gath, “[leaving] scratch marks on the doors of the gate, and [letting] spittle run down his beard” (21:13b) — in essence, “losing his mind” in order save his skin.

Jonathan captures the deep loss that marks David’s story when he mourns his imminent and deeply felt absence: “You will be missed, because your place will be empty” (20:18b).

Maybe this combination of ache and royal ambition figure into David’s determination to build God a house.

Sojourners ache for something tangible to secure their present life, to ground themselves in something that proves they lived, they mattered: Cedar houses, endowments, tall steeples, children attending prestigious universities — things we imagine “settle” us in the land of the living.

Likewise, the “house of God” — our churches — sometimes fit a little too easily into the world we imagine: conveniently located, user friendly, lab tested and rat approved. Like David, the house of God is always vulnerable to colonization by creaturely appetites rather than theological vision.

Maybe it was this inner wisdom that stirred Nathan, the prophet, from his sleep that night, awakening him from his initial blessing of David’s vision. 

The word of the Lord that came to Nathan looks like a brisk form of theological reality testing:

  • “Are you the one to build me a house to live in?” (2 Samuel 7:5);
  • “. . . Did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel . .  . saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?'” (7).

Nathan tests David’s perception of God against the historical memory of God’s covenant and election of Israel:

  • “I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt” (6);
  • “I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep” (8b);
  • “I have been with you wherever you went” (9);
  • “I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them” (10a);

And then the coup d’état, the Lord, not David, will be the builder and David the recipient:

  • ” . . . The Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house” (11b).

Now, in place of David’s mixed motives comes a divine promise: the Lord will build a house for David, a house assured by the Lord’s “steadfast love” and “established forever” (15-6).

In the last chapter of his book, The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human life, scientist and professor Robert Trivers relates a conversation he had about prayer with a “lone soul,” a person who, he says, “had given himself over to the understanding and love of God.”

Did I pray? he asked. Yes, I prayed. How did I pray? I mostly said the Lord’s Prayer. And how did I say it? And here I burst forth with the old Presbyterian marching band version on which I had been raised. Out rolled the prayer as so much martial music and self-assertion:

Our father who art in heaven
Hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.

It rolls right along as if you are telling God where and what she is. It even ends with an assertion that . . . inverts meaning: the way we act on earth . . . is the way you would have us act (as in heaven). No, no, no, said my new friend. Here is how you pray: the emphasis is on your own humility, on submitting to God’s will — “Thy will be done, Thy kingdom come” with “thy” said very softly, and so on. I never prayed the old way again.2

The church may always be caught in the tension of genuine faith and more self-absorbed agendas, but perhaps this text is a Nathan for the church today, reminding it to frame the vision of its life with the vision of “thy will,” opening our hearts, minds, and walls to the vision and breadth of God’s love.

1Walter Brueggemann, Interpretation: First and Second Samuel (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1990), 256-7.
2Robert Trivers, The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life (New York: Basic Books, 2011), 331-2.


Commentary on Psalm 23

Nancy deClaissé-Walford

Psalm 23 is classified as an Individual Psalm of Thanksgiving.

In this type of psalm, singers praise God for God’s goodness in delivering them from various life-threatening situations — illness, oppression, enemy attack, etc. In Psalm 23, the psalm singer praises God as the good shepherd who guides the psalmist — as shepherds might guide the flocks of sheep or goats in their charge — through a myriad of life situations.

The familiarity of the words of the psalm can hinder the reader from truly entering into the meaning and intent of its words. Thus the paraphrase of Eugene Peterson might be a helpful beginning point for its exegesis. He interprets Psalm 23 in the following way:

God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows;
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word, you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.
Even when the way goes through Death Valley,
I’m not afraid when you walk by my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure.
You serve me a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.
Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
for the rest of my life.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” “God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing.” Which words are correct, which are true? Both are. The words of Psalm 23 are those of an ancestor in our faith who was delivered, in some way, from danger and who praised God for help in the midst of that danger.

The psalm singer takes on the role of a sheep or goat, animals herded and cared for by shepherds. These are animals that, without the care of a shepherd, would be easy prey for other animals in the open grazing land.

In the psalm, the shepherd provides green pastures for grazing, still waters for drinking, and right paths for travel from one grazing place to another (verses 2-3). In troubled areas, the protection of the shepherd provides safe passage for the flock (verse 4). And even when trouble is nearby, the shepherd makes sure that the flock can feed and water in safety and can lie down for a night’s rest (verse 5). Therefore, the flock can count on continued existence because of the faithfulness of the shepherd (verse 6).

Descriptions of God such as those found in Psalm 23 abound in the book of Psalms. God cares for, provides for, and protects those who are faithful (see, for instance, Psalms 30, 66, 91, and 121). This message of Psalm 23 is clear.

But when we examine Psalm 23 in its canonical location within the book of Psalms, new insights into its meaning may emerge. Psalm 23 follows Psalm 22, a heartfelt lament, one connected with the passion of Jesus in the New Testament. The opening words of Psalm 22 are the words spoken by Jesus on the crucifixion cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Laments in the book of Psalms are structured in a movement of five elements:
1. Invocation: The psalmist calls on God to listen.
2. Lament: Next the psalm singer tells God the reason for crying out God.
3. Petition: Then the psalmist tells God what he/she wants God to do.
4. Words of Trust: The psalmist recounts why God should be trusted at all by remembering God’s faithfulness in the past.
5. Words of Praise: And finally, the psalmist offers words of praise to the Lord.

The structure of Psalm 22 exhibits an escalation, a piling up, of elements of the lament. In the first strophe words of lament (verse 1-2) are followed by words of trust (verses 3-5). The second strophe contains words of lament (verses 6-8), words of trust (verses 9-10), and words of petition (verse 11). The third strophe, however, moves directly from words of lament (verses 12-18) to words of petition (verses 19-21), with no words of trust intervening.

Might we be permitted to read Psalm 23, an individual hymn of thanksgiving, as the words of trust that are missing from the last strophe of Psalm 22?

The two psalms share vocabulary and concepts, thus strengthening an argument for connecting them. Psalm 23 expresses confidence in God as shepherd to the psalmist. In Psalm 22, however, the psalmist accuses God of being far away and not answering the psalmist’s cry for help; of being silent when those around mock and shake their heads; of paying no heed when bulls and lions and dogs and evildoers surround; and of ignoring the fact that the psalmist’s body is shriveled and emaciated.

Indeed, in Psalm 22, God lays the psalmist in “the dust of death” (verse 15), “because” (verse 16), “a band of evildoers surround” (verse 16). The singer cries out, “but you, O LORD, do not be far from me” (verses 11, 19), for “trouble is nearby” (verse 11).

In contrast, in Psalm 23, even while walking through “the valley of the shadow of death” (verse 4), the psalmist will fear no “evil” (verse 4), “because” (verse 4), “you are with me” (verse 4). In fact, God prepares a table for the psalmist “in front of my troublers” (verse 5).

Reading Psalm 23 as a word of trust in answer to the heartfelt lament of Psalm 22 may add a new dimension of understanding to both psalms. Connecting them does not diminish the individual poetic and theological character of either, but rather creates a powerful statement of trust in the Lord.

Second Reading

Commentary on Ephesians 2:11-22

Sally A. Brown

Today’s reading lies at the heart of the theology of Ephesians, and it is not tame.

No doubt some relatively tame sermons have been preached from this text from time to time — maybe taking to task a congregation fussily divided over the color of the carpet or over the price of adding ten parking spaces to the parking lot. But the text is meant to do more than coax cranky congregants toward compromise. This is a text meant to shake empires.

Close attention to the very deliberate rhetoric of these verses, and the way it would have functioned for Christians of Asia Minor living under the iron rule of Rome, can reveal just how deeply political the “spiritual” vision of Ephesians is. In short, the tightly-crafted rhetoric of Ephesians 2:11-22 directly challenges the swaggering claims of Rome’s emperors, who saw themselves as the semi-divine forgers of a new world peace.1 Likewise, it undermines all systems that secure insider distinction and top-down privilege by setting up barriers that identify some as outsider or inferior.

It is crucial to recognize that any talk of peace within the context of Asia Minor in the late first century under Roman rule would be politically charged talk. Roman emperors, Augustus in particular, were hailed as the semi-divine inaugurators of an unprecedented peace that would settle the turbulent rivalries of the Mediterranean and Asia Minor. This Roman brand of “peace,” of course, was an enforced peace wrought through military dominance. When necessary, terror would be used — specifically, the terror of crucifixion for anyone foolhardy enough to challenge peace on the Empire’s terms. On state occasions and festival days such as the birthday of the emperor, when the emperor’s “lordship’ would be celebrated, the emperor as “peace-bringer” would be lauded in public speeches.

Imagine that we, a community of Christians in Asia Minor, are tightly packed into the largest home available for the first reading of a new treatise that has arrived — the one that will later come to be known as the Letter to the Ephesians. We’re gathered to hear it read out, of course, because most of us cannot read. As the reader gets to the part that says, “You who were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ . . . He is our peace,” there is a quick intake of breath and glances toward the door.

Who may have heard? “He [Christ] is our peace” (verse 14) would be a pronouncement bordering on treason. What is being claimed, after all, is that despite all the swaggering claims of Rome’s emperors, true peace has been inaugurated by a man the empire crucified. The dissonance between the chilling rhetoric of the state and the thrilling rhetoric of the Gospel would set any listener’s blood racing. 

Another clue for preaching this text is the way its writer uses the familiar to illuminate the less familiar. Key terms of distinction familiar to residents in Rome’s conquered lands — “strangers,”  “aliens,” “citizens” — are  drawn alongside the religious division of Jew and non-Jew, a religious reality likely less familiar in Asia Minor’s mostly non-Jewish, late-first-century churches.  Citizenship was highly valued across the Empire, so much so that among the foreign peoples conquered by Rome, some would pay great sums for citizenship — a fact alluded to in Acts 22:25-28. Paul is bound and about to be flogged when he confronts his captors with the fact that he was born a Roman citizen, making flogging him a crime. The tribune is amazed, confessing that he paid a high price for his citizenship.

The citizen/alien distinction brought clarity and emotional content to the distinction between insiders and outsiders to God’s “covenant of promise” (verse 12), between those justified through “the law with its commandments and ordinances” (verse 15) and those without such access. Preachers can adopt a similar strategy.

Instead of laboring to explain what Roman citizenship meant, why not evoke some of those  insider/outsider systems that actually structure the daily lives of the folks who fill the pews? Several come to mind: club membership, perhaps? Team jerseys or alma mater bumper stickers? The places where people shop? 

This requires tact. The goal is to help listeners identify the divides that structure their lives, granting them either a sense of distinction or painful exclusion. This can be done without pointing an accusing finger from the pulpit at those who live on the “right” streets or have gone to the “right” schools. But the gritty reality of the divisions that Christ died to undermine will likely not hit home unless the preacher can suggest real distinctions that stratify the community and reach into the congregation. Positively, the preacher can envision concrete practices that create a counter-current to the forces that stratify and separate. Meals shared with communities of other faiths are a start; common work for justice is another step, and praying together may be the most challenging of all.

Ephesians declares peace on new terms, the peace forged not by the “lords” of Empire in its manifold forms, but in the blood and bone of the Crucified. The cross undermined the wall dividing Jew and non-Jew, but that is only the beginning. 

The new household of God is not a purely spiritual reality that we visit briefly on Sundays — a weekly “time out” in which we pretend peace is possible by sitting next to people we scrupulously avoid the rest of the time. The church is the daring practice of a new politics — a different kind of power, the self-outpoured, boundary-crossing power of Christ’s cross. We trust this power, letting it undermine every wall, until we are “built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God” (verse 22).

1I am indebted to the work of Gosnell Yorke for key insights that follow. See Gosnell Yorke, “Hearing the Politics of Peace in Ephesians:  A Proposal from an African Postcolonial Perspective,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 30:1 (2007), 113-127.