All the reading I’m doing on racism has forced me to come face to face with my own pride and sense of privilege that keeps me at a distance from people who are different than me. It’s been difficult because I’m learning that deep down in the cracks of my own soul, I have a sense of superiority, and I have prejudice, and I have fear that I would just like to keep covered up. I would just like to pretend it’s not there. I’m just being honest: it’s a struggle to be consistently loving toward people who are different than me. And I’ll bet if you were honest, you would have to acknowledge that you have similar issues that create a distance between you and some people that are different than you; because every single one of us possesses this kind of dark, depraved, instinctive nature to build walls between ourselves and other people. But Jesus died to tear down the dividing wall of hostility that separated the Jews and Gentiles, the great ethnic chasm of his day. We live in a society that is filled with dividing walls of hostility between black and white; Asian, Hispanic, rich and poor. And Jesus died to tear them down. If followers of Christ are not involved in tearing down the walls that alienate people, we’re making a joke of the cross. It’s not an option.
Full Sermon Script:
Something we’re really good at as human beings is building walls. There is one human made structure that’s visible from the moon. It’s the great wall of China. That’s a remarkable image, isn’t it.  Robert Frost wrote a poem many years ago that starts out with these words, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall…”
> The poem is written as if by a farmer; and this farmer writes about how he and the neighboring farmer, every spring, go out to check the wall that divides them, this barrier between them. And every spring they find a strange thing — a few stones have fallen down. They find the wall needs to be repaired. And Frost writes in this poem that it’s as if some force in nature doesn’t like the wall being there. That this force is conspiring against them. They keep building the wall back up but something keeps tearing the wall back down. >>>>> He says, “We set the wall between us once again. We keep the wall between us as we go.” He says, “But something inside me asks why do we need the wall?” And his neighbor says, “Good fences make good neighbors.” But Frost says, “That’s true where there are cows, but there are no cows here.”  He says, “Before I’d build a wall, I’d like to know what I was walling in and what I was walling out.” And then he concludes with, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, that wants it down.”
> Now, one of the most remarkable things Jesus did when he came to this earth was tear down the walls of hostile that divided people in his community. His community consisted of people, who by all rights, should have been bitter enemies of each other. The rich and the poor, Jewish people and Gentiles, those who were slaves and those who were owners of slaves, men who had great power and women who had none at all. They all stood on equal ground in the fellowship of the cross.  And there’s a verse that expresses God’s passionate commitment to destroy the barriers that divide people who are made in his image. It’s
There is no longer jew nor greek, there is no longer slave nor free, there is no longer male nor female. For all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
> Now you have to reflect for a moment to realize how revolutionary this thought was and how deeply offensive it would have been to all people who wanted to hold on to power or prejudice.  “No more walls,” Paul says. “Solidarity for the human race. We are all one.”  “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, that wants it down.” 
> And wherever human beings genuinely discover Jesus, this solidarity movement, this wall tearing down movement goes on.  I read this week about a man named Clarence Jordan. Back in the 1950’s, he went to preach at a church in the back hills of South Carolina. This was in a day when segregation was very commonly practiced. When he got behind the pulpit to preach, he looked over the crowd and much to his surprise, the congregation was made up of a mixture of both white and black people. And he couldn’t believe his eyes, and he wondered how this could happen. So after the service, he went to talk to the old hillbilly preacher who was the pastor of the church. “How did you get this way?” Clarence Jordan said.  And the old hillbilly preacher said, “What way?” Clarence said, “You know, integrated—blacks and whites together. Has this come about because of the supreme court decision on integration?”  And the old preacher said, “Supreme Court? What’s the Supreme Court got to do with Christians?” This was his way of saying that a higher authority than the Supreme Court had spoken to this issue 2000 years ago.  “Come on!” Clarence said, “You know, you’ve got a weird church here. How did you get to be this way?”  “Well,” the preacher said, “I used to have about twenty members in this church when the last preacher died.” “But there’s hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people here now!” Clarence said. “That’s right,” said the old hillbilly preacher, “When the old preacher died, they couldn’t get a new preacher. So after about two months, I told the deacons I’d be the new preacher. Since they didn’t have anybody else, they let me preach.” [Not a real elaborate search process.] “I got up the next Sunday, opened the bible, put my finger down, and landed on that verse that says in Christ there’s neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, all are one in Christ Jesus. So I preached on that. I told them how Jesus makes all kinds of people one.  When I finished, the deacons told me they wanted to talk to me in the back room. When the deacons got there they told me they didn’t want to hear that kind of preaching anymore.” Clarence asked, “What did you do?” The old hillbilly preacher said, “I fired them deacons. I mean, if a deacon’s not going to deac, he ought to be fired!”  Clarence was amazed, “How come the deacons didn’t fire you?” “They never hired me,” said the preacher. “You know, once I found out what bothered them, I gave it to them week after week. I put the knife in the same place Sunday after Sunday.”  Clarence said, “Did they put up with it?”  “Not really,” the preacher answered, “I preached that church down to four people.”  He said, “Sometimes new life begins not when we get a lot of new people into the church but when we get some of the old people out of the church. If people are going to stand in the way of the moving of God, they’d better be gone.” He said, “After that our goal as Christians was to produce Christians.” And Clarence said, “How can you tell when you’ve produced a Christian?” “Well,” said the old preacher, “down here, we’ve been taught since we’re knee high, there’s a difference between black folk and white folk and they shouldn’t mix. But we know when people get saved, all that garbage is gone.  We know we’ve got Christians on our hands when all that evil stuff about race is taken out of folks hearts. When we got some Christians in this church, it started to grow and to grow and that’s how we got to be the way we are today.”  “Something there is that doesn’t want a wall that wants it down.” 
> Now, at the heart of our inability to get along is how we deal with what might be called “otherness” in human beings. This is behind how I relate to someone of a different language, or culture, or gender, or color, or socioeconomic background. The basic problem is otherness.  And issues of racism, sexism and class conflict are all expressions of our inability to love.  Now take two siblings, they come from the same ethnic group, same gene pool, same language, same culture, same family, same parents, same home—all the barriers that we think of as creating problems are gone. Let me ask you a question. Have you ever known of a home where there were siblings and despite shared ethnic and cultural heritage, somewhere along the line, they experienced some conflict? Have you ever known a home where it’s amazing the siblings are all still alive today?  You see, the truth is that the ultimate location of this problem has to do with the falleness of the human heart.  A theology professor put it like this. >>>>> He said, “At the core of human sin is the desire to separate. We desire to separate other people from our lives or from our hearts. We desire to separate ourselves from God. We build dividing walls of hostility. At the heart of sin,” he says, “is separation.”
> Now, let me say this, there is an anatomy of racism, and it’s a very, very simple structure. And the first aspect is separation. The first thing racism does is it separates people.  If you read the New Testament you’ll see there was often animosity between Jews and Gentiles. The Jews said to the Gentiles, “We need you to be far away from us… because “we” and “you” are not the same.” The first thing racism does is it takes a person and it places them in a position as far away from me as possible.  But then there’s a second thing that happens. The second thing that racism says is, “I’m better than you.”  The anatomy of racism takes on two aspects. First is separation. The second is supremacy.  Most people don’t see this when they think of the things they do that might be racist… but think about the last time you made a distinction between you and someone else. Did you say, “This person is different… and they’re better than I am?” Or did you just say, “They’re different.” And you found a reason to separate yourself from them?  Now, there’s no other way to say this, so I’m just going to say it. When we have this wall-building mentality in ourselves, when we think we’re superior, or when we separate ourselves, or when we make demeaning comments against people of another race, it’s sin! It’s wrong!  That doesn’t mean we can’t have sincere disagreements with people. We may have many. It just means it’s wrong to separate yourself and demean them.  And the reason that demeaning others is sin is because everyone is made in the image of God. When we demean any person, we are demeaning the very God in whose image they were made.  So sin involves this desire to separate someone from a neighborhood, or a school, or a job, or even a church. But more than that, sin is the choice to separate someone from your heart, from your life. It’s the failure to love.  A friend shared a story on social media this week. She’s a white woman with 5 children. 3 are white and 2 are black. This story moved me because I have two black children who are similar ages. >>>>>
This is what she writes: “One summer day I let my two black children go for a walk in the neighborhood by themselves. My son desperately wanted to work to earn money. A neighbor had mentioned he was such a hard worker around our house that he should offer to do yard work or dog walking in the neighborhood for a small fee. He had been begging me for weeks to let him ask the neighbors, but I wouldn’t, not because I didn’t trust him, or because he wasn’t responsible and respectful, or because he wasn’t old enough. It was because I was concerned because he was black.  This particular day he was persistent and I don’t operate in fear and I didn’t want my son to either, so I finally gave in with the instruction that he and his sister stay together and not walk in anyone’s yard and to be respectful. They always were but I just wanted to remind them… to keep them safe. Off they went, thrilled that they had some freedom and responsibility. When they came back I asked if they had found any neighbors that needed help. They hadn’t but my son wasn’t phased, he planned to go out again the next day because several people weren’t home.  Thirty minutes later the local county sheriff was at our house. My son came to my room and said “mom there’s a police officer at the door.” I bristled and began to shake. I quickly self corrected as I wanted to remain calm for my children. I walked around the corner and could see the officer with his hand on his gun. I calmly said can I help you sir? He immediately shifted when he saw me. It was clear he didn’t expect me to be white and in that moment I felt my privilege in a tangible way. What would his response have been if I had been black? He could hardly speak clearly as he fell all over his words asking if I lived there and if I’d seen anyone in the neighborhood that didn’t belong? I asked for clarity on what he was asking me. He then pointed to my son and asked if he lived here. I said yes this is my son. He again seemed at a loss for words. He asked if he’d been home all day and I quickly realized where this was going.  I explained that for the first time ever I had allowed my two youngest children to go outside without one of their older white siblings. This officer didn’t have any idea what he’d just gotten himself into. He listened to me and he commended my son and said he wished his son wanted to work to earn some money. I asked him why he was called and he struggled to tell me that someone had called the police because “there had been a series of car break-ins” and they saw suspicious people knocking on doors and looking in cars. My kids did not look in cars. They walked by cars as they were walking in their own neighborhood.  The officer was kind and understanding when I called out what I thought was blatant racism especially because the house in question knew my children lived in the neighborhood. He didn’t disagree but was quiet on the matter. I let him know that I now understood clearly that it was unsafe for my children to walk around their neighborhood by themselves because of their skin color. He tried to assure me they were safe but he knew I was struggling. I assured him it wouldn’t happen again… for their own safety. He put his head down, apologized and left.  As soon as the door closed my two precious children burst into tears, I held them close and just wept. Immediately I called my husband and told him to come home. I then updated our older kids who weren’t home. Soon everyone was at the house affirming the kids and speaking truth over them. We prayed for the callers and begged God to heal our land.  All of this seems like too much but it wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to know how my children’s names would be used in a report and how to get it removed. I wanted to know exactly what the report said and how I could file a complaint against these false reporters. I wanted justice for my children. For the first time I felt a tinge of what black mothers must feel when their children are wrongly accused and targeted.  What I discovered in the police report was more than my heart could take. The woman that called the police described my children as rattling door handles on houses and attempting to open car doors. None of that happened. My son opened a screen door to knock on the door because there was no door bell. They walked by cars in the drive way, they didn’t touch them.  Because of what one woman said this was classified as a robbery in progress. We live in an unincorporated area of an affluent yet somewhat diverse town. The county sheriff was dispatched and the police surrounded the perimeter of our neighborhood. They were searching for robbers. And I have no idea what my children would have done if they had been surrounded and shouted at. They were babies. I’m afraid they would have run. This scenario plays over and over in my mind. What if they hadn’t come home? What if their fear told them to flee?  She goes on to say, “I don’t blame the officers, they had no idea what they were walking into that day. They only knew what was called in.”
> When I read that, I was in tears thinking, “What if that was Amryn and Ezra? What if that was my son and daughter?  I pray God protects our family from that kind of racism.  You know, in extreme cases of racism, there’s a term for the attempts of one ethnic group to eradicate another ethnic group. It’s not called ethnic murder or ethnic genocide. Do you know what it’s called? Ethnic cleansing. In other words, ethnic otherness is filth that needs to be washed away. Someone who is different than me pollutes my ethnic space and needs to be removed.  Now, the truth is I know about the sin of separation and the failure to love because I too am guilty of it. Maybe not as blatantly as the woman in the story who called the police. Certainly not in as horrifyingly cruel as the men who hunted down Amhaud Arbery. But in my own way, in my own apathy, in my own complacency, I too have lived behind a wall.  And the reality is, so have some of you. And maybe the place where we need to start is simply with repenting.  Some of you know what this business of separation is about because you’ve been on the receiving end of someone separating themselves from you… because of the color of your skin, or the way you look, or your level of education, or your economic status, or your gender. You know what it is for people to separate themselves from you. You know what it is to be frozen out, or to receive a word or even a glance that says, “You’re not one of us. You don’t belong here.”  But listen, the writers of Scripture say that every human being was created in the image of God. So that to demean anyone of them is to demean the God in whose image they were created.  You see, human beings have this tendency to make God over in our own image.  If you look at the pictures of God created by tribes or nations all over the world, you’ll notice that their pictures of God tend to look like their pictures of them. There’s one whole book that’s devoted to pictures of Jesus, and depending on the country of the artist, you get a Jesus who looks greek, or italian, or ethiopian, or whatever country the artist happens to come from.  But we can’t get around the truth, and the truth is he was Dutch.  And his last name was VanCleave.  Do you remember Archie Bunker? Archie Bunker one time was having an argument with his black neighbor, George Jefferson, about the nature of God. It was a theological argument. It was a very interesting argument. And Archie maintains that God, of course, is white because man is created in the image of God and Archie is a man, and Archie is white, therefore, God must be white. And George Jefferson asks him, “But how do you know?” And Archie has to think for a moment and then he says, “Well, every picture I’ve ever seen of God is white. Michelangelo and all those guys have pictures of God and he’s always white.” And George Jefferson says, “Maybe you’ve been looking at the negative.”  Kind of an interesting theological point.  There’s a story in the Bible about the apostle Peter. Peter had a series of dreams in which he discovers that God not only loves Jewish people but God also loves Gentiles. And, in fact, God wants Peter to go be with Gentiles, and to have fellowship with them, and even to eat with them which was a gesture of intimacy and closeness. And Peter was horrified by this… until finally it dawned on him that Gentiles, like the people of Israel, were beloved by God. And this is what he says, and this just struck him like lightning.  Peter began to speak as a result of this long encounter with God and he comes to this new realization,
“I now realize how true it is that God treats everyone on the same basis.”
 He’s astounded to discover that God is bigger than any one ethnic group.  Now, the truly amazing thing is that God himself knows what separation feels like. God knows.  Listen, it is no accident that when Jesus was born, Jesus — God in human form — when he was born, he was born into a race that had been persecuted, had been separated for centuries.  It’s no accident, that when Jesus was born, he was born NOT into a family of wealth and power, but into a blue collar family. It is no accident that, even as an adult, Jesus could say that foxes have their holes and birds have their nests but he, the Son of Man, had no place to lay down his head. He was homeless.  It is no accident that many of his closest and most devoted followers, the first witnesses of his resurrection, and some of the most significant leaders of his early church were women.  And you understand, in Jesus’ day, that was a shocking thing.  It’s no accident that the kind of people who were most separated in Jesus’ day were the kind of people Jesus embraced. And they lived the kind of life Jesus chose to live. For the good news is that God embraces human beings—all human beings, everyone who will allow him. Most especially, God announces his embrace to those who, on this earth, are most separated.  This is from Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. >>>>>
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations.
His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.
> The writers of Scripture say the foundation for the unity of the human race, the only power strong enough to overcome the power of sin that divides us is the power of the cross. So that whenever human beings turn to Jesus, the wall must come down. 
“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall that wants it down.”  And it’s God.  The force in this universe that wants the wall down—the wall that separates human beings from other human beings—is God. And He wants it down so badly. He wants it down badly enough to go to the cross.  God’s dream is a dream of a people with no walls. And hopefully, hopefully, in our church, you get a taste of that. But even if not, even if we haven’t fully arrived yet, and we haven’t, you need to know God’s heart on this. You and I are called to become agents of reconciliation. You and I are called to tear down the walls that divide us from other people.  And it’s not always an easy thing. So, I’m going to ask you to spend some time examining your own heart, and your own attitudes, and your own behavior.  As you relate to people who have a different accent, or a different skin color, or are from another culture. Do you separate them from your heart? Or is there a kind of an openness about you? Do you deal with people the way Jesus would? Do you talk about these people the way Jesus would?  I want to challenge all of us to take a next step this week. One of the most powerful things you and I can do is to cultivate significant relationships with people from diverse backgrounds.  I was reading this week about the civil rights era and I’ll tell you my favorite story. It’s about a little first grade girl who went on her first day to a newly integrated school in the south at the time of the integration storm.  And her mom met her at the door at the end of the day and said, “Honey, how did everything go?” And her daughter said, “Mom! you know what? A little black girl sat next to me.” And her mom knew this was a new experience and wasn’t sure how to respond, how big of a deal to make of it, so she said, “Well, honey, what happened?” And her daughter said, “Oh mommy, we were both so scared that we held hands all day.”  Isn’t that a beautiful picture?  Who are you holding hands with? Who are you refusing to hold hands with?  Last verse that we’ll look at. It talks about what life will look like one day in the kingdom of God. It’s from the book of Revelation. >>>>> It’s addressed to Jesus and this is what it says,
“For you were killed, and by your sacrificial death, you bought for God people from every tribe, language, nation and race. You have made them a kingdom of priests to serve our God and they shall rule on earth.”
> Now take a moment to see what it is the writer of Scripture pictures. Every nation, every tribe, every people, every language. Then there will be, the writer of Scripture says, no more fences, no more barriers, no more dividing walls of hostility. 
Almost sixty years ago now a preacher stood in front of a hundred thousand Americans at the base of the Lincoln memorial and he said, “I have a dream. I have a dream that one day my four little children will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”  “I have a dream of the day when the sons and the daughters of former slaves and the sons and the daughters of former slave owners will sit together at the table of fellowship.” He said, “I have a dream and all of God’s children will one day be able to sing in the words of the old spiritual, ‘Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, I’m free at last.’”  And the reason a hundred thousand people wept and shouted and prayed and laughed and cried is that it wasn’t really his dream, it’s God’s dream.  And they may have killed the dreamer, but the dream goes on.  Because “something there is that doesn’t love a wall that wants it down.” And one day God will have His dream. And one day there will be no more walls, only one great vast family of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.  Alright let’s pray as the band gets ready to lead us in a closing song.