May 27th, 2018
There are many famous walls in the world. Some are good, like the Western Wall of Jerusalem, that has provided a sacred place of prayer since the days of King Herod over 2000 year ago. Or the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Tomorrow, at the annual Memorial Day Observance at The Wall, changes to The Wall will be commemorated and all members of America’s armed forces who have made the ultimate sacrifice will be honored. But others, like the Berlin Wall, only represent division and a loss of freedom. Here is what History.com says about the Berlin Wall… “A 12-foot-tall, 4-foot-wide mass of reinforced concrete was topped with an enormous pipe that made climbing over nearly impossible. Behind the wall on the East German side was a so-called “Death Strip”: a gauntlet of soft sand (to show footprints), floodlights, vicious dogs, trip-wire machine guns and patrolling soldiers with orders to shoot escapees on sight. In all, at least 171 people were killed trying to get over, under or around the Berlin Wall. Escape from East Germany was not impossible, however. From 1961 until the wall came down in 1989, more than 5,000 East Germans (including some 600 border guards) managed to cross the border by jumping out of windows adjacent to the wall, climbing over the barbed wire, flying in hot air balloons, crawling through the sewers and driving through unfortified parts of the wall at high speeds.” (https://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/berlin-wall) I am thankful that my adoptive mother and grandparents came to America from East Germany in 1927 before World War II and the rise of the Berlin Wall. And in our last Scripture reading (Joshua 6:1-5), Joshua could not lead the Israelites into the promised land of Canaan until they broke down the walls of Jericho by following God’s directives.
While we are blessed that we do not have to deal with physical walls such as those of Jericho, or the Berlin Wall, and hopefully never will; many of us have built up internal walls that also divide us, and rob us of the love, and the freedom, we have in Christ. Sometimes these are even more difficult to escape from or knock down than those built of concrete. But as the Bible says, “with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
The album “The Wall” by Pink Floyd represents the struggles of life today which inspire our own walls (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLhH4tmR_GA), It “traces the life of the fictional protagonist, Pink Floyd, from his boyhood days in post-World-War-II England to his self-imposed isolation as a world-renowned rock star, leading to a climax that is as cathartic as it is destructive. From the outset, Pink’s life revolves around an abyss of loss and isolation. Born during the final throes of a war that claimed the lives of nearly 300,000 British soldiers – Pink’s father among them – to an overprotective mother who lavishes equal measures of love and phobia onto her son, Pink begins to build a mental wall between himself and the rest of the world so that he can live in a constant, alienated equilibrium free from life’s emotional troubles. Every incident that causes Pink pain is yet another brick in his ever-growing wall: a fatherless childhood, a domineering mother, an out-of-touch education system bent on producing compliant cogs in the societal wheel, a government that treats its citizens like chess pieces, the superficiality of stardom, an estranged marriage, even the very drugs he turns to in order to find release. As his wall nears completion – each brick further closing him off from the rest of the world – Pink spirals into a veritable Wonderland of insanity. Yet the minute it’s complete, the gravity of his life’s choices sets in. Now shackled to his bricks, Pink watches helplessly as his fragmented psyche coalesces into the very dictatorial persona that antagonized the world during World War II, scarred his nation, killed his father, and, in essence, affected his life from birth” (http://www.thewallanalysis.com). But we as Christians are not helpless. We are not to allow the world to dictate what we become, but rather Christ who lives in us.
So what type of wall are you struggling with? Fear? One of the biggest tools of our spiritual enemy is fear. Fear wants to keep us trapped and make us afraid to fulfill God’s purpose in our lives. From panic attacks to the countless array of phobias that afflict mankind, fear will stop us in our tracks if we let it. A myriad of anxiety disorders are on the rise in America, and those affected are relying more and more on medication to just get through each day. Have you built up a wall of fear in an attempt to protect yourself from what it is you dread? A wall that will never remove the fear from your heart, but instead only keep you from the life of peace and joy that God wants you to have? 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” Love is greater than fear. Love releases us from the wall fear encases us in. And “God IS love” (1 John 4:16), perfect love, agape’ love. When God called me into the ministry he broke down the wall of social anxiety I had built around myself. He replaced it with a love for those who are hurting, for those who need Jesus, for those who are starving for all that God’s desires for them - the love John spoke of when he said, “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). And He can knock down your wall of fear, too.
Or perhaps your wall is built of the bricks of prejudice. The bricks of prejudice are not formed out of clay and shale, but out of fear and hate. We fear those we don’t know, those who are somehow ‘different’ in our eyes, those that we see as a potential threat to us, to our family, to our church, to our community. This fear can be built upon an unfortunate incident when someone has hurt us, causing us to fear all who resemble the person or persons who hurt us. Or it can be built on something as flimsy as hearsay. But when we add hatred to the mix, the bricks of prejudice get much stronger. We feel justified in hating those who commit evil. But while the Bible says we are to hate evil itself (see Proverbs 8:13, Psalm 97:10, Romans 12:9), we are not to hate people, not even our enemies. Instead Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44).
Then there is the wall that is built with the bricks of depression. The higher this wall gets, the darker it gets inside. And when it finally gets so dark that there is no light at all, it might seem the only way out is suicide. But there is another way out. Jesus is the door (John 10:9) in that wall, no matter how impossible it might seem, and He will shine His light into your heart if you let Him so you can see your way out through the door that He provides. In John 8:12 Jesus promises us, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won't have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life." Of course, the door that light of Christ leads us to, the one that leads to life, is the Good News of the Gospel, that Jesus died for your sins, and rose again, so you could live forever in heaven with Him; and that putting your faith in Him not only cleanses you of your past, but gives you joy in the present, and hope for the future. So if you have built a wall of depression around yourself, or even if you have only started stacking a few bricks, cry out to Jesus. He will release you from that ever-darkening wall.
There are many more types of internal walls, but they all have the same source – the darkness of sin, Satan, and self. A darkness that only the light of Christ can dispel - creating walls that only the love of Christ can break down. And remember, “If the Son sets you free, you are TRULY free” (John 8:36). Not free until the meds wear off, not free until the next time someone new moves into your ‘safe place’ or God moves you out of your comfort zone, not free until the next time you are tempted to do whatever it is you do to escape the pressures of your job, the despair of your situation, or the cause of your panic attacks. But truly free!
In closing, someone might suggest that I should have dedicated more of today’s service and message directly to Memorial Day. But the Lord confirmed to me that I had followed His leading, because after I had completed preparing this service I read a post on facebook by Chad Holtz that said, “Today there are people who can't hear the Good News because of walls. They have walls because they have been hurt by the church or shown a distorted, sinful picture of God through the church's actions or inaction. They have walls because of broken homes or abuse or addiction or fear. They have walls because they can't imagine anyone truly loving them because no one has ever stayed, or walls because someone important told them at some point that they were unworthy of love. Walls abound. But where walls abound, grace abounds even more.” So church, make no mistake that while I have deep gratitude for all who have given their lives for our country, this was the message that God meant for today. Let’s tear down the walls and break the chains that are keeping us, and others, from God’s love, from His saving grace, and from the life that He wants us to have. Amen.
“Chain Breaker” (Zack Williams): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGYjKR69M6U
Have you ever used Legos to build a wall?
Did you build it up, brick by brick?
And before you knew it, it was quite tall?
Wow! Didn’t that wall go up quick!
People sometimes build walls too,
Trying to keep out everything bad,
But that only traps them deep inside,
And there they become lonely and sad.
Jesus wants us to love one another,
Not shut them out with a ‘wall’,
But always help our sisters and brothers;
So let Jesus cause those bricks to f