The Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost: October 9, 2016
Preacher: The Rev. Leigh Mackintosh, Assistant Rector of St. Michael’s Church
When King Solomon died, the people of ancient Israel became divided. Some said Solomon was a great and wise ruler—he was the one who had made Israel great! He was the one who had successfully built a large and beautiful Temple in Jerusalem to worship God.
But there was another side to Solomon. His greed and ambition drove taxes sky high; every citizen was forced to labor for 4 months every year. And if you were a native of the land but not Jewish, you became a permanent slave.
When King Solomon died, the king’s servant Jeroboam spoke on behalf of the Israelites and asked the new King, Rehoboam (I’m not making this up) to lighten the heavy burden of harsh labor that was put upon them by Solomon. 
Rehoboam considered his choices. On the one hand, he could serve the people by lightening their load and win their loyalty and service. On the other hand, he could follow in his father’s footsteps and make their yoke heavier.
Rehoboam pondered this for three days and at the end of the three days declared to the people: “My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.”
Rehoboam refused to listen to his people so the people chose to look to their own houses. Jeroboam rebelled against Rehoboam and the Kingdom was divided in two. Ten tribes left to become Northern Israel, later Samaria. Two southern tribes became Judah.
But the bitterness and bickering between Judah and Israel did not cease after the the divide. They continued to fight over politics, religion, marriage, race and ethnicity. And the more they fought one another, the less they had to fight off evil, idolatry, and corruption within their own walls. The more they fought one another, the less they had to fight against the outside threats of Assyrian and Babylon.
The more fractured their relationship, the weaker the kingdoms became until ultimately their divisions destroyed them.
Israel’s downfall reminds us of the fate that awaits any nation that refuses to listen to its people; that looks to its own house but not to the welfare of others. That builds up walls of enmity that divide and conquer and destroy. For it is not the person from the radically different culture on the other side of the world that is hardest to love, but the nearby neighbor whose skin color, language, rituals, values, ancestry, history, and customs are different from our own. 
Divisions over politics, religion, marriage, race and ethnicity destroyed Israel; such divisions continue to threaten our nation and world today.
What are the walls we build that place us at odds against ourselves and one another? What walls prevent us from going back to that grounded place of peace—that exile us from home. Emotional walls. Psychological, mental walls. Ideological walls. Political walls. Relational walls. Physical walls of age or illness or injury. Maybe even spiritual walls.
What are the walls in our lives and community and world that threaten to divide and destroy us?
But the story of Israel, exiled, broken, defeated does not end in death and destruction. For one day, the exiles of Israel returned and out of Judah came Jesus Christ, the Messiah to be our peace. And by the power of the cross, Jesus destroyed the barriers between us, putting to death our dividing walls of hostility and reconciling us to one another and to God. 
Jesus opened for us the Kingdom of God. A Kingdom that dwells within us and around us—a Kingdom where there are no strangers or foreigners—where all may find a place to heal and dwell and belong.
Listen to the voice of the exile who calls us to remember and reclaim the power of God in our lives. Listen to the voice of the exile Jeremiah who calls us to pray for our enemies—for in their peace we shall find our peace; in their welfare, our welfare; in their wholeness, our wholeness. Listen to the voice of the exile, the Samaritan who calls us to rejoice in God’s blessings and healing. To be joyful in all the lands we find ourselves in and to sing the glory and praise of God’s presence within and around us.
Listen to the exile Jesus, who preached peace to those who were far and those who were near that no matter where we go, how broken or divided we become, how defeated or destroyed we feel, God’s mercy is following us. Whether we are able to rejoice or not, God is pouring out compassion and healing upon us, working every day to break down those dividing walls so that we can embrace the peace that passes all understanding. A peace that empowers us to pause in the midst of our exiled earthly existence and rejoice! A peace that empowers us to pray for our enemies and seek true reconciliation that all may put down roots, plant gardens, build houses, and dwell in the Kingdom of God. Amen.
 The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Third Edition Revised. Edited by F.L. Cross & E.A. Livingstone.
 1 Kings 12:11.
 The Word in Life Study Bible, New Testament Edition, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville; 1993), pp. 340-341.
 Ephesians 2:14-18.
 Ephesians 2:19-22.
 Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7.
 Luke 17:11-19.
 Psalm 66:1-11.