“Can Anything Separate Us From God’s Love?”
Pentecost 7A, Proper 12 – July 30, 2017
Genesis 29:15-28; Psalm 128; Romans 8:26-39; Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
The Word for Today is Security. Do you think Jacob felt secure in his father-in-law’s love after 7 years of faithful service? Are you secure in God’s love for you?
Today’s opening Collect acknowledges God as the protector of all who trust Him, and says that we need to trust in God for the success of our current journey from here to heaven. Without God’s mercy we cannot make that trip.
We see all around us how our opening collect’s promise of God’s love, mercy, and protection transcends all earthly boundaries. There are many good people in the world living under very difficult conditions trusting God each and every day for the daily bread needed to survive and thanking God for it. We have families trusting God for their finances, their marriages, serious medical situations, family members who have lost their way, and the souls of loved ones who have recently died.
St. Paul, writing to the church in Rome asks and answers this profound question:
Can Anything Separate Us From the Love of God That Is In Christ Jesus Our Lord?
Paul says there is nothing in this world that is capable of overcoming God’s love for those who belong to God: not trouble, or hardship, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or weapons, or the fear of death. Nothing! Absolutely nothing! Why?
Because this promise is grounded in the very nature of God, who is love, and the power of God, and the integrity of God who never breaks a covenant or a promise. In Jeremiah 31:3, God is quoted as saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; …”
A number of years ago, at a very low time in my own life, God spoke a clear message to my soul. I understood it as being for me, but I also understood it as a message I was to share with others every chance I had. God said: “You are broken. Every one of you are broken. You are broken in different ways and to different depths, but all of you are broken. There is not a perfect person among you. Yet, I love you! And, because I love you I have chosen to be merciful to you, and to treat you with grace. Now, you are to treat others the same way.”
That message affected me strongly. I began to see more clearly the love, mercy, and grace of God extended to people everywhere. Everywhere! It is not just for Holy Cross or only for Americans. It is for people. All people: “Red and yellow, black and white; they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
I see the integrity of God at work in my own life. I see it at work in your lives as I learn your stories and hear you describe how God is active in you. I see it in the great non-judgmental attitude growing here at Holy Cross. I saw it every time I went to Haiti. I see it in the Meals-On-Wheels program some of you drive for. I see it at the Pregnancy Center. I see it becoming an integral part of the fabric of our Scout Troop. So, the question is
Can You Accept this Quality of Love, and Trust God With Your Life and Journey?
The longer I am a Christian the more I am realizing that the central message of Jesus was a simple message:
There is God; and you are not He.
God loves you more than you can ever image.
God’s Kingdom is right here among us; will you live in it?
Will you treat others like you want to be treated?
Jesus demonstrated this simple but powerful message with miracles to demonstrate the reality of God’s love and power; and He constantly taught and demonstrated the nearness of the Kingdom of God.
In today’s Gospel lesson there are five teachings, or parables, from Jesus each revealing something about God and life with God. He started by saying that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed: it starts small in our lives but is capable of growing into something so great within us that it sustains life itself. He said the Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast. When we allow a little of it into our souls it begins transforming the whole of us.
He said that God’s Kingdom is like a hidden treasure. When we search for it and find it we then realize it’s worth and the value it adds to our lives. And He said that this kingdom living is like a valuable pearl. It has so much intrinsic value that we are willing to sell all that the world offers in order to purchase it, without realizing that God is offering it to us freely.
Then Jesus gave us insight into life on earth and within the Church through the metaphor of a fishing net. The ways of God and the ways of this world are all mixed together in our midst and within our lifestyles and within our very souls. And, we are really not capable of separating these two worlds; that is work God will accomplish at the end of time. So,
How Do We Live Now In This Broken World And Also As Citizens Of The Kingdom of Heaven?
Since I received that seminal message from God that I shared with you I’ve also been thinking deeply about the Great Commandment Jesus gave us to Love God with our entire heart, mind, soul, and strength; and our neighbor as our self. It is a command to love upward to God, outward to others, and inward to ourselves.
Putting the two messages together I’ve begun to realize that the Great Commandment is a command to become healed within ourselves so that we can love God with our entire being, and truly reach out to others with the quality of non-judgmental, Godly love.
It means we broken people need our brokenness healed so that we can forgive, love, and be merciful and graceful to ourselves. Have you noticed how often others forgive you but you can’t seem to forgive yourself? It is because we are keenly aware of our own brokenness, even if it is a secret within ourselves. That brokenness often makes us feel unloved, or guilty, or ashamed, or any other combination of feelings and self-judgments that prevent us from truly loving our self because we are a child of the living God.
But once we do begin to accept our brokenness; do the healing work necessary to forgive others and our self, then we discover we truly can love ourselves in a healthy way. We don’t become egomaniacs, or narcissists. We become healed human beings who realize we are loved by God and at least one other human being, and we can walk on this earth with our heads held high. We are broken but loved. We are healed in that love and having been created in the image of Almighty God we have gifts and graces from God that enable us to love and serve others. So fully loving God and others finds fulfillment as we love our self. Then each day we can give God all we know about ourselves and we can make ourselves available for God to use us to serve other people –our own family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and those whom God brings across our path.
In this three-way love relationship we are healed and made more whole. Love becomes the ethic by which we live and serve. We are motivated by love because the “Love of Christ controls us…” (2 Corinthians 5:14). In loving God we have the power to love ourselves; and in loving ourselves we find the grace to love and serve others. And nothing in this world, or out of this world can separate us from God’s love fleshed out in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. That is the Good News by which we live and serve.
In our Offertory we are going to sing: “Nothing between my soul and my Savior, So that His blessed face may be seen; Nothing preventing the least of His favor, Keep the way clear! Let nothing between.”
This morning we prayed: “O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal: through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”