Sunday, July 27, 2008

Good News: Nothing Can Separate Us from the Love of God

(A Communion Meditation based on Romans 8:26-38 for Sunday, July 27 )

Many of you will remember the excitement, the awe, and the wonder that surrounded the space program in the 1960s. I was a child but I was absolutely fascinated by the adventures of our space explorers as they broke the bonds of earth and soared ever closer to the moon. I became very nervous, though, when an astronaut slipped from his orbiting space capsule in order to walk in space. How vulnerable the astronaut must have felt as he abandoned the relative security of the capsule and as he floated out into airless and star-spangled space. And how grateful he must have been for the lifeline that kept him tethered to the space capsule, that kept him from careening off into the nether reaches of outer space, and that, most importantly, kept him connected to the air supply that would keep him alive.

While a spacewalk was underway, though, all I could think of was what would happen were that lifeline to snap. Were the astronaut to become separated from his source of life, then all the threats that outer space held would come crashing in on him. An astronaut’s lifeline has never broken—but it could. Even now, when an astronaut leaves a space shuttle to inspect it for possible damage or to work on the space station, it could happen (although some modern space walks are done untethered).

We who trust in Christ have a lifeline, too; we who are Christians are connected to the source of life. The source of life is God’s love for us; the lifeline is Jesus Christ himself. And unlike the lifeline that connects the astronaut to the spaceship, nothing can break that lifeline because nothing can undo what Jesus Christ has done; nothing can separate us from the source of life because nothing can cut us off from the love that God has for us.

That is not to say that sometimes we will not wonder if or be afraid that we have been cut off from God’s love. Stuff happens. And when stuff happens, it can cause us to doubt God’s love and even God’s presence. We need to understand that God’s love and God’s presence do not depend on something as unstable as our circumstances or on something as unsteady as our feelings. God’s love depends on nothing other than God’s love—and nothing is more dependable than that!

So you face a health crisis—yes, it’s malignant; yes, they’re blocked; yes, it’s bad—and your emotions swing toward despair and in your despair you wonder where God is; but God is still there, because nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. So you face a family crisis—yes, your marriage is in trouble; yes, your child is estranged; yes, your parent is developing Alzheimer’s—and your emotions veer toward panic and in your panic your wonder where God is; but God is still there, because nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. So you face a personal crisis—yes, your job may be cut; yes, you are teetering on the edge of depression; yes, you just can’t quite see what your life is all about—and your emotions swerve toward hopelessness and in your hopelessness you wonder where God is; but God is still there, because nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

It is in fact in such devastating circumstances and in the midst of such troubling emotions that we can come to depend most on the love of God and we can become most aware of the fact of our salvation.

For example, when things seem futile and hopeless, we might find it difficult or even impossible to pray. Oh, we try—we go before God and we attempt to articulate our needs and concerns—but nothing seems to happen. Our emotional reaction is that God must not be listening, that God must be far away, and that God must not love us. In fact, though, in such times God is taking over for us. “That very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words,” Paul says (v. 26). It may sound strange to us to hear that God prays to God on our behalf, but that’s just how much God is for us and how much God works to help us. That’s how much he loves us; that’s one way we know that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus. Our awareness that the Spirit is praying on our behalf can also assure us of our place in God’s kingdom—just as we are utterly dependent on God for our salvation, so we remain utterly dependent on God throughout our lives. That sense of dependence reminds us and assures us of God’s love for us.

It is, you see, really all about God and what God has done, is doing, and will do. Nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord.

How much does God love us? How much is God for us? How strong is the lifeline connecting us to the love of God? The Table of the Lord reminds us. Paul said, “If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?” (vv. 31b-32). The giving of God’s Son for us is the ultimate guarantee of God’s unfailing love for us and of his presence with us. At the Table we are reminded of our lifeline—God’s love for us is “in Jesus Christ”; it is Jesus Christ who died on the cross for our sins who is our lifeline, who connects us most surely with the love of God.

So as we share in the Supper, let us celebrate: nothing—not war, not the economy, not family struggles, not deadly diseases, not rejection, not even death itself—can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!

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