This sermon was preached at St. Mark's Lutheran Church on Sunday July 24, 2011
Last Sunday as I was starting to take my usual afternoon Pastoral nap there was a knock at the door. I got up answered the door to find two of my neighbors standing there. These neighbors happen to be Jehovah’s Witnesses. They’ve stopped by a number of times to introduce themselves and to talk with me about who they are and what they believe. They know that I’m a pastor but they still come, they are not deterred from sharing with me their beliefs. Perhaps it’s because I’m a Pastor they feel like they have more of an audience to talk about their beliefs, I don’t know.
This to me is an amazing thing — and we did talk about it for awhile, and then I told them about my sermon from earlier that day, I said that I preached about Jacob seeing God for the first time and how we are called to see God as well, not only in the church but in the world as well. I said that we lived in a world where we struggle with living according to the Spirit or according to the flesh — or sometimes both. And when we do live according to the flesh we are lucky because we have a God who loves us, who cares for us and who forgives us when we do sin. They told that they do believe in the love of God, but it is important to point out that if they do something wrong, then Jehovah it is God who is going to punish us.
This is where we do not agree.
Today’s reading from Romans there is a very important question we need to answer “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (v35). His answer is quite clear “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (v.38-39)
Did you hear it? There is nothing that will separate us from the love, grace and forgiveness of God. Now we can separate ourselves. We can not go to church, we cannot pray, we cannot read the Bible. We can say ‘No God I do not want you in my life.” But God is always going to be there for us. God is always there waiting for us to come back, not only is God waiting for us, but God is chasing after us and will run to us with open arms when we come back. Because there are times in our lives when we sin, when temptation creeps into our lives. We are not perfect — but when we come to church one of the first things we do is to confess our sins, which is always a powerful moment for me.
But we have the assurance right there in the book of Romans, that no matter what some people may think or say, no matter where we may go or what we may do, no matter even what may be done to us, nothing can separate us from God. This is very clear — and if we were to take it a step further we can add to the list. All the things of this world that we fear disease, divorce, bankruptcy, a lack of a sense of purpose, a loss of a job or a failed relationship cannot get between us and God. Sometimes they may drive us away from God, but when they happen, my hope – my prayer is that they to drive us into the arms of a loving, caring God who is waiting for us with arms wide open. Because we have a faithful God who continues to run after us even when we turn away. God will not stop until we are resting in His loving arms once again.
The truth is God loves us…forever…no matter what. That’s why Jesus came: to tell us, show us, embody for us, God’s love.