Aug3ThuRomans 8 August 3, 2023 by Sebastian Meadows-Helmer
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- Pr. Sebastian
It’s hard to believe,
but it’s been over 30 years since I was confirmed.
My confirmation classes took place every Thursday evening for a year when I was in Grade 8,
at St. John’s Lutheran church in downtown Montreal,
the church where I was baptized and my family were members.
My confirmation instructor was the interim pastor Bruce Heggen,
as the called pastor Eric Dyck was on study leave,
but he ended up coming back for the final few weeks of the programme.
The confirmation verse that was selected for me by the pastors
was from our second reading today, Romans 8:38-39,
a verse that I then memorized and has been an important verse my entire life since, and has given me much comfort in difficult times.
It’s a little strange, for such an important part of the Bible for me,
I’ve never preached a sermon on this text,
as it occurs on a Sunday closest to the end of July,
and I’ve always been on holidays every summer at this time.
So it’s kind of neat as our family is delaying our summer holidays into August this year, that I finally get to ponder this text with you this morning.
Our reading forms the climax of the first part of Paul’s letter to the Romans and pans out to reveal the big picture of the previous 8 chapters.
Namely, the blessed assurance
that nothing can separate us from God’s love through Christ.
Grace, (God’s loving and merciful regard for us)
is a sure thing that nobody can stand in the way of.
(V31) if God is for us who is against us?
33 (CEB) Who will bring a charge against God’s elect people?
What are the potential forces that could defeat God’s love and cause us to be doomed?
Several forces that wreak havoc on earth are mentioned:
trouble, distress, harassment, famine, (poverty), or danger, or (weapons)? (CEB)
Many of these forces we have to contend with in our everyday life,
and they can be powerful, indeed.
And then there’s another list of powers,both natural and supernatural that threaten us:
death or life, angels or rulers, present things or future things, powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created,
(MSG) things thinkable or unthinkable, angelic or demonic.
All these things are powerful and could cause distress to us
in the short-term.
Like dark spiritual powers (Voice Translation)
Our worries and anxiety about things like
weather disasters, Putin and Trump,
inflation, mortgage renewals and the global sperm count decline.
All these things are strong and potent and can change lives for the worse,
None of them can hold a candle to God,
(MSG) nothing can drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us.
Nothing of true importance can be against us.
“nothing that happens to us in life can have a negative effect on God’s loving care for us”. (Paul Achtemeier)
There is “no other power than God’s which can affect our final destiny.” (Paul Achtemeier)
And how do we know this?
(V32) He who didn’t withhold his son gave him up for us,
The divine generous lover gave everything for us, and the Proof is his only son was given up!
Christ was raised from the grave:
which is the ultimate triumph over everything that could separate us.
(34) It is Christ Jesus who died, even more, who was raised,
and who also is at God’s right side… who also pleads our case for us. (CEB)
(MSG) With (Christ) on our side how can we lose?
Because God listens to us in our distress
with the Holy Spirit and Jesus interceding, pleading for us.
“If God is on our side:
who or what could mount any effective threat to us?”
“The only ones who have the power to accuse or condemn us
—God or God’s Son —-are in fact the very ones who protect us” (Achtemeier)
And with this knowledge
(V37) we are more than conquerors through him who loved us!
We have the victory: we can celebrate with a confidence
that turns that frown upside down,
God’s victory over all forces of evil is like
the manure that is turned into gold as love conquers in triumph!
It’s hard to imagine something that powerful,
but perhaps as a pale example we can take wedding vows.
You can picture the happy couple standing facing each other by the altar at their wedding.
And they take turns saying a vow that might go a little like this:
to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse,
for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death does us part.
The two people promising that whatever happens in life,
the things that threaten to separate the two of them:
sickness, misfortune, disagreements, money difficulties
all those things need to pale in comparison
to the lifelong promises they are saying to each other.
Marriages sometimes break,
and the vows that are made sometimes cannot be kept “until death do us part”,
but even more so God’s promise to us through his Son are that
for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health,
until death do us part and even beyond,
that God’s love will triumph over all that attempts to divide us.
The eternal bonds of marriage are perhaps the closest analogy we have on earth of the everlasting covenant of God’s grace that transcends all.
And perhaps the most important result from this, is to realize that
Despite all the horrible things that can happen to us and happens to other people,
That God does not abandon us.
Suffering, though it exists, is not the last word.
Evil does exist, but it is not the end!
Somehow, when… we don’t know,
All obstacles to God will be removed,
And it will be completely clear that
God is there to love us and cherish us always.
We are Children of God, ultimately to be set free from hardship, or distress, or persecution, as through Christ’s victory they are all vanquished.
We can proclaim that "All things work together for good for those who love God” (v28)
Looking at the grand scheme of things, the big picture:
All is well!
Since Nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus. Amen.