Tuesday of Trinity 11 – Romans 8:28-39

| September 1, 2014 | 0 Comments More

St. Patrick with Breastplate wordsRomans 8:28-39

This God is a strange person, unlike any human we’ve ever met.  It’s not just that He’s God and the Maker of the Universe and Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omnitemporal, and Omniscient – those are scary and strange enough. It’s also that He’s so perfect and simple.  All that He Is, is also what He does.  He is Love, and so He loves.  He is Holy, and so He does holy.

I have been privileged above others in the degree of human love with which God has surrounded me.  I have 2 loving parents, 3 loving siblings, a loving wife, and 5 loving kids.  But the love of every one of them has failed me from time to time, and as much as I love each of them, my love has also failed them at times.

But God’s love is perfect: it cannot and therefore it will not fail.  More than this: because the God who is love is also almighty, there is nothing in the world that can separate me from the love of God.  I think there may be one exception, which I’ll get out of the way now.  I won’t argue for it or for its implications, but it seems as if the one thing that can separate me from the love of God is, well, me.  All things work together for good for those who love God, but what if I don’t love Him?  What if He loves me, and I don’t love back?

Sin is the Separator: beware of it.  At its heart it is the will to walk apart from God and to choose independence from Him.  Sin is the Separator.

But I’m persuaded of better things, and so I’ll now speak of them.

What if it were really true that nothing could separate you from the love of God?  Let’s talk first about the kinds of things that might be strong enough to separate us from God, and then the implications of such a vast love.

Who shall separate us from the love of God?  Can death, which He has conquered by the power of the Resurrection?  Can life, which is His creation and gift?  But life is made up of other things.  Can angels or principalities or powers separate us from His love?  But they are only His creatures as well.  The godly ones are there to help and encourage us.  The wicked ones will surely try to separate us from His love, but how can they when met by the One who is love?  Are they stronger than His love, if the two should meet?

Can the things that are present separate us from His love?  But what are these mysterious things that are the present?  Aren’t they simply a matter of death or life or angels or humans and our experiences?  The future may be scarier, but it does not really differ from the present in terms of what is at play.  Is there a place high enough or low enough to escape from God’s love?  Is there any created thing – animal, vegetable, or mineral, human or angelic – who is strong enough to break God’s loving arm?

I’ve left perhaps the thorniest potential separator for last.  There is one last category of earthly things that we feel are strong: tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and the sword.  All of these are fearful and fearsome things.  Each is stronger than any of us, and each is a threat to our very existence.  The truth is that we probably all know people who have allowed these things to separate them from the love of God.  It’s not that God stopped loving: it’s that we stopped loving back.  Our love can grow cold: there are Laodiceans in the world.

It may seem as if God has stopped loving us when we suffer any kind of tribulation or pain.  But is that the case?  Too easily, we equate feeling good with God’s blessing.  We assume that God means all pain for punishment and that all pleasure is good.  But sin has destroyed all such simple equations so that pleasure sought without God is a curse and suffering unasked for but received with faith is a blessing.

I know that suffering can be the greatest source of blessing because I know that the Father didn’t spare His own Son.  The suffering of the Son is my blessing, and I would never wish it undone.  True, killing the Son of God was the worst thing men have ever done, but God transformed it into the best thing He has ever done.

You, in your pain, may assume that God has abandoned you or just doesn’t care.  But He does!  If the suffering and agony of the Son was His means of saving the world, what makes you so sure that your own suffering, as a participation in His, isn’t the means of your glorification?  Just because it doesn’t feel good doesn’t mean God isn’t there with you!  God is God and God is good, whether we believe Him or not, or whether we even exist or not.

I also know that God is good and that suffering can be a source of blessing because of my own life.  As some of you know, 14 years ago we had a daughter named Veronica Marguerite Erlandson who died of SIDS when she was 5½ weeks old.  It was the most painful thing Jackie and I have yet experienced.  And yet God confirmed to me that He was good and that He intended to work good through Veronica’s death.

It’s oh so easy to say in the abstract and when things are good, “I believe” and “All things work together for good to those who love God.”  But it’s a different thing altogether in the concrete and when something terrible has happened.  But when we persevere in faith and affirm that God is good in spite of the pain, the glory and blessing of God is on the other side.  The chief of these blessings is, of course, that such pain is intended by God (but not by the Separator or Seducer) to bring us closer to Him.

The day after Veronica died, everyone told me to lay low, that this was a time to be ministered to and not to minister.  But God wouldn’t let me lay low: He had given me something to say, something Jackie and I now believed not only with our lips but with our lives.  I asked to speak at Veronica’s funeral because I wanted to tell people that God was good and that we believed this and could not be shaken from it, in spite of what had happened.  The morning after Veronica had died, I secretly went up to school before it started and wrote this verse on the blackboard for my students to see throughout the day when I was gone: “All things work together for good to those who love God.”

God’s love is all around you today.  It is the air you breathe and the bread of life you eat and the living water you drink.  It is your father and your mother and your brothers and your sisters and your children and your friends.  It is the leaping greenly trees and the true blue dream of sky.  If you don’t feel it, it’s not because He is not there but because you are still looking at and trusting in your self and how you think and feel.

Nothing can separate those who love God from the love of God: it is God’s law of gravity, and it cannot be broken.  There is no rational choice to be made, there is only doing.  God’s love is with you because God is with you: go and seek Him today, in good and in bad, in sickness and in health, in riches and in poverty.  In all things, seek the one who loves you by returning His love to Him.

Prayer:  O Lord, Thou Lover of souls, open our eyes to see Thy love for us.  Grant that we may face all difficult and lonely places in our lives, strong in the knowledge of that love.  May the divine fire of Thy understanding, inspiring, unweariable love enkindle our hearts, till every detail of our daily lives shall be so warmed and gladdened thereby that it may become the work of our lives to obey Thee, and the joy of our souls to please Thee.  Amen.  (L.H.M. Soulsby)

Point for Meditation:  Meditate on the words of “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.”  As you read ( or better – sing!) through the words, see each phrase as one way God binds His love to you so that you can bind yourself to Him.

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this today to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan river,
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of cherubim;
The sweet ‘Well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave, the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Resolution:  I resolve to seek and receive the love of God throughout the day today, in each circumstance of my day. 

© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson

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