26 July 2018

Today’s Homily

Chapel for 7.26.18
P&P, p. 260
Reading: Romans 8:28-39

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
  “For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 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.


In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Yesterday we celebrated the martyrdom of St. James the Elder. He was among those who heard Jesus say: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.” (Matt 10:16) But also heard Him say: “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” (Luke 10:19)

Think about that just for the 12! Nothing shall by any means hurt you? I guess we don't count chopping off heads, getting crucified, being flayed alive, or any of the other horrible ways the 12 (except St. John) died as being hurt? Huh???

Ah, but this is why our text today MUST not come unglued. I don't know if you're like me, but I have long tended to put the promise at the start in a separate memory compartment from the promise at the end. The promise at the start is so well known: "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good." That takes a Spirit-wrought faith to hold tight to in life. I always think of the Patriarch Joseph as he is rotting in his cell, unjustly imprisoned and totally forgotten by the one to whom he did nothing but good. God is working all things for good? But you know the ending of that story. You know how in the end Joseph himself would tell his brothers: “Look, you meant evil against me, true enough. But God meant it for good, for the saving of many lives alive!”

And so we bump into this great mystery of the ways of God: His goodness is so massive, so vibrant and song, that it literally takes the discordant music of sin and resolves it again and again into grace. Nowhere of course so clear as at the cross. He literally takes the very worst thing that could ever happen: His creatures telling the Creator, get lost buddy. We don't need you. We don't want you. Our lives are our own and you are dead meat. AND He flips that around to bring forgiveness pouring out from His heart on every last one of us.

God works all things for the good of those who love them is a very precious promise and holding onto it when Herod has ordered your head to be chopped off, or Nero has ordered you crucified, well, that's always a work of the Holy Spirit who enables us to believe, to trust precisely what we can't see.
And the promise that gets us through is the one at the end of the reading: that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation. ANYTHING ELSE IN ALL CREATION. Will be able to separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

You see, James could place his head on the block KNOWING that death was not going to separate him from Jesus or for the fulfillment of every promise Jesus ever made him. Paul likewise! I love that according to tradition, Paul was also beheaded as a Roman citizen and so when he lists the stuff that's impotent against us, he says: “Shall tribulation or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness OR SWORD?” Nope. We're more than conquerors in Him who loved us. Because absolutely nothing can separate you from His love in Christ, then absolutely everything you go through HE will turn to be a blessing.

No, we don't all get the Joseph moments of seeing the promise of everything working for our good come to fruition before our very eyes in this life. There are plenty of times when our moments are rather like James moments when we close our eyes here without seeing how all things are actually working out for our blessing. But that's okay! Not even death can separate you from His love and certainly not anything that befalls you on your journey to the grave.

“Nothing will by any means hurt you” He promised. And you see, He meant it. Nothing is going to finally hurt you if every blasted thing that comes your way you receive as coming from the hand of Him whose goodness is beyond measure, whose love for you is as sure and unconquerable as Jesus Christ Himself.
Why it frees you to sing: When with sorrow I am stricken Hope anew my heart will quicken All my longing shall be stilled. To His lovingkindness tender Soul and body I surrender, For on God alone I build. Well He knows what best to grant me, all the longing hopes that haunt me, Joy and sorrow, have their day. I shall doubt His wisdom never; As God wills so be it ever; I commit to Him my way.
Through the darkest moments, through times of absolute perplexity about what is going on with you, with your loved one, with your world, this can sustain you. All things for good; nothing can separate you from His love. You, more than conquerors in Jesus. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Hymn: 732 All Depends on Our Possessing
Missionary - Freeman and Susan Rohlfing (in chapel, concluding missionary service in the Czech republic)
Joel, Amy, Hannah, Paula, Roger, Ruth, Allan and Jan (healing)

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