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“Nothing Will Separate Us from God’s Love
Romans 8:38-39

 

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Pastor Kevin Vogts
Trinity Lutheran Church
Paola, Kansas

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost—August 6, 2017

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Our text is from today’s Epistle Reading, very familiar, famous words by the Apostle Paul from the book of Romans:  “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Listen again to that list, and see if you can detect what they all have in common: “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future . . . ”  What do all those have in common?  They all represent forces and events OUTSIDE OUR CONTROL. 

The famous poem “Invictus” declares, “I am the master of my fate.”  That is the spirit of modern man.  We want to be, and think we are, in control.  But, it’s an illusion that we are masters of our fate.  Much of our world, much of our lives, is beyond our power to determine.  And that is often what is most frightening to us, when things spin out of our control.

“Neither DEATH . . . ”  On the one hand, death is the ultimate unpredictable event.  On the other hand, it is supremely predictable.  For, we all must die someday--it is only a question of when and how.  And, that is the unpredictable, unsettling part: the when and how.

Hebrews says, “Man is destined once to die, and after that to face judgment.”  Because of our sins we all deserve the punishment of death, and the judgment of eternal damnation.  As Paul says in Romans, “For the wages of sin is death; BUT the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

“Neither death nor LIFE . . . ”  Winston Churchill was once asked about the circumstances of his birth, and he replied, “Although present on the occasion, I have no clear recollection of [it].”  We had absolutely nothing to do with our life, with our conception and birth.

That is part of the meaning behind the Biblical imagery of “born again.”  Just as physically you are not responsible for your birth and your life, spiritually you do not get the credit for your RE-birth and eternal life.  Paul puts it this way in Ephesians, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins. . .  But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved.”

Just as your conception and birth and life were not dependent upon you, but upon your parents, in the same way, your rebirth and forgiveness and eternal life are not dependent upon you, but upon your heavenly Father.  As Paul tells Timothy, “He saved us and called us with a holy calling, not because of anything we have done, but because of his own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus.”

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son,, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”  “Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.”  “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

THAT is the reason for the confidence Paul expresses in our text, confidence you also can have in Christ, confidence that nothing, not even death, will separate you from God’s love.  And, as you mourn faithful loved ones, you have the comfort of knowing not even death separates you from them, for you will be reunited in eternal life.  “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” Jesus says.  “Trust in God; trust also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms. . .  I am going there to prepare a place for you. . .  I will take you to be with me.” 

“Neither death nor life, neither ANGELS nor DEMONS . . . ”  In Terry’s family they would get the children Christian pictures to hang above their beds.  This is the picture Terry’s parents got for her as a child, and it still hangs above our bed today. 

It beautifully depicts a guardian angel watching over a sister and brother, symbolizing Jesus’ words, “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that THEIR ANGELS IN HEAVEN always see the face of my Father in heaven.”

Good angels are sent by God as your guardians, for your good.  As Psalm 91 says, “He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.”

Opposite the good angels are the evil angels, Satan and his demons, as Peter says, “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.”  Paul puts it this way in Ephesians: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

But, Paul says in Colossians, “[Christ] disarmed the powers and authorities . . . triumphing over them by the cross.”  By his death and resurrection, Christ has already disarmed and triumphed for you over all the “powers of this dark world” and “spiritual forces of evil.”

“Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the PRESENT . . . ”  Well, at least that’s one thing we should have in our control, don’t you think?  Are we not at least masters of the PRESENT?  But, even the immediate present is largely out of your control.  Whether it be natural disasters, like tornados and hurricanes; wars and struggles in far-off lands; political turmoil in our own land; so much that affects your life even in the present is really not in your control. 

And, for us individually, there are accidents, illnesses, and other unforeseen and uncontrollable events.  But, Jesus promises, whatever happens in this world, whatever happens in your life, “I am with you always.”  “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”

“Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present, nor the FUTURE . . . ” If the present is not under our control, the future is even less so.  The future is like a wild animal we are trying to domesticate.  There was a terrible story last week about a woman in Ohio who had to be rescued when her “pet” boa constrictor started to eat her.  In the same way, we try to corral and tame the future through planning and preparation, to make the future our friendly “pet.” But, like a wild animal, the future is inherently unpredictable, and can never really be brought under our control.

Psalm 31 says, “But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God, my times are in your hands.” There’s an old saying that puts it this way, “I know not what the future holds, but I know WHO holds the future.”  The Lord says in Isaiah, “So fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will hold you up with my mighty hand.”  “I am with you always,” Jesus promises, “even to the end of the age.”

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Amen.

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