Sermon: “Nothing Separates Us From The Love Of God”             

LSB Series A; Proper 12

The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost; July 26, 2020

Epistle Reading: Romans 8:28-39

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure 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 (Romans 8:35-39).

Nothing. Absolutely nothing…separates us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Nothing.

But it just seems like there is so much evidence to the contrary. Now the following is going to be a bit heavy, but that’s because we live in a world with heavy stuff. We live in a world where there are so many bad things going on and so much stuff that weighs upon our hearts that tries to convince us that we are separated from God’s love.

When I wrote this sermon, the city of Portland, Oregon had now endured six straight weeks of unrest due to protests. Though they may have started as peaceful protests, it was estimated that there had been $23 million dollars in losses due to looting and rioting. Think of those business owners and their livelihoods being lost. The effects of the murder of George Floyd still rage on.

          It was also reported that 39 states are reporting an increase in Covid cases. States, especially in the south, are doing whatever it takes to care for those in need. At the hospital where my sister-in-law works as an occupational therapist, due to the ICU beds all being taken, they are taking beds from occupational therapy unit so that additional people can receive care.

          Then there was the schizophrenic guy in Florida who drove his vehicle into a Catholic church, and upon breaking in, set the vehicle on fire which set fire to part of the church. What’s more is that in his state of mind, there seemed to be no remorse for his actions.

          It’s all enough to just make us scream and ask where in the world is God? Does He really love us? And it’s not just because of what is on the news, it’s also because of what is going on in our lives.

          You see, when we watch the news and see the tribulation going on, we sometimes have this way of thinking that we are insulated here in Carver County. We can sometimes even adopt the mentality that such problems will never rear their ugly head in our neck of the woods.

          But the sense that we are separated from God’s love goes deeper than what is simply on the news. It’s everywhere, and certainly has a way of hitting us closer to home.

          Just ask the husband or wife who just had to say goodbye to their spouse as death darkened their days. Just ask the child who can’t figure out how a parent who said they would love them, but treats them as if they are garbage. Just ask the family that can’t gather anymore because no one can get along and there are so many grudges that no one can figure out who to talk to anymore.

          Then it gets even deeper than that. Because, after all, when we talk about separation, nothing separates more than sin. I heard in a sermon the other day that said, just imagine if someone kept a record of all of the sites that you visited on-line and all of the posts that you posted. What would it reveal about your heart? Or if you aren’t on-line, what would happen if someone recorded all of your comments that you made to people when you didn’t get your way or the comments you made about people when they weren’t around and you felt free to talk behind their back? What would it reveal about you?

          Yes, we live in a heavy world of sin, and there is ample evidence to try and make us think that we are hopelessly separated from God’s love. But nothing could be further from the truth. 

Listen again: For I am sure 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 (Romans 8:38-39).

          Through all that Paul had endured: beatings, imprisonments, shipwrecks, being stoned, he still expressed this sure and certain confidence that absolutely nothing would separate him from God’s love.

          You see, we have this tendency to think that when bad things happen in our lives that God has either abandoned us or that He is punishing us. But that is simply not true. At the beginning of the chapter, St. Paul writes: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Later, just before our text he writes: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18).

          God is not condemning us as we live in this world. But it is a world of sin, and sin has its consequences and effects. In no way, however, has God abandoned us and left us to be separated from His love. Just listen to this: What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32).

          Yes, we live in a world of heavy stuff going on and we have heavy stuff going on in our own personal lives. But God gave up His Son, and He did the heavy lifting that was need so that in the end we would stand victorious, as those who are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

          And how does He make that possible? By joining the sheep that are led to the slaughter. He is the sacrificial lamb.

          In my personal devotions the other day, I read the end of the book of Luke. It got me thinking about what it must have been like for Jesus on that day we call Good. Because when you look at it closely, it sure doesn’t seem like anything good happened.

          In that text it says that the chief priests and the scribes were vehemently accusing him and the soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Now we have all heard the line: “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” And everyone knows what a lie that is. Words can really hurt, especially depending upon who those words come from.

          If you have ever had someone verbally abuse you or put you down…maybe it was spouse, or a parent, or a friend, or someone in authority over you, see here today that Jesus knows exactly what that is like. He knows that pain of separation deeply and He bears it with you and for you because nothing separates you from His love.

          If you have ever had hatred and grudges separate you from someone you love, maybe it was a family member or friend, see here today that Jesus enters into the thick of just such a separation as many of the people that treated him so poorly were supposed to be his brothers in the faith. 

          It was a few verses later in that chapter of Luke that a riot broke out, a riot calling out, “Crucify, crucify Him.” The taunting and the ridicule in no way subsided as they drove nails into His hands and feet…as they hung Him there on the place called the Skull in between two criminals, left there to die.

          As I said before, in no way did it appear that anything ‘good’ happened on that Good Friday. But with His very own body and blood, Jesus entered into the separation that existed between you and the Father in heaven. He endured the horrific pain of calling out to His Father and getting no reply. And even as He suffered in ways we can’t begin to imagine, He said: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

          “I forgive you”. If ever there are three words that express that nothing separates you from God’s love, those are the ones. “I forgive you.” Those are the words of Jesus that you heard at the beginning of this service today. “In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins.”

          All those sites you visited that you shouldn’t have. All those posts you made that you should have never posted. All those comments that you made to people or behind their backs, Jesus says: “I forgive you.” 

          Your sins will not be held against you, because nothing, absolutely nothing will separate you from God’s love. So go, and sin no more. And as you go out into a world filled with the darkness of sin, do so in the confidence of a Savior who loves you beyond all measure and promises to be with you always…In His Word…In His body and blood…given and shed for you.

          Yes, it is easy to doubt God’s love when we look at the circumstances around us. But the assurance comes when we look at Jesus Christ. When we look at Jesus, we know that God is for us…we know that we are justified…we know that we are more than conquerors…and we know that nothing will separate us from His love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.