St. Lukeís Evangelical Lutheran Church Ė Watertown, WI
Pastor Mark Gartner
Sermon for Pentecost 11 Ė July 28th and 31st, 2005
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present or the future, not any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Dear children of God who know Christís love. Amen
Have any of you read the books or watched the movie titled, "A Series of Unfortunate Events." The story line goes something like this. The parents of three children were killed in a mysterious fire. Because their parents were killed unexpectedly they are assigned to go to live with different relatives. The problem is that each of the relatives is only after the large family fortune that the parents left behind to the children. As the story progressed there are many unfortunate events that happen to these rather young children. To put it as briefly as possible, their lives were quite rough. It seemed that their lives were only full of bad things and bad people. But throughout this long ordeal the children stick close together and make it through each of the bad events that comes their way.
As we gather around Godís Word today there might be some of us who say that our lives closely resemble the lives of the three children in the books and movie we just talked about. As we look around us we donít have to look real far to see that there are many bad things happening to us or to people we know. As we look at these trials and troubles we might soon say that I canít go any further or I give up. But today we will see that on our own we certainly donít have the strength to make it through these difficult times, but with God and his perfect love for us, we will not only survive, but we will called conquerors through the victory Jesus' love has won for us. All this is possible because we live:
Sermon Theme: Forever In Godís Love
1. In the midst of trials we sometimes wonder
2. Christís love is best seen in the cross
3. His love is with us in all our troubles
Paul begins our text with that a question. "Who can separate us from the love of Christ?" I'm sure the Christians in the city of Rome had gone through many troubles and may have been asking this type of question. They may have had doubts. But it isn't just the Roman Christians who are going through earthly troubles. We also may have some of these same doubts because of earthly troubles.
That leads us to some questions. Why do we have doubts? What leads us to not trust that God will always protect us and provide for us? Why is it that when problems come up the first thing to be clouded or lost is trust in God's promises? These questions lead us to another big question. Why does God let troubles and problems into our lives in the first place? As we look at our lives on this earth, it doesn't take much to notice that we live in a world that is not perfect. Crime is up. Poverty is up. Prisons are too full. There are wars, and there are many who live in hunger and famine. In the midst of all this are you and I -- God's children. We are not excluded from many of these same problems. Why?
As we look at some of the things around, such as troubles, hardships, persecutions, famine, nakedness, danger or sword as our text writes, we begin to ask questions such as these: Where do they come from and why do they happen? The answer is found in one word -- Sin! Sin is the cause behind all that is wrong in the world and in our lives. Sin is the reason that we do not have everything we want. Sin is the reason that this world has so many problems. Sin is also what leads us to have doubts, and wonder why all these bad things happen. In short sin works to break down our trust in the Lord. Sometimes we may even wonder if God's love has left us. Sometimes we wonder if all the hardships mean that God doesn't care anymore. Sometimes we may go so far as to wonder if there is really a God. We begin to think as the world thinks and ask questions like this, "A loving God surely would not let his children suffer through financial ruin like this." "A loving God would ! not let his children go through divorce and other physical hardships." "A loving God would not allow such misery and danger come to his followers, would he?"
2. Christís love is best seen in the cross
Letís again think about the question we talked about before, "Who can separate us from the love of Christ?" Paul gives us the answer to this question as we hear these words, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life... will be able to separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Paul also writes, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" Also Paul writes, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present or the future, not any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." This answers our question. The answer is that nothing can separate us from god, but how can this be?
The answer is found in the word "Love". What is this love of God that Paul is speaking about? The answer to this point will make things very clear as to why we can be so certain even in the midst of trouble. The last verse gets us started, "The love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." The love which we are talking about is found nowhere, except in Christ and his death on the cross. God is love. As we read the Bible, we see from very early on that sin ruined God's perfect world. Things would no longer be perfect, including you and me. Sin entered into the hearts and minds of all people. Sin put more than a damper on all things. It completely destroyed all things
This is where the word "love" steps in. We as children born from sinful parents, who themselves were born of sinful parents and so on, are sinners through and through. The problems that were promised to Adam and Eve are the same problems we face today. Sin is all around us. It fills us through and through. Sin separates us from God. We as sinners were separated from God, until the saving work of Christ was made known to us by the Holy Spirit working through the Word.
3. His love is with us in all our trials
And as we look at this, we see that there was nothing on our part that brought us closer to God. Through faith we know that right now we can confidently say that nothing on this earth can separate us from the love of Christ. Christ's love is always there. It is not negated or nullified, because we lost our money, or our family is going through troubles. Christ's love is not cut off, because we face hardships in our life. As we sift through our life and its many ups and downs, we begin to see a pattern. We see that the more God is in our lives through his Word and Sacraments, the less our earthly problems bother us. With Christ in our hearts through faith, there is no reason to become down and out at earth misfortune.
This doesn't mean that we won't have days where we doubt. This doesn't mean we aren't going to have troubles and hardships. This doesn't mean that we are perfect Christians and nothing phases us, but it does mean that we know where we can look for the love that will never leave us. We don't have to look very far. God's love is never farther away than the Bible. When we have those rough times, let us look to God for the answers and the comfort of his love. Let God's Word become the center of our lives. The more we know Christ and his love, the more the love of Christ fills us as we face the troubles ahead of us. We will never ever be able to face these troubles on our own. If we try, we are facing certain failure. Christ's love will never lose its power. It will never be destroyed by some earthly calamity. Let us thank God for this certainty. Let us thank God for his love. Let us ask God to give us the strength to face all that this sinful world has to offer us. ! We may still doubt, but God is still there. We will still face troubles, but God's love is still there. We will still face persecutions, but Christ's love is still there. All we can do as sinners is thank God that he will never leave us as we make the long trip to our eternal home in heaven. Amen.