Romans 8 selected verses
A NOTE FROM PASTOR CHARLIE For these devotions from September 5 to September 18, I will be sharing devotions I wrote a couple of years ago for a previous blog. These will not be following the readings for the coming Sunday, but will still offer an opportunity for Bible readings and reflection.
We will be back to the assigned readings for worship once again starting September 19.
Romans 8 selected verses
St Paul writes, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced 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.”
21 years ago. 9/11/2001.
In remembrance of that day, I share some words from my sermon I preached the Sunday that followed.
O Trinity of love and power, Our brethren shield in danger's hour; From Rock and tempest, fire and foe, Protect them wheresoever they go; Thus evermore shall rise to Thee, Glad praise from air and land and sea.
It is a verse from my father’s favorite hymn - the old Navy hymn. He and my mother celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary this week - on Tuesday, September 11th. No longer will that day ever be the same - for them, for you, for me, for this nation. The past few days, we have shared with each other how we heard the news, the first time we saw the video of the plane hitting the World Trade Center, the fear we felt when it was not just New York City, but the nation’s capital as well.
We have shared with each other how closely this has hit each and every one of us. I found out Friday that my Mother’s cousin, who was for her a playmate and friend when growing up, was on one of the planes that was ruthlessly crashed into the Trade Center. All of us know someone who has been touched by this event, if not we ourselves. It has touched our families, our places of business, even our churches.
A pastor from a church in New York City shared happenings at his church earlier this week:
We had a packed prayer and Eucharist last night. We listened to stories. A teacher in our school is missing her husband. A staff person is missing her grandfather. Several children have lost parents. An airline stewardess grieves for her lost co-workers. A woman who worked the trade center was at a seminar out of town and wonders why she was spared. A broker sat with his family, shaking with grief... A parent pleads for words that can make sense out of this.
This morning we had chapel for the school kids--and dozens of parents showed up also--frightened and scared--looking to us to explain. The task belongs to us--and one must face it squarely with all vulnerability. One must be honest--this is no time for pious bull. This is real!
We turn to the Psalms. We read the beatitudes and pray that we mourn, that we strive for righteousness and become peacemakers. We pray for our sisters and brothers at Salaam Lutheran and ask God to give us wisdom to avoid blanket condemnations and thirst for revenge. We return to our office to learn that Christ Lutheran School in Yonkers, New York, has over 20 children who lost a parent. (Pastor George Mehl, New York)
It has hit so close to home. We have a new element of fear that we have never experienced - what once was safe is now a cause for questioning, concern. Many of us have been in those buildings that are no longer there - my family and I were in the World Trade Center less than 4 weeks ago. Many of us have been on airplanes, and thought nothing of it, except for some turbulence, or a not so perfect landing. Many of us have visited our nation’s capital, and have enjoyed the opportunity to get close to places where government happens.
But now, things have changed. The things that bothered us on Monday seemed menial on Tuesday. What were important events a week ago are meaningless today - sports, social events, gatherings, TV shows. We realize more clearly that life is more than the things that we squabble about, at home, at work, and yes, even at church.
In this time of fear and uncertainty, we must turn to God, for in God, we have security. In God we have hope. In God we trust.
From the 23rd Psalm, these words:
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Why does evil happen? Where is God in the midst of all of this? Why doesn’t God let peace reign now, and get rid of evil?
At the National Cathedral Friday at noon, a frail, but ever-powerful Billy Graham preached. From his sermon, these words:
How do we understand something like this? Why does God allow evil like this to take place? Perhaps that is what you are asking now. You may even be angry at God. I want to assure you that God understands those feelings that you may have.
We've seen so much on our television, and hear on our radio, stories that bring tears to our eyes and make us all feel a sense of anger. But God can be trusted, even when life seems at its darkest.
I have been asked on hundreds of times in my life why God allows tragedy and suffering. I have to confess that I really do not know the answer totally, even to my own satisfaction. I have to accept, by faith, that God is sovereign, and He is a God of love and mercy and compassion in the midst of suffering. The Bible says God is not the author of evil. The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah said, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" He asked that question, "Who can understand it?" And that is one reason we each need God in our lives.
God is the author of all that is good. God is a God of love and compassion, and hope. God weeps with us. God sent his Son so that the sorrow we feel, is the sorrow he felt. God is with us.
So what are we to do? The Bible talks about forgiveness. Sometimes - often, in fact - people misunderstand what it is saying. They think, "You mean I have to forgive and forget? That I have to say, 'Oh, that's o.k. - it doesn't matter?' How can I do that? It doesn't make sense!" That isn't what forgiveness is about - not at all. Those who did this act need to be brought to justice. But, in the end, we will need to get beyond this. We can't allow ourselves to get stuck in our anger.
That's when bad things happen. That's when we begin forgetting who we are. That's when we forget about things like justice and doing what is right. When we get stuck in our anger, we can't go on - we lose sight of our dreams and hopes, living instead in our bitterness and fear.
Forgiveness is the ability to trust God to set things right. It is faith in God’s ability to redeem, to set things straight again. Forgiveness is the ability to place this tragedy in God’s hands, knowing God’s love and care for those who were killed, knowing God’s love for their families and friends, knowing God’s care for the rescue units, doctors, and others that are caring for the victims, and knowing that God holds us as well.
Forgiveness is the hope that, even through such a great evil as this, God is able to work, that despite all, God’s kingdom will come and God’s will shall be done. Forgiveness is being willing to give our anger and our pain to God, trusting that God can heal us, and give us strength to go on. Forgiveness is the willingness to open the door to the future once again, trusting that God will be there - that whatever comes, God will hold us, and not let us go. And as long as we hold that faith and that hope, no power on earth or in heaven, can deter or destroy us. (excerpts from sermon by Rev. Gary Roth, St. Andrew Lutheran Church, New Bern, North Carolina)
From Martin Luther’s hymn, A Mighty Fortress, based on Psalm 46:
God’s Word forever shall abide, no thanks to foes, who fear it.
For God himself fights by our side with weapons of the Spirit.
Were they to take our house, goods honor, child or spouse,
though life be wrenched away, they cannot win the day.
The Kingdom’s ours forever!
Let us pray: Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.