I understand that some of my dear readers aren’t as big a fan of Parable Season as I am. I can understand that. The parables aren’t easy, they are convoluted, and they really can be frustrating to deal with. To top it off, they come right in the midst of what would be a great sermon series on Paul’s Letter to the Romans, and I can’t blame anyone for taking on a summer preaching series, especially when the topic is Romans. So, for those of you who maybe aren’t preaching on the machine gun similes of Jesus this week, I offer you a brief reflection on the waning verses of Romans 8.
Last week, I noted that the Romans lesson contained a portion of the lection suggested for the Burial Office in The Episcopal Church. My friend and colleague Adam, was quick to point out that good exegesis tells us that Paul was probably not thinking about the struggles of everyday life when he was talking about the glory to be revealed. While I agree with him, I also know that sometimes a funeral homily calls not for good exegesis but for good eisegesis. Which brings me to the second half of that funeral proper which comes up in this week’s lesson.
“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.”
Several years ago, I had the honor to preach at a funeral of a retired member of the US Air Force who went on to spend 20 or so years as a postal carrier. Due to the effects of Agent Orange, he spent his last years confined to a wheel chair suffering from several different ailments. As I stepped into the pulpit that afternoon, I couldn’t help but think of the similarities between Romans 8 and the famous motto etched on the facade of a post office in New York City.
Neither snow nor rain nor height nor depth nor angels nor demons nor things present nor things to come nor powers nor principalities nor heat nor gloom of night nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of Christ Jesus. Standing in the pulpit, I realized that many of us have experienced plenty of hardships: illness, the death of a loved one, or job loss; and our news is full of awfulness: MH17, ISIS, and the Sudan, just to name a few; and though it might sound like a platitude, the truth of the matter isn’t that it’ll get better someday, but that God is even there in the midst of it all. The love of God surrounds us even in the darkest gloom of night, even as powers do their best to push us down, even as it seems like everything in creation is conspiring against us. God is there.
After another week full of bad news, maybe Romans 8 would be good to preach this Sunday.