Live Life as if...
Nothing Can Separate You From the Love of God
July 26, 2020
I am so thankful to be with you today. What a privilege! I have been looking forward to being with you in person but well you know what they say about the best laid plans....
We are all getting used to this virtual platform and while it is likely to be with us for a while, I miss being in community, singing hymns – we are built to be in community.
I give thanks every day for this less than perfect option of connecting with people.
I have worshiped in more churches than ever before, attended more meetings and even have enjoyed a meal with family and joined with friends each week for a virtual Happy Hour.
So, here we are together in this unique and what now seems normal way.
Like many of you, I keep looking for something normal, something familiar. One way I have done that is to return to familiar scripture. Scripture that has spoken to me in the past. Scripture like Isaiah 43 – Don’t fear for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name – you are mine.
Or Psalm 139.... you are marvelously and wonderfully made – I actually like this better in Spanish – the passion in some words just doesn’t translate – maravillosas son tus obras – I love the word maravillosa!
So, can you imagine my surprise when I realized that today’s lectionary text was Romans 8:26-39?
The Spirit comes to help our weakness.
When we don’t know what to pray, the Spirit intercedes for us.
We know that God works all things together
If God is for us who could possibly be against us?
Who will separate us from Christ’s love? Hardship? NO
Nakedness, peril, sword? NO
Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth no anything in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Friends, NOTHING. NOT A THING can separate us from the love of Christ. No pandemic, no injustice, no economic uncertainty, no church separation.
NOTHING can separate us from Christ’s love.
Now this doesn’t mean you live a haphazard life – it does mean that you live in the confidence of God’s unfailing, unfaltering, never changing love.
I call that grace!
There is the assurance, the freedom in living as if nothing can separate you from God’s love.
If you follow me long enough you will quickly learn that it is not a Cynthia Harvey sermon without at least one reference to Frederick Buechner.
Here what he says...
We are above all things loved – that is the good news of the gospel – and loved not just the way we turn up on Sundays in our best clothes and on our best behavior and with our best feet forward, but loved as we alone know ourselves to be, the weakest and shabbiest of what we are along with the strongest and gladdest.
To come together as people who believe that just maybe this gospel is actually true // should we come together like people who have just won the Irish Sweepstakes.
It should have us throwing our arms around each other like people who have just discovered that every single man and woman in those pews is not just another familiar or unfamiliar face but is our long-lost brother and our long-lost sister because despite the fact that we have all walked in different gardens and knelt at different graves, we have all, humanly speaking, come from the same place and heading out into the same blessed mystery that awaits us all.
This is the joy that is so apt to be missing, and missing not just from church but from our own lives – the joy of not just managing to believe at least part of the time that it is true that life is holy, but of actually running into holiness head-on.
Ya’ll this captures in my mind the joy that comes from loving and being loved. We run into holiness head-on!
The world is turned upside down and those of you who live in the DC area feel that fragile state perhaps even more.
Hardly anything in our every day life seems familiar. There is the health pandemic, racial pandemic, economic pandemic, political pandemic – things most of us have never seen, heard or experienced.
In the midst of the upsidedowness, it is comforting to imagine the holiness of love – God’s love - in the midst of chaos.
Holiness and love in the midst of injustice. Holiness and love in the midst of uncertainty.
Joe is a wonderful man in our Conference. He is passionate and very active in United Methodist Men. You will not get past him ever – whether he knows you or not – without him asking you perhaps the most important question of the day, “ has anybody told you they love you today?” Then he gives you a giant smile and hug and says, “I love you, God loves you.”
There are days at Annual Conference that I look for Joe because I need to hear those words. Sometimes we need people like Joe to remind us that God loves us.
What if someone stumbled into this livestream.
What would they hear, what would they experience? I know it is a little harder these days but could they experience the love of God?
Would they get a sense that this is a place where they can experience bumping into and falling into holiness? Would they know this is a place where they can be loved no matter what because nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Loving might be next to breathing -- both being most natural and also most difficult both a requirement to be truly alive.
Did the Beatles have it right...All You Need Is Love?
The lyrics for this commissioned piece were intended to be simple since it had to be understood by everyone around the world.
There was actually criticism that the lyrics and the general sentiment were naïve.
There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done.
Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung
Nothing you can say, but you can learn how to play the game.
All you need is love....love is all you need.
They really wanted to give the world a message that could not be misinterpreted. It is a clear message saying that love is everything.
We know this to be true. The scriptures are filled with references to love. Not romantic love but the love of God.
The Gospels are chocked full with messages of love that say to people like you and me that love is everything. To love and be loved by another and most importantly by God is everything.
The great commandment, “you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being and with all your mind. You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.” No other commandment is greater than these Jesus said.
Really? No other commandment!
The Beatles and others might claim that love is easy – we know it is not.
Yet there is no other commandment that is greater than to love as God loves. Love no matter what. Love as if there is nothing can get in the way of it!
Our call is to personify love, to be love to a world that might not know love.
Love is a gift. Love is a verb. It is something that you do - something that you give. Love that is inseparable.
When we love as God loves us we move into a thin place – a threshold place, an entrance, a place filled with possibility, a messy yet fulfilling kind of place, a place where we bump up against the holy.
We have all had those experiences when we find ourselves in those places where we are overtaken by an extraordinary sense of love – running into holiness head on.
The birth of a baby.
The death of a loved one.
You are a gift to the church. At a time when our world and our church is in turmoil, you are here! You keep turning up week after week because somewhere, somehow you know that nothing can separate you from God’s love. You are running into the holiness we call love head-on. There is a whole world out there that needs to know this kind of love.
As the church we love faces possible schism, splintering, and brokenness over LGBTQ matters - you continue to show up and say not on my watch! I love too much. I love like God loves.
You know that everyone deserves to love and be loved. You know that to God there is no distinction – slave or free, greek or jew, male or female – there are no distinctions for we are all made in the image of God.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you ever again that you are incompatible with Christian teaching. How can that even be? If you are a child of God, made in the image of God HOW IN THE WORLD CAN ANYONE SAY THAT ANYONE IS INCOMPATIBLE WITH CHRISTIAN TEACHING???? That would be like saying that you are incompatible with God.
That very statement is antithetical to the gospel. Nothing separates us from the love of God.
But here we are in this unprecedented place. The world, our communities and the United Methodist Church has not ever seen anything like this.
Who knows what will happen?
Yet you are here!
The world has shifted,
the church has shifted!
Yet you are here!
God is still calling people!
God is calling you!
You know that fear and love cannot go together! You know that love casts out all fear.
You have been called by love – God’s love for you and your call to love neighbor.
For our founder, John Wesley all that God is and God does is motivated by love.
Author Mildred Bangs Wynkoop, a Nazarene and holiness scholar said in “A Theology of Love” that to be Wesleyan is to be committed to a theology of love.
Love was probably no easier for Wesley than it is for some of us.
He was not easy to love and I am guessing it wasn’t easy for him TO love.
He was a quite a rebel. He fought the establishment and challenged the status quo.
John Wesley was denied the opportunity to preach in his home church.
So, Wesley went to the only plot of ground that actually belonged to him – his father’s grave and it was from there that he preached - just outside the church.
I would guess that Wesley was not loved by the establishment. He was criticized for his unorthodox ways. He preached outside the church walls which was considered evil to the Anglicans.
As Methodists we are part of a legacy of reluctance and resistance.
Strangely comforting isn’t it?
Remember your baptismal covenant to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.
Resistance is baked into each of us!
Our Wesleyan legacy is one of love and an assurance that in all things, God is with us – nothing separates us from the love of God.
There is someone out there waiting for someone just like you to share the unmatchable, unfathomable love of God that can overcome COVID, racial injustice, human sexuality. They are waiting for you!
Right, left, Republican, Democrat, traditionalist, progressive, gay, straight and everything in between – they are waiting for you to show them what living life as if nothing can separate you from the love of God looks like.
They are waiting for you to love them, to help them order their life by love. If you show them love – they will love you. You will teach them and they you that, nothing can separate us from the love of God.
Because to disciple is to love and to love is to disciple.
Love is the bedrock of the Gospel. It is the bedrock of who we are and who we are called to be. We are made in the image of God to carry out a life of love.
A love that punches holes in the darkness.
A love that sees the hunger for acceptance in a person’s life.
A love that speaks truth into the world.
This is courageous love.
WE need to be that person to those who are living on life’s ragged edge and yes, even those who seem to have it all together but don’t.
We all need to know that we are not only loved but BE-LOVED. That we are a child of God - chosen by God!
We are God’s beloved sons and daughters - chosen to help mend broken people, broken communities, broken homes. We are God’s beloved chosen to love as God loves.
Our call to love can change the trajectory of the world. Our call to love can change people, situations, and circumstances.
Our call to love can change this church. It can change the United Methodist Church.
Our call to love can change YOU!
6/24/20 2:00 PM