Summary: Proper 12A. God's love for us in Christ Jesus is so depth and so strong that nothing can or will ever separate us from Him.
May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
The local fairs – Belle Community fair and Gasconade County fair – are over. As is the month of July, well, one more day. The fairs have ended which means that school will soon start. As much as kids enjoy their days of summer vacation, one thing which they do enjoy at school is being with their friends. As adults, while we have friends, most of our time and most of what we do is not spent with friends. But for kids that happens a lot. Some of them have really good friends, best friends. They do everything and go everywhere together. Eat together, study together, play together. And in this age of electronics, they text together. Even when they are together.
Perhaps you know of some friends like that. Perhaps you had a friend like that. What we would call inseparable. Paul, now in chapter eight of his letter – is doing a bit of summing up. He has told us that we were, and are, united with Christ in his death on the cross, and so too, in His resurrection. He has told us that the Spirit of Christ – the Holy Spirit – dwells within us, is united with our spirit, and is always interceding and praying for us. For the sin and evil of this world and of our flesh had separated us from God. Remember, what happened in the Garden?
After their disobedience in eating the fruit the Lord commanded them not to eat, Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden. They were separated from the presence of God. God with Whom they walked and talked in the cool of the day. That unity, that fellowship, was no more. That separation continues to this day. But as Christians we are united with Christ. Living in Him we are no longer separated from God. And this is good. But, we wonder, but will it last? So Paul raises the question, “Who can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus?”
Separation and Togetherness. These concepts are central to understanding the consequence and reality of sin in the world and its effects in us and on us, and to understanding the great and wondrous recreation we have in and through Christ. What is togetherness? Togetherness is more than being together, isn’t it? For example, at the fair, you are there with lots of people. Walking, standing, you may even sit by some of them in the grand stand. But being next to them doesn’t make you together, does it? Togetherness is not merely location, mere physical proximity. Togetherness is relationship. The inseparable school friends not only spend time near in with one another, but what else? Whatever they do and wherever they go, they are in it together we would say. And even when they are apart, what? They are still in it together.
On the other side, separation is more than being apart. When a couple is separated, it’s more than just living in two houses. It’s more than just their location or proximity. There is a brokenness, a gap, in their relationship. It’s a gap that can only be bridged by love. Or, a soldier is deployed. The separation of miles brings aches and pain. The love is still there but he misses his wife and she misses him. They wonder, will the war separate them from their love?
Separation shows up in its strongest suit when a loved one departs from us. We see and know and feel the depth of our brokenness. The wages of sin is death. For us who remain, the sting of death is separation. It seems like a bridge too far.
Horatio Spafford came to that bridge. He was a lawyer in Chicago. He lived through the great Chicago fire. After recovering from that, he and his family, a wife and four daughters, were going to Europe for vacation. This was before airplanes, they were going by ship, the SS Ville du Havre, a French ship named for the port city of Havre, in Normandy. At the last minute, Spafford had some urgent law business. His family went ahead, and he would meet them up in Europe.
As it crossed the Atlantic, the Havre also crossed paths with a British ship. he two collided, and within twelve quick minutes the Havre sank. But some passengers made it onto the British ship. Soon Spafford received a cable-gram from Paris, France. It was from his wife, Anna. It read, “Saved alone. What shall I do?” His daughters, Annie, Maggie, Bessie, Tanetta: all drowned. He sailed to France to be with his wife. In the middle of the voyage the captain called him to the bridge to tell him they were sailing over the point where the Havre had gone down. And looking out onto the sea, Spafford wrote: