Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
Romans 8:31-39 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
God’s Love in Christ Jesus
31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.[a] 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 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.
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
What seems to have the potential of separating us from the love of God? In the eighth chapter of his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul has a list: hardship, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword, death, life, angels, rulers, things present, things to come, powers, height, and depth. Paul is thinking of some the greatest dangers, difficulties and challenges of his own day and in his own experience. I suppose you could sum it up with the first two he lists in verse 38: death and life—“I am convinced that neither death nor life…can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Life cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ. This might seem like a strange thing to say, until we begin to think about all that can happen in a life. Paul refers to “the sufferings of this present time.” The demands, challenges, difficulties and tragedies of life can seem so threatening that it sometimes feels like they could separate us from the love of God.
The news gets even better: even death cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ. Of all creatures, we are the only ones—as far as we know—who are conscious of our own mortality. No other creature knows the ultimate statistic: one out of one dies. We know we are alive and we know we will die. We are the only creatures who number our days and years.
Eventually, we must face the fact that we are mortal. I am mortal and you are mortal. We live in a state of perpetual anxiety. Paul Tillich defined anxiety as “the state in which a being is aware of its possible non-being.” He went on to say that there are several questions which every human being must ask and answer in order to be truly human: “What is the meaning of life? Where do we come from, where do we go? What shall we become in the short space between birth and death?” And the Gospel comes to us with the Good News that we come from God and we go to God; and in between-we are to live in love, love with God and with one another.
Over against our fear of death and the death of those whom we love is a simple assertion: “We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” (Romans 14:7-9)
There is a lot of theology woven into hymns. To enhance today’s reading, I recommend listening to “Children of the Heavenly Father”.
Children of the heav’nly Father
safely in his bosom gather.
Nestling bird nor star in heaven
such a refuge e’er was given.
God his own doth tend and nourish,
in his holy courts they flourish.
From all evil things he spares them,
in his mighty arms he bears them.
Neither life nor death shall ever
from the Lord his children sever.
Unto them his grace he showeth,
and their sorrows all he knoweth.
Though he giveth or he taketh,
God his children ne’er forsaketh.
His the loving purpose solely
to preserve them safe and holy.
I hope you will take a few moments to let the words of this message and the emotion that always connects us to music connect with your soul. I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster