nothing can separate us from the love of God...

Today I was truly satisfied with our time of worship: it was gentle and unforced, it was honest and informed by the appointed lessons, it was intimate and lively for the 50+ people who gathered, and it rang true for this moment in both the life of our faith community as well as our nation. At the core of the liturgy was St. Paul's affirmation that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Nothing. In Romans 8, he writes:

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.

This confession is often spoken in a unison affirmation of faith during a funeral liturgy using the United Church of Christ Book of Worship. It has become one of my favorite passages of Scripture. Peterson's The Message renders it in an equally satisfying manner:

I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

The Gospel parables from St. Matthew and the Hebrew Bible text about Jacob 
wrestling with an angel of the Lord underscore this affirmation. Jacob is asleep. There is nothing conscious or deliberate about his dream. He is not intentional nor in control. Yet when he awakes, he understands that, "Surely the Lord God was in this place and I, I did not know it." In the parables, a day laborer blindly discovers a cache of buried treasure while working a field; in secret he then sells everything he owns to purchase this field and make the treasure his own. Next, a business person notices a priceless pearl mixed in with worthless trinkets and uses his acumen to take possession of the precious gem. Both working people accidentally discover a blessing in the midst of their ordinary tasks and then give themselves over to intentionally taking "possession" of it with abandon.

What knocks me out is that whether we're conscious or not, whether we find a blessing accidentally or with great focus, God's love keeps coming to us over and over so that nothing can separates us from it.  I felt this resonate with the people gathered this morning as they shared a sign of Christ's peace. I felt it as they sang the hymns - especially "Won't You Let Me Be Your Servant?" And it was palpable as they gathered afterwards for conversation and reconnection. Today our worship encounter was a living sacrament of God's amazing grace.

Jan Richardson @ The Painted Prayerbook


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