“So what are you preaching about on Sunday?”
The question took me unawares.
My friend wanted to be remembered to everyone … and she is pleased to think she is remembered by everyone. She hasn’t been so well recently and is not really able to get out as she would want to.
The question took me unawares … but I was not unprepared. No bad thing because it was still the middle of the week.
I knew roughly what I would be saying this morning and so I could tell her.
So this is very much a re-run of something I have already shared.
Even as I was sharing it it struck me that this was something that speaks into the kind of situation Caroline finds herself in, I found it was something that was speaking in a very different but no less real way to me as well.
Today we come to the end of the magazine, booklet that was shared with us at our Congregational Federation May Meetings down in
It tells the story of ‘the journey of the flame, a symbol of both the light of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.”
It’s the power of the Holy Spirit that’s working in our church through enabling people to use their gifts.
It is the power of the Holy Spirit that lifts us up when we are down.
It’s the Spirit that brings unity, binding us together,
… and binding us together with the Jesus whose love is for all.
It’s the Spirit that brings hope as we seek to build a better future
It’s the Spirit that brings light, shining in our world, our churches, our homes and our hearts
And now we come to the end of our book and the final thought …
The Spirit brings love
Look back and thank God,
Look forward and trust God
Look around and find God
Look within and know God
The God who is love.
My theme for today had been in a sense chosen for me.
It was earlier that day that I had been reflecting on what passage of Scripture to turn to.
I had been drawn to what is one of the really great chapters in the Bible about the Holy Spirit. Romans chapter 8. In the morning I hadn’t been sure where I would start.
“So what are you preaching about on Sunday?” was the question I had been asked.
I took a deep breath and jumped into the middle of the chapter.
Sometimes it can be very hard to find the right words for prayer. Sometimes it is hard to pray. Sometimes it can feel almost impossible to pray. Maybe that’s the point when it feels hard to be a Christian, almost impossible to hold on to that faith.
It is exactly at that point that Paul has a wonderful insight to share with us … it’s exactly at that point when the words fail us, when the thoughts aren’t there that God is still there – and God is there with us in our weakness, groaning.
the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.
Prayer matters not because at all times we can find the right words to pray. Prayer matters because at those moments we find ourselves unable to pray it’s not just that others are praying for us, important though that is, it’s God who is there with us, sharing in our every weakness, groaning with us when words just won’t come.
There’s lots more Paul has to say … but my thoughts jump then to a question.
35Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
This is leading towards one of those wonderful passages that I’ve come back to time and time again. It has a warmth to it, a confidence to it, something tremendously powerful.
Who will separate us from the love of Christ?
The love that is thought of here is that warm love Christ has for us as his love surrounds us and upholds us and is always there.
Who will separate us from this wonderful love of Christ that in the words of the children’s song is so wonderful you can’t get over it, you can’t get round it, you can’t get under it?
Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
38For I am convinced that
neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor rulers,
nor things present, nor things to come,
39nor 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 is a wonderful thought.
The Spirit takes over in our weakness and is that strength from beyond ourselves we need so that we can have that assurance that the love of God in Christ Jesus is something that will always be with us, always be around us, always be deep within us.
It’s at this point that I could have brought my thoughts to a close. That’s enough of a thought for one day.
The conversation went on a little.
But there was something more I wanted to say.
I have come back to these verses and seen them in a different light over the last week or so. It was last Sunday when I found myself wanting in my preaching to make something of a response to all the horror we have been so aware of on the news recently.
I might have kept that to myself. Why go on to think of that. But it is one of the perverse things in our society today that if you are not able to get out so much, if y ou find yourself at home, the TV will be on maybe more than once it was. And you cannot help but see the news. And that too tears at your soul.
It was Elias Chacour, that remarkable Arab Christian Palestinian Israeli citizen who gets you thinking about the Beatitutdes differently – take them back into the Aramaic Jesus would have spoken and the word we translate as blessed becomes an active word, not so much a passive word.
Why don’t we try doing that with this word love?
I have always taken it to mean here at the end of Romans 8 the kind of love of God in Christ that surrounds us that strengthens us that comforts us that upholds us.
There is nothing in all of creation that can separate us from the warm embrace of that love of God in Christ Jesus.
Words of wonderful comfort.
But what if there’s more to these words than that?
The love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord is not just a love that we are on the receiving end of. It is a love that we are to be active in sharing with other people. It is a love we receive from God that then becomes active in the very way we lead our lives for the sake of other people that is at the heart of the Chrsitian faith.
What if, as paul is coming the climax of this first part of a letter that is written to a set of Chrsitians who are living in a very hostile environment in Nero’s Rome, he is not just talking about the comfort you receive from the love of God, but also the need to keep on being active in the love we share with others.
IS there something else this question is asking as well?
Who will separate us from the love of Christ, from that active business of getting up and getting involved and working at the love of Christ we are called to share with the hungry, the poor, the thirsty, the naked?
Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Will all the awful things we see happening in our world make us lose our resolve to keep at it, to work at making a difference?
It’s not an idle question. The hopelessness of the situation can get the better of you. There is such hardship, such persecution, the sword is so much in evidence … it’s enough to make you give up on this whole thing of getting up and being active in love for others.
Every one of us can be active in doing something to make a difference – a new resolve to pray and to keep praying – to give where there is need – I mentioned the Lighthouse School – it is one of those partners Embrace the Middle East works with –
It is what draws me to support the statement I read out last week from the
We are against killing children and innocent people. We support love not hatred, justice not oppression, equality not bigotry, peaceful solutions not military solutions. Violence will only beget wars, it will bring more pain and destruction for all the nations of the region. Peacemaking rooted in justice is the best path forward. Therefore, we commit ourselves to spread a culture of love, peace, and justice in the face of violence, hatred, and oppression.
Come back to those last words of Romans 8 and they are not just wonderful words of promise, they are powerful words of commitment
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor 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 …
… that active business of getting up and getting involved and working at the love of God we are called to share in Christ Jesus our Lord with the hungry, the poor, the thirsty, the naked.
What we are doing to help:
Support our Palestinian Christian partners in
as they pick up the pieces in the hospitals and clinics. Gaza
We need to raise £60,000 to support emergency relief.
Depending on the exact needs of our partners, it is likely that funding will go towards:
Medicine and medical supplies to Al Ahli, NECC health clinics, and Caritas Jerusalem health clinics
Fuel for Al Ahli and NECC clinics
Food parcels for families*
Blankets for displaced families