“For 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.” Amen.
How many times have I turned to these words in Scripture? How many times have I referred others? A friend is grieving a new prognosis related to her lung cancer. The miracle drug has stopped working. She herself is a miracle, living with stage 4 non-small-cell lung cancer for more than four years now. She who prays every day, on her knees before leaving her bedroom. She of bedrock faith, who nourished her children to believe in the power of prayers, struggles with her fate, in the hands of the God she trusts. What next, what now? “Let’s read Romans, chapter 8,” I say, while hugging her thin shoulders.”
Nothing separates us from God’s love for us; this is Paul’s testimony. Not our inability to pray, for when we know not how to pray, because we are blinded by disease and grief, God’s spirit prays on our behalf, in sighs too deep for words.
Nothing separates us from God’s love for us; not our sin, the worst we have ever done, are doing, or will do. Nothing. And Paul, who persecuted Christians prior to being called by Christ to be his apostle, certainly had his share of sin to confess.
Nothing separates us, for though we feel abused or even abandoned, our God is one who uses all of life to our good: to teach us something, to strengthen a place in us, to give us compassion toward others. Our God does not bring the cancer, does not cause the disease, but holds our broken pieces together while we lean into the everlasting arms, and creates the condition for our love to open up spaces for transformation.
Paul builds one image upon another of our worth to God. We are inconceivably valuable, priceless in the eyes of God. Although we can not know how, we do know that God can transmute anything into good somehow. God does not merely rescue chestnuts from the fire; God manages to spin straw into gold – provided we are willing to give the straw to God – the mess that I am, the mess that I have gotten myself into, the failure that I am, the failure that I fear, the fear I have ….
We are like the Centurion in Matthew and Luke. We are hesitant to believe we are even worthy to have Jesus come under our roof. But, we are. Whatever, whoever I am, I am of infinite worth in God’s eyes.
So here’s a question for you to ponder? Who do you know who needs to hear the good news of Romans 8? Do you know a military chaplain caring for a Trans soldier or sailor who fears he or she might be sent home now? Do you know a Trans soldier who maybe never belonged back home and found their first true belonging among colleagues in arms?
One military chaplain put it this way. “As chaplains, we often break down our role in this way: nurture the living, care for the wounded, honor the dead. I said a little prayer while lacing up my boots today; it was time to care for the wounded.”
Those are pretty good marching orders for all of us. Let’s go and do likewise: let’s nurture the living, care for the wounded, and honor the dead. Amen.