August 28, 2011: 10th Sunday After Trinity

Let us pray: Dear Savior, today we sing our praises for the unfathomable love that You have bestowed upon us. Nothing in all creation can compare with Your love for us. Nothing can come close to it. Nothing tops it. Nothing can destroy it. Accept our thanks and praise for such love. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, WHO LOVES US MORE THAN HE LOVES HIMSELF!

TEXT: Romans 8: 35-39

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

For the past few days the focus has been on Hurricane Irene. Specifically, the track of the hurricane has dominated the news. Every weatherman out there has told us again and again, “A few miles variation in the track of the storm will make a huge difference.” One can mean destruction, the other can mean just another heavy rain storm. Paying attention to details isn’t just important when it comes to the weather. It’s also important to how you read and understand this glorious text, this hymn of praise to God, before us this morning. And in this case, where you focus your emphasis literally makes a world of difference.

Few of you realize this, but correctly understanding this lesson means the difference between being Lutheran and being stuck in medieval Roman Catholicism. When you hear the phrase: “The love of Christ,” or “the love of God,” what does that mean to you? Does it mean “the love you have for Christ” or does it mean “the love Christ has for you?” The first is subjective, the focus, the onus is upon you. The second is objective, the focus is upon Christ. In Greek grammar this difference is called: the subjective genitive vs. the objective genitive. In the middle ages, and unfortunately even today, the RC church understood this phraseology as a subjective genitive.

Their focus was entirely upon how much you loved God and Christ. It was all about: have you done enough to show your love; have you tried hard enough to build your love; and have you been faithful with your love for Him? Because we’re sinners, and weak-willed at best, the answer is obviously: No. So, when viewed this way, that word “love” becomes a club to beat people into submission eliciting guilt, anger, acts of penance, and sometimes even fostering a spirit self-righteous zeal among the superficial. (By superficial I mean those who examine only outward human actions instead of the motives of their heart. Or, “Man judges by outward appearances, but God looks at the heart.”)

No, that phrase “the love of Christ” is an objective genitive. It is a gift, a possession belonging to Christ, which He has freely given to us via the cross. That fact is proven by the text itself in these words of St. Paul: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” And so, this 109 word song of praise serves as perhaps the most comforting distillation of the entire Bible—THE ESSENCE OF CHRISTIANITY.

God’s love for you and me is beyond our comprehension. We literally cannot fully put it into human words. What human words can ever fully describe the pain and suffering God’s Son endured upon the cross for you and me? Our emotions of love and self-sacrifice toward our nearest and dearest certainly are but faint reflections of the depth of God’s love for us in allowing, yes, planning and sending His beloved Son to suffer death in order to save our souls. The Bible says: “God is love.” Those three words explain our Creator’s heart better than all the poets and writers throughout the ages. And best of all, all the infinite energy of that love is totally directed and focused upon you and me in and through and because of Jesus Christ! Nothing can stand in its way because it is divine and eternal and is God’s essential nature. So listen again to the Spirit’s words penned by Paul and drink them in: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

As we gather to worship in the midst of a hurricane there are no better words, no greater power to focus upon. His love for you and me will ever cease. It’s as if we rest in the peaceful eye of the storm during every moment of life and that eye of love continually works at keeping the forces of evil and despair at bay. A mighty hymn of praise, indeed! Amen