July 31, 2011
The Sixth Sunday after TrinityWhen we find ourselves shrinking, shirking, shivering and sniveling in fear and doubt, God breaks through to say: "Hello! I’m here!" In fact, have you ever wondered what God thinks about us sometimes when we do or say quirky things? Let me give you just a tiny bit of what I mean.
A survey commissioned by United Airlines found that 38 percent of passengers never use the lavatory during a flight, 60 percent do, and another 2 percent aren't sure. I'm fascinated by that 2 percent. But I sure hope I never sit next to one of them on a flight!
Julee Sharik, from Orem, Utah gave birth to a 7-pound, 5-ounce son, and just 12 hours after learning she was pregnant. She explained: "Looking back, I remember times when he was moving around a lot, but I thought it was just gas."
A prison inmate escaped on the 89th day of a 90-day sentence; he was captured and had to then serve 1-1/2 more years.
A robber allowed a store clerk to make one call during the robbery--and was flabbergasted when the police arrived on the scene.
A brick-throwing, smash-and-grab thief knocked himself out, thus discovering that the shop owner had installed Plexiglas windows.
All true stories related in the news. Sometimes we need to laugh at life a little, but sometimes we simply want to cry. Sometimes we let our worries take complete control of our lives. I’m not in denial – I do it as well. Blessed Mother Teresa had what is referred to as “Dark Nights of the Soul. Yet, God is standing at the door and knocking, waiting and hoping we will simply let Him into our lives. He is always there. He’s answering us always, but sometime with the answer we don’t want, so we feel that He hasn’t answered when He has.
Paul's words of comfort in today's Romans text should cause all of us to sit up and take notice. They call out a big "Hello!" to every shrinking, shirking, shivering, sniveling one of us who lets doubt overcome conviction and fears overwhelm our faith.
If we are worried about a client, the security of your job, or the state of your finances, St. Paul calms these worries by asserting, "All things work together for good for those who love God ...." Paul offers more than the assurance of simple love. He asserts that we are considered no less than brothers and sisters of Christ and that God's sovereign will has predestined faithful men and women to become members of the divine household.
If our individual wimpy-ness before the divine love and miracle of Christ's sacrifice is embarrassing, consider the track record of the Church--the body of Christ. Armed with Paul's words that nothing is able to "separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus", the church chooses to panic over-- the loss of "status" as an institution before our government and its policies; the distance between "conservative" and "liberal" church attitudes; even little things like which translation of the Bible is best. . . .
To which, God says, "Hello!"
The problem is that Christians have let their god become too small. They have allowed their salvation to be microchip miniaturized. We are eager to pray that our checking account has enough funds in it for the transaction you are about to proceed with -- but we are hesitant to ask God to deliver the many factions around the world (and even in our own cities) from the simmering pot of hatred that keeps them locked together as bloody adversaries.
It is the transformative power of God, embodied by the once-for-all-time sacrifice of Christ, which refuses to let our lives fall prey to the clutches of evil and despair. Paul's message is not some popeyed Pollyanna optimism. The apostle is not promising that nothing bad will ever happen to us. We will experience the full forces of evil--loss, hardship, heartache--over the course of our lives.
But the promise God has made to us, through Christ's revelation of God's heart on the cross, pledges to us that such events will not overpower God's presence beside us, within us, alongside us, everyday. Our lives are forever trained toward the Light of Christ--and nothing can pull us off or away from that course. In the words of Brendan Manning, "The Lord reveals himself to each of us in myriad ways. For me, the human face of God is the strangling Jesus stretched against a darkening sky”. In a letter from prison, Bonhoeffer wrote, “'This is the only God who counts.' Christ on the cross is not a mere theological precondition for salvation. He is God's enduring Word to the world saying, 'See how much I love you. See how you must love one another.'"
God is with us, wherever we are and whatever we face.
Does our faith falter when it contemplates the challenges that surround every human life? What is on our minds right now? These are exactly the circumstances that enable Christians to live Paul's creed with confidence.
I don’t mean to stand here today and make it seem that we should not have any worries. We all do, and we all will. Some will over power us and others will fester for some time and others come back for continuous rehearsal of emotional drama. As we read in Romans last week, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” When you think about it, those words are a joyous conclusion to the argument that St. Paul has carefully unfolded in the preceding chapters of his letter to the Romans. The opposition of unbelievers and Satan will never succeed, since God is for us.
Those who have come to faith in Christ will never be found guilty, for God declares them to be right before the entire world at the divine tribunal. So Paul repeats the question, “Who then is to condemn?” As Christians we may rejoice with the certainty that we will never be condemned; for Christ died for us and paid the full penalty for our sins. He was raised, which showed that his death was effective. He is now seated triumphantly at God's right hand. He intercedes for his people on the basis of his shed blood. For interceding signifies intervention.
Paul is not saying that difficulties will not strike Christians; they are not exempted from suffering or even from being killed. Christians are more than conquerors, because God turns everything, including suffering and death, into good. Paul answers his own question with absolute certainty that nothing can ever sever God's people from his love in Christ.
Sometimes when people come to me with different problems that they want help with. And if I happen to know the person reasonably well, I will sometimes use my jovial style of sarcasm, which they are probably used to, to answer their questions and concerns. As an example. Some people know that I like to bake and make sweets. So I have the sarcastic analogy I will sometimes use. In reality I didn't develop this particular analogy; I simply have adapted it to my use. So when someone comes to me and says, something to the effect of, “My husband just got laid off; I had a pet who has just died; the son is rebellious; and I've just learned I had cancer” They want to know why and how God can allow all this to happen to them in such a short time. I will respond in this way: “You like the cakes I make, right?” “So how about some flour; would you like a spoonful of that? How about this vegetable oil? Would you like a spoonful of that? And how about baking powder? A teaspoon of that maybe?” And of course everyone will always say no make faces to each question thinking I am making light of their situation. At which point I will simply tell them that they like my cake, but make faces at the ingredients! All those ingredients go together into the batter to make the cake that you like, but you do not like the ingredients! Sometimes life is like that.
The sad truth of it is that life is much like a cake. All the good and the bad have to be put together to make the whole. Without all those things added to the batter that we do not like individually, the cake would not come out right. Life is no different really. We struggle with that sometimes - we even fear it. But God doesn't want us to fear it. He wants us to trust in him. St. Paul is telling us from his first-hand experience that we can trust in God and be assured that all will be well. It may not seem that way at that moment, sometimes, but all will be well.
In the face of death ...
there is the Resurrection.
In the face of illness ...
there is eternal healing.
In the face of danger ...
there is the right arm of God.
In the face of adversity ...
there is "blessed assurance."
In the face of confrontation ...
there is confidence.
In the face of the Serpent ...
there is the gift of the Cross.
In the face of greed ...
there is the abundant life.
In the face of pollution ...
there is God's redemption of
In the face of hunger ...
there is a legacy of loaves and
In the face of homelessness ...
there is compassion.
In the face of hardship ...
there is the promise of goodness. (Author: unknown.)
God Love You +
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.