Nothing can separate us from the love of GodWhere's the Faith? Thursday, January 17th, 2013
Social Chaos: Where's the Faith?
In this article, I’d like to talk about the importance of Jesus having truly been a human being like us and what it means to also see him as God Incarnate. Now, I realize this topic may be more for those who follow the Christian faith, but read on, I believe there are universal truths here.
I grew up in a Christian tradition that said I needed to repent of my sins (that I was born into sin), and if, and only if, I asked Jesus into my heart by repeating a certain prayer, accepting him as my Lord and Savior, would I be able to go to heaven. I now see that tradition as very narrow and exclusive. I believe receiving God’s love is so much wider. It’s more than repeating a prayer.
Almost from the very beginning, Christians have called Jesus “Savior.” In Luke’s story of Jesus’ birth the angel’s announcement to the shepherds says, “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people; to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” Can’t you just hear Linus saying that in A Charlie Brown Christmas? Clearly, Luke sees Jesus as a Savior.
What exactly does it mean for us to call him Savior? Theologian T. Sorenson helps give a progressive Christian view to that question by saying, “If Jesus is our Savior, then we must need saving from something.”
Now, for many of us, we’ve been told what we need to be saved from was “sin.” I remember the “Repent” and “Turn from your sin!” signs at December Nights in Balboa Park. I didn’t see anything loving and inviting about them.
Many of us grew up hearing we needed to be saved from sexual sin – especially the “sin” of homosexuality – even going so far as to say AIDS is God’s response to gays – and it was the homosexuals that helped cause the devastation of 9/11!
Sin and its feared consequences (some believe it is going to hell) are very real issues for many people today. Many also fear that life has no real meaning, and that our ultimate destiny is nothingness.
Sorenson says that all three of these things – sin, meaninglessness and the fear of nothingness – are existential dilemmas from which we need to be saved.
But wait! There’s more! The whole world has things from which it needs to be saved from too. Two things that come immediately to mind are injustice and rampant violence, including war. So, it turns out that there are lots of things that we, and the whole world, need to be saved from.
What do all of these things have in common?
Could it be that all of these dilemmas that we face are all grounded in a perceived separation from God … or worse, alienation from God?
I had an experience growing up coming home from school. Mom was in the backyard hanging up laundry on the clothesline. I went back and she wasn’t there; I couldn’t find her anywhere. I thought the rapture had taken place and I was left behind! Oh, such fear that was instilled in me from the church, when it turned out she was just visiting the neighbors!
Sorenson says one of the reasons we sin and fear the consequences of sin is because we don’t live in an intimate relationship with God. (It’s all about relationship, isn’t it?) When we don’t have that relationship, we lose touch with God’s heart; we lose touch with the assurance of God’s love and forgiveness.
When we’re not in an authentic faith relationship, we lose touch with God, the source of all meaning. We lose the assurance that nothingness is not our final destiny, because we know that God’s love for us never ends.
Emmanuel, God with us, came to reconcile us with God. To overcome our sense of separation from God. To restore us to an intimate, authentic relationship with God, and to overcome our alienation from God.
I like the scripture that says there is nothing in all creation that will be able to “separate us from the love of God.”
Jesus shows us in his human nature what human life looks like … showing us love, non-judgment and God’s values of justice, compassion and non-violence. And he does it by demonstrating in his divine nature how God actually relates to us.
We see God relating to creation by being present with us. We see God entering into and experiencing all of life (with its joys and sorrows). I know some people who want God to break into our world in great power and grandeur and change things for the better. God is not a magic genie in a bottle, or Santa Claus at Christmas time. God does not go, “Poof! All is better now!”
God’s relationship to the world is one of presence and solidarity. Any separation we feel between us and God is entirely of our own making. As far as God is concerned, there simply is no separation – what can separate us from the love of God? Nothing!
As far as God is concerned, we are not separated or alienated from God and we can overcome all of those things from which we need to be saved. We find meaning in a life lived in an intimate relationship with God. We know God’s love, and we know that that love will not end when we die. Because Jesus was a human being, we learn how to live. And Jesus overcomes our alienation by showing us that as far as God is concerned; the alienation we feel just isn’t real.
My prayer for you this New Year is that you’ll live a spiritually abundant life, a life of service and be a person of peace and justice.
God is never distant from creation; but we are so good at creating our own distance from God. Nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God. Nothing! Thank you, God. Amen.
Rev. Dan Koeshall is the senior pastor at The Metropolitan Community Church (The Met), 2633 Denver Street, San Diego, California, themetchurch.org. Services every Sunday at 9 and 11 a.m.
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