Salvation Seperation


This sermon was preached at St. Mark's Lutheran Church on Sunday July 24, 2011

Last Sunday as I was starting to take my usual afternoon Pastoral nap there was a knock at the door.  I got up answered the door to find two of my neighbors standing there.  These neighbors happen to be Jehovah’s Witnesses.  They’ve stopped by a number of times to introduce themselves and to talk with me about who they are and what they believe.  They know that I’m a pastor  but they still come, they are not deterred from sharing with me their beliefs.  Perhaps it’s because I’m a Pastor they feel like they have more of an audience to talk about their beliefs, I don’t know.

They were sharing with me articles from their latest magazine surrounding the Kingdom of God.  I said that’s great, next week we are reading parables about the kingdom of God you could come to church.  They politely declined.   But I told them that Jesus says in Matthew  “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.   45  “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls;   46  on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” Isn’t that crazy!!
My neighbor Jeff looked around for a second.  “Is what crazy?” he said.  “The kingdom of God is like a treasure hidden in a field.  This man finds the treasure and then sells all that he has in order to buy the land that the treasure is on!”  That seems like madness. I am not sure if my friend Jeff agreed.  But when I read this parable I see that there is this man who finds the gospel — which is the treasure.  When he finds this treasure he sells all that he has in order to obtain it.  This is an awesome thing!  

When we find the Gospel in our lives, how much are we willing to give up for it?  

Because when we hear the Gospel, the God finds us there are some costs involved.  There are things that God calls us to do in our lives.  We are to gather as a community, to recieve the sacraments, to pray, read the Bible, tithe our money and our time. But we are not perfect and God knows that.  Which is where my conversation turned with my neighbors.  

Our conversation turned from the Kingdom of God to salvation.  

They were telling me all the things I needed to be doing to ensure my salvation.  Now, I am not afraid to talk with someone about the end times and what that means to me as a Lutheran Christian perhaps we can talk about that later this summer, or have a Sunday Adult forum about that topic.  But  when I talk with someone about my beliefs in God, especially when it’s someone that I don’t know very well; I’m not going to be warning them about their potential to go to hell, I’m talking with them about a God who loves them, who cares for them and who will do anything for them.  I will tell them about the kingdom of God and how great it is, and how they will want to go out and sell everything they have just to be a part of it!!  I will  tell them about Jesus – the one who preached God’s kingdom and embodied God’s love, the one who suffered and died on the cross and was raised again all because of his love for them and all humankind.

This to me is an amazing thing — and we did talk about it for awhile, and then I told them about my sermon from earlier that day, I said that I preached about Jacob seeing God for the first time and how we are called to see God as well, not only in the church but in the world as well.  I said that we lived in a world where we struggle with living according to the Spirit or according to the flesh — or sometimes both.  And when we do live according to the flesh we are lucky because we have a God who loves us, who cares for us and who forgives us when we do sin.  They told that they do believe in the love of God, but it is important to point out that if they do something wrong, then Jehovah it is God who is going to punish us.  

This is where we do not agree.


Today’s reading from Romans there is a very important question we need to answer  “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (v35).  His answer is quite clear “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.” (v.38-39)

Did you hear it? There is nothing that will separate us from the love, grace and forgiveness of God.  Now we can separate ourselves.  We can not go to church, we cannot pray, we cannot read the Bible.  We can say ‘No God I do not want you in my life.”  But God is always going to be there for us.  God is always there waiting for us to come back, not only is God waiting for us, but God is chasing after us and will run to us with open arms when we come back.  Because there are times in our lives when we sin, when temptation creeps into our lives.  We are not perfect — but when we come to church one of the first things we do is to confess our sins, which is always a powerful moment for me.

But we have the assurance right there in the book of Romans, that no matter what some people may think or say, no matter where we may go or what we may do, no matter even what may be done to us, nothing can separate us from God. This is very clear — and if we were to take it a step further we can add to the list.  All the things of this world that we fear disease, divorce, bankruptcy, a lack of a sense of purpose, a loss of a job or a failed relationship cannot get between us and God.  Sometimes they may drive us away from God, but when they happen, my hope – my prayer is that they to drive us into the arms of a loving, caring God who is waiting for us with arms wide open.  Because we have a faithful God who continues to run after us even when we turn away.   God will not stop until we are resting in His loving arms once again.

The truth is God loves us…forever…no matter what. That’s why Jesus came: to tell us, show us, embody for us, God’s love.


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