Message for July 26, 2020- “God Is Real!”
(From Romans 8: 25-28; 31-39)
The latter half of the 1960’s was a time of turmoil within our country. President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated only a few years earlier, in 1963. We were also in the middle of the ongoing and controversial Vietnam War, and racial tensions were running high, with protests and demonstrations forming across the country. All of this may sound quite familiar, and, perhaps not so different from many of the societal trials of our present day. On April 8, 1966, Time Magazine posted its most controversial and reader editorialized issue of all time. The cover was a stark black background with the simple statement “Is God Dead?” written in bold red print. Clergy of all denominations and faiths, as well as a significant portion of the magazine’s readership, took major offense at the brash heresy of the question. Why would Time choose to print such a cover story for this issue of their popular magazine?
Actually, the written article was significantly less eyebrow raising than its cover image would imply. It discussed some relevant issues facing religion in our post-modern era, one becoming increasingly more secular in its disposition. Science had presented a convincing academic understanding of the evolutionary foundation for the development of our natural world. Places of worship were in competition with sports, media, technology, and mass-merchandising for the time and attention of folks living within this fast-paced consumer driven society. Serving largely as a philosophical and moral compass, the article advocated for a re-thinking of religion to keep it in-tune to the times. It spoke about the natural curiosity about the relationship of God, as creator and “higher power,” to a people living in the modern world. It also down-played the necessity of some of the “out-dated” historic doctrines being placed by religion upon the informed society of our modern era. The article mused that a more personal search for the meaning of life rather than a communal observance of rituals and doctrines seemed a more prudent approach to religion. Perhaps the teachings of the historical Christ, who actually lived and walked among us on earth, would form a more sound foundation upon which to place our faith.
Well, Church, I am here today to remind us all of the very essence and foundation of our faith in God as Paul shared in his letter to the Church at Rome. It was, by the way, a Church he did not found. In a time, much like our own, fraught with its own social, economic, and political challenges, Paul’s message to his readers is clear and concise—God is real! For Paul, the evidence of God and God’s work of our salvation through the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ Jesus was both indisputable and compelling. As the Time article suggested, Paul placed his focus on understanding the love of God for us as it has been revealed in Christ Jesus. Paul brought God incarnate to his readers in the person of Jesus. Having been only slightly more than 20 years since Christ walked among them, many people would recall the name of Jesus, and the stories of his ministry of healing and compassion they had heard. They would be able to relate to God through the very act of remembering Jesus. Paul extended their fond memory into their very present reality. The living Jesus, seated at God’s right hand, was actively interceding with God on their behalf. In communion with the Holy Spirit, the Comforter and Advocate, all believers receive the blessed hope and promise of a redeemed people. And Paul crowned his message of good news with these familiar and favorite words of his loyal acclamation of God in Christ: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword? No, in all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 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.” (Romans 8:34-35; 37-38)
In trying times like these days of COVID-19 and social unrest perpetuated by ongoing systemic racial inequality, we seek comfort for our weary souls. King Solomon declared in Ecclesiastes Chapter 1 that “what has been is what will be, there is nothing new under the sun.” Trying days have been of old, and trying times have come around again to us. The very message Paul shared with the Church at Rome also bears meaning for us today. We need to turn to God. God is for us, God showed God’s love for us in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Christ, God showed us the power of God’s love, it conquers even sin and death. The love of God can overcome the ills of our times if we will humbly seek God. This is not whimsy, it is truth—tried over time and proven true. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God revealed to us in Christ Jesus. We are not alone, we belong to God. God is with us, and God is for us. As Paul shared today, if God is for us, who of any consequence can be against us? And so, Like Paul, I stand before you today to confess that—Yes, God is real, for I can feel God in my soul. (“Yes, God Is Real,” The Faith We Sing Hymnal #2147, words and music by Kenneth Morris). Amen.