A BLOG written by Pastor Ken Rickett
Romans 8: 34-35, 37-39
Who is he that condemns? It is Christ who died, yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No! In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loves us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels , nor principalities, nor powers, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Think of your parents, or your children or grandchildren. Think of your siblings and cousins and close friends. Choose any of them (or all of them) and ask yourself, “what are (his/her name) favorite things?” Write them down. Now ask each one of them, “what are your favorite things?” After you hear the answers, did you know them as well as you thought you did?
What are MY favorite things? I am fairly new in town, so most of you may not be able to name many of my favorite things. Yet, knowing my favorite things allows you to know more about me. Here’s a list:
My favorite holiday: Thanksgiving
My favorite hobbies: Genealogy & yard/gardening
My favorite flower: Poinsettia
My favorite pie: Peach Cobbler
My favorite cake: Red Velvet (made from scratch with beets)
My favorite vegetable(s): Sweet Corn, Okra, white sweet potato
My favorite poets: Joyce Kilmer and Robert Frost
My favorite TV programs: College football
My favorite professional football team: The Indianapolis Colts
My favorite season: Winter
My favorite treat: Ice Cream
My favorite snack: Chocolate!
My favorite wintertime activity: jigsaw puzzles of 1000 or more pieces
My favorite season of life: retirement!
My favorite wife: Della, certainly, 49 years!
My favorite hymn lyrics: In the Bulb There Is A Flower
(p 638 in Chalice Hymnal)
My favorite book: The Bible, of course!
Some items are missing from the list above. My favorite movie, for example, is difficult to name because I do not understand voices in movies without closed captioning; hence, I do not go see them. My favorite memory from childhood, or during college/seminary days, or when my children were growing up is just too difficult to limit to one or two of them! I did not name my favorite author for a couple of reasons: one, several of them are theologians whose writings shaped my thinking and my preaching; and two, I enjoy biographies and genealogies and history which are written by many different people.
And there are some favorite things that I will never separate by name: favorite child or grandchild because the nature of love is indiscriminate. Of course, there are different traits that I admire about each of them. Yes, I see their strengths and weaknesses and they see mine. Should any of them personally say that I have a “favorite” child or grandchild, I can only acknowledge that perception in spite of my efforts to show no partiality. The truth is that our offspring (and grandchildren, etc.) may be quite different in temperament, personality, giftedness, and whimsy. But when all is said and done, there is a huge difference between “my favorite things” and “love for each member of one’s own family.”
I have just one more favorite, and I will call it my favorite marvel. What is it that amazes me and fascinates me and surrounds me and causes me to marvel? I marvel at God’s Love revealed in Jesus Christ. William Barclay reminds us that one of the earliest creeds of Christianity says “He (Jesus) was crucified, dead and buried; the third day he arose from the dead, and sitteth at the right hand of God, from which he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.” While the Apostle Paul would certainly acknowledge that Jesus “shall judge the quick and the dead” and Jesus would undoubtedly have that right and power, that is not what Paul says. The Apostle Paul declares that “Christ is at the right hand of God to “intercede for us.” Instead of being at God’s right hand to judge, Jesus is there to intercede for us, to be our Advocate and to help us. He is there to state the case for us.
What a magnificent view of the love of God revealed to us in Jesus Christ! For us the Risen Christ steps in to turn away the judgment! What a triumphant view of the Christian’s present and future condition! Dr. J. Winston Pearce (my great-uncle, pastor, seminary professor of Preaching, author) reminds us that Paul talks about separation!
“Who,” he asks, “shall be able to separate us from the love of Christ (meaning himself)?” Then he gives a long list of things that often cause separation, namely, trouble, pain, persecution, lack of clothes, danger and peril, the threat of deadly weapons, etc. Paul is convinced beyond a doubt; no principalities nor powers that be, things that may come as well as things present, no height nor depth nor any other living creature can come between us and the love of Christ for us. None of these things shall separate us from the love of Christ! Paul doesn’t stop there; rather, he issues another stunning statement about those who are in Christ, “we are more than conquerors!” And so it is! For Christ shall be at the right hand of God to intercede for us! And we shall, by the love of Christ that intercedes for us, claim an overwhelming victory-eternal life.
I have on my bookshelf a novel by Margaret Craven entitled “I Heard the Owl Call My Name” (New York: Doubleday, 1973) in which she tells the story of a young seminary graduate named Mark, just ordained, who is ready for his first assignment. The day before he was to meet with the Bishop, the Bishop had received word that, unknown to the young minister, a disease would likely take his life within three years. The Bishop decided he would not tell Mark just yet, but rather he would send him to one of his toughest parishes–that of a remote Indian tribe deep into the forests of Canada. Mark, full of energy, but also full of love, quickly endeared himself to the people. He listened to their stories, he respected their customs and traditions which were vital to them in the midst of their growing Christian faith. Mark learned to hunt and to fish with the best of them. He became a trusted friend, a confidante. One tribal tradition was simply that before one died, he or she would hear the owl call their name, sometimes several days or weeks ahead. Then one day Mark himself heard the owl call his name.
He spoke to Marta, an older beloved Indian lady, who was preparing him a meal. He told her, “A strange thing happened tonight. On the banks of the river a while ago I heard the owl call my name.” She did not try to convince him otherwise. She lifted her sweet, kind face, with its wrinkles, and said, “Yes, my son.” Words of endearment. Mark did not know how to tell the village that he had heard the owl call his name and must leave soon. But Marta had passed the word around. Keetah, the female leader of the tribe saw Mark alone the next day, and she came to him and said, “I have come to speak for our people,” she said, “and there is something we wish you to do for us.” Mark replied, “Of course, anything I am able to do, I will.” She said, “Stay with us. We have written to the Bishop and asked that you remain among us because this is your village and we are your family…” And so it was. He lived among them, loved as one of them. And after his burial in the little churchyard Marta lifted some words of advice to Mark’s Spirit: “Walk straight on, my son. Do not look back. Do not turn your head. You are going to the land of our Lord.” Just as Keetah interceded on behalf of the village and asked Mark to spend his days with them, there was no doubt with Marta, Mark’s dear friend, that . . . Christ would intercede for Mark who would walk straight on…!
My favorite marvel: Christ’s love for us! Years ago when I was in middle school, the youth choir at my home church learned and sang a song entitled “Love of God” (Warner Chappell Music, Inc.) I have written a few verses because it catches my deep sense of marvel!
The Love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell
Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade
To write the Love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky
O Love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints and angels song