For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love: neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, neither the world above nor the world below—there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8 v 38-39 Good News Bible
Last Sunday, I wrote for our Sunday worship about our need of God in times when our human experience is beyond our human understanding. I quoted the words of Simon Peter from the gospel “Lord to whom can we go but you; for you alone have the words of eternal life” (John 6 v 68). You may remember I said that I say these words at every funeral I conduct and actually, I usually say them before I read a longer passage from the bible where we can hear God’s words to us. The words above from Romans 8 are in one of my “go to” passages I choose because I think that when we struggle to understand our current circumstances or situation in life what goes alongside that confusion is a feeling of being separate and alone. When we are faced with an illness; sudden or slowly debilitating and changing our lives, when we are separated from a partner through divorce or break up, when we lose a person we love in death or at this time, when we feel far away and separated from the people who give our days company, touch, colour and meaning. As someone who has worked closely with bereaved families in the NHS and in the parish, I am convinced that during this time of lock down we are going through a grief process. Loss and longing occupy a part of each day. There is real pain in feeling separate and a need to process what is happening whilst adjusting to a new reality.
Today is really the last day of Lent before we enter the Holy week story tomorrow. Lent, this year, locked in our homes, has become a very physical experience of wilderness and solitude as well as being a spiritual journey. It has been tiring, emotional, a struggle and we know, on the eve of Holy week that there is more to come.
However, I know, from being alongside bereaved families over the years, that what keeps them going, what really makes a difference, is having someone who accompanies you who has walked that road and can understand how you feel. That’s the story of Easter: from the celebration of Palm Sunday to the days of betrayal, denial, pain and suffering, grief and darkness to forgiveness, redemption and new life – all human life is here and Christ walks the road with us. Jesus knows how we feel and brings hope and healing to our broken, separated times. Try saying it a few times today: “Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ our Lord”.
Todays’ prayer – a poem by David Williamson
The Easter Story
The events of Passion Week
loom large in the Gospel narrative.
The betrayal, the mocking, the scourging,
and the cruelty of the cross
with its humiliation and pain.
And the even more painful separation
from his Heavenly Father –
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
What did it mean, that cry?
We cannot know his mind.
All we can do is give a particular emphasis
from the way we see it.
Yet is not this perhaps
where Jesus most closely identifies
with each one of us.
A sense of the absence of God?
it’s our common lot, the place
where we most often are.
But it was something
Jesus had never known.
And now he knows the pain of it
to a depth we never could.
It is love that is torn and bleeding;
love that in anguish stretches out its arms
to bridge the gap, the separation
between us and God.
And not even the power of darkness
could stand against it.
For the joyful witness
of those first Christians
was that death could not hold Jesus.
And they went out in his risen name
with the offer of God’s comfort and peace.