The Gravity of God’s Love
Indianapolis First Friends
Pastor Bob Henry
January 28, 2018
31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 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.
I wasn’t raised in a Quaker Meeting, I was raised in a church that had, what we called, a corporate confession. This confession read like this,
“I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess to you all my sins and iniquities.”
One could not say those words out loud without in some way feeling bad about one’s self.
“Poor...miserable...sinner.” Three words that none of us in this room want to be described as.
When you and I begin to go inside as I talked about last week. As we start to ask ourselves some difficult questions like, “Who am I?” we begin the hard work of cleaning out our “inner castle” as Teresa of Avilla labeled it in her classic “The Interior Castle.”
Most of us consider this type of soul work rather hard - often it resembles the difficult work of “Spring Cleaning” in our homes. I know we are still in winter, but with the couple warm days last week I pondered starting the process. It’s almost time to:
● Move the furniture and clean in those places that haven’t seen light for months - maybe years.
● Throw things out that have begun to mold, have gone out of date, or that have begun to clutter our rooms and are no longer needed.
● Clean the glass on the windows to see more clearly and let the LIGHT in.
● prepare the gardens beds so new life can burst forth with beauty and color.
With Spring Cleaning, we know the outcome. It may have been a long time, but we know our home can again be a healthy and clean place. Yet...first comes the hard work! Stopping the procrastination, the excuses, the covering up of the dirt, the ignoring of the dishes, the hoping that it will disappear or that someone else will do it.
If you haven’t caught on yet, our own Spiritual Spring Cleaning mirrors this same process.
Only you and I can work on our “inner lives” (or castles).
Only you and I can face our own troubling thoughts and struggles.
Only you and I can begin to do the hard work of spiritually disciplining ourselves so that the “Light” can again be seen and felt inside!
It was the great theologian Marty McFly in the movie Back to the Future who always used the expression, “This is heavy.” And if you remember, Doc Brown not knowing the ‘80s expression always questioned Marty, “Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with earth’s gravitational pull?”
I kinda think they were both right as it relates to our soul work. Spiritual Spring Cleaning is “heavy” work and it may be in relating to gravity that we may gain some insight to understanding God’ part in all of this and some hope for our future.
To help translate what I am talking about, I want to share with you a poem I have come to love by Anthony DeMello. It is titled, “The Satellite.” Just listen as I read it and allow it to speak to your condition and soul this morning.
The Satellite by Anthony DeMello
I look at nature and reflect on the existence in it of a farce so silent and invisible that human beings were not aware of it till lately;
and yet so mighty that the world is moved by it: the force of gravity.
Because of it the bird flies in the sky,
Mountains are held in place,
Leaves flutter to the ground,
Planets are kept in orbit.
There is no better symbol of God’s power and presence.
Scenes of suffering flash though my mind:
The ravages of famine;
Scenes of war;
And of accidents;
And I see him there as silent and invisible as gravity.
I conjure up a thousand painful scenes
From the history of my life:
Of boredom and frustration;
Of pain, anxiety, rejection;
Of meaninglessness and despair;
And in every scene I sense his silent presence.
I see his power like gravity.
In every nook and corner of the world:
No place in space,
No point in time
Escapes, for it is all pervasive.
Then I see his love to be like gravity:
I hear Paul’s cry that nothing in creation
Can wrench us from God’s love (Rom. 8:31-39)
I remember with emotion
The times I fought his love
-- in vain, for love is irresistible!
I see that God has never ceased to draw my heart.
The pull, like gravity, could not be felt.
But at some blessed moments
That I now recall with joy
The tug could not be missed.
When was the pull last felt?
Not yesterday? Why not?
I end by letting go,
Succumbing to this power of divinity,
As my body does to gravity.
Now, the reason I shared this poem is the fact that whenever you or I do some soul searching or what I am calling Spiritual Spring Cleaning, we feel the heaviness of our own struggles, our own difficulties, and even our own selfish ways -- as well as the weight of the world’s problems that are surrounding us on a daily basis. That in itself could leave us feeling a poor, miserable, sinner.
The reason any soul work can leave one feeling less hopeful and missing the fact that God is still at work in one’s life is because we love to dwell on all the bad things in and around us. But there is another side to soul work.
In the poem, DeMello asked, “When was the pull last felt?” God’s Love is like gravity in our lives and the query for us to ponder is, “Do we sense it?”
Do we sense the pull of God’s love in our lives?
Paul in our scripture text for this Sunday wants to remind us of what we heard last Sunday, that we are chosen, called, justified, and being made whole. Paul wants to birth hope in our “poor, miserable,” lives by showing us where our hope comes from - the gravity that is drawing us in.
Let me read again the text from Roman’s 8:31-39 - this time from a more modern translation:
31-39 So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:
They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.
None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.
If there were ever a set of Scriptures that identifies Paul as a Quaker - these are it. A set of Queries to ponder the faithfulness of God and the gravity of his love.
Let me break these down more simply for us to ponder:
1. With God on our side like this, how can we lose?
2. If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition in Christ to face the worst of humanity, is there anything else that he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us?
3. Who would dare tangle with the God of the Universe by messing with or pointing a finger at one of God’s chosen people?
4. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and God’s love for us?
This is heavy stuff to ponder - but that’s just it - this is the gravity of God’s love for you and me.
● Our troubles
● Our hardships (those hard times, that homelessness, that loneliness, that abandonment)
● Our persecutions (for who we are and who others think we are to be)
● Our famines (physically or spiritually or mentally)
● Our nakedness (our vulnerability, our bullied natures, our worn down hopes)
● Our dangers or fears (our worst moments and failures)
None of these can get in the way of the gravity of God’s love that is pulling us back in. All those things that get brought to the surface as we explore our souls or as we do our Spiritual Spring Cleaning, all that we trudge up, all that we don’t know how to name or figure out, all that we simply fail to understand about ourselves - none of it can become greater or get between us and God.
Instead, it is the gravity of God’s love which roots us. It brings stability and hope. It helps us see with new eyes. It reminds us that we are united with a God who overwhelms us and grounds us with LOVE and then calls us to love those around us. Yet before we can love others, we must recognize God’s love for us and believe that it makes a difference in our own lives.
Just maybe where we need to begin our inward journey is by asking ourselves one query:
DO I BELIEVE I AM LOVED BY GOD?
As we move into waiting worship, let us ponder this query and begin our soul work or our Spiritual Spring Cleaning.