Today's Lectionary Text
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 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? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 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. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
No, in all these 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.
When I think back to losing my parents and one brother, I don’t remember the completion of their journey with sadness, but with joy. My parents passed away in 2006 and my brother died in July. Since I am the youngest in my family by a significant margin, I have been prepared my entire life to lose loved ones before God calls me home.
When my brother, Ross, died in July, I was on vacation, so I had prepared bulletins and selected scriptures weeks in advance in my absence. Interestingly enough, the reading I selected for my first Sunday back in the pulpit (Romans 8:26-39) is one occasionally used in funerals. At Ross’ funeral, one of the things shared emerged from conversations Ross had with his good friend, Rich, who was also the funeral director who took care of the arrangements. Rich gave the eulogy that day. Within the eulogy, Rich said he and Ross together had developed a saying as Ross was completing his course of faith. The saying: “The journey of any distance requires taking the first step.”
As I worked with this reading from Romans, I realized Paul was saying something similar about the Spirit’s groans. The Spirit groans for us when we don’t have the words to pray, interceding for us in our need. I know God interceded when I first learned of my brother’s passing, and I know God interceded when my sister shared with me the news several hours after I had felt that Ross had transitioned.
The reason? What God did for Ross, God does for me and for you. The Spirit of God intercedes for us. When it’s happening, we may or may not even be aware, but it happens all the time. God never comes into our lives and leaves us as we are, even in the passing of a loved one. God comes into our lives and transforms us, preparing us for the journey that begins with a single step.
There’s even a reason for all of what I mentioned in that last paragraph. God sees you and I in our need – whatever it might be – and provides us nourishment for the journey. God sees you and I in our need and heals us. God sees you and I and joins us in our journey so we are better prepared to love and to represent Christ in the world today. Sometimes healing through hardship, distress and persecution, hunger, nakedness and even death hurts, but wherever God is, the outcome is peace.
-Rev. Mark Crist
Plainview and Crawford UMC's
Prayer for Reflection
In those times we find ourselves in the midst of death, Lord, you give us life. When we embrace the life you offer, it heals us from all of those things that can and often do hurt us. In times, Lord, when we are so shocked, we only feel wounded, you guide us through a process of healing that literally transforms our lives. We praise you, God, that you never leave us alone, but always guide our steps toward peace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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