Romans 8:38-39 (Andrew McLean)
â€œI canâ€™t even imagine what it was like to live in the 1920â€™s. Grandma did. It would have been tough.
We are more than a bit soft in 2013. We complain if we get in a sweat, we complain when thereâ€™sÂ a weak WiFi signalâ€¦. Looking at the words of the hymns and her favorite verses she that sheÂ chose today, I know that underneath her smile, her calm exterior and absolute selflessness, thereÂ was a whole lot of pain in her life.
How do you put a whole lifetime into words? Well Grandma has. She has through these words.
Romans 8. â€œFor I am convinced, that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers nor thingâ€™sÂ present and things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything in all creation will beÂ able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lordâ€
Grandma WAS a good person. We all loved her. We canâ€™t think of a single enemy she made. ButÂ being a good person does NOT make you acceptable to God. Being Godâ€™s child makes youÂ acceptable. Grandma would have told you that she had her own insecurities, her own doubts, herÂ own fears, her own sin. But none of these things could have separated her from God. Which is aÂ good thing, because none of you are saints either. And all of us will end up in a box like this one atÂ some point, but when you are a child of God, nothing can sever that relationship â€“ itâ€™s stronger andÂ more enduring and more gracious than even the best parent / child relationship here on earth.Â Nothing can get in the way of Godâ€™s love for you, not your addictions, not terrorism or hate or thatÂ thing you did when you were 12 or 17 or 23 or last week, not dementia. NOTHING.
It was hard watching Grandma lose her mind. Many good Christians worry if they will curse God orÂ say something that will jeopardize the salvation while they suffer. You donâ€™t need to worry.Â Because we donâ€™t hang on to God – our eternal fate doesnâ€™t rest on how good we have been, butÂ God hangs onto us. God hangs onto us for dear life when we have no more strength to hang on.
So people of God; quit trying so hard to please God. Just relax, knowing that God has establishedÂ a relationship with you and nothing will separate you from that relationship. Itâ€™s didnâ€™t matter soÂ much that Grandma loved God, the point is this – that God loved Grandma.
I was very lucky, at Seminary, to have been handed an assignment in my 3rd year. I was toÂ interview the most spiritually mature person I knew. I interviewed the lady that lies before us here.Â I want to let you know some of what she told me.
Her parents were a huge influence to her faith. They lived their faith through family traditions,Â which she loved. Grandma thought that these traditions were missing in todayâ€™s world. She did tellÂ me that the down side of having a father as the pastor was if she got something wrong at
confirmation lesson, that she â€œheard about it afterâ€.Â She told me that her parents were a loving couple, and she always hoped that she would have theÂ same, which she said she did. Prayer was incredibly important to Grandma. Her parents taughtÂ her many set prayers and they sustained her throughout life. Though Grandma wasnâ€™t stuck in 18thÂ century spirituality, she loved how the next generation taught their kids how to pray using their ownÂ words out aloud. I think she was silently wished she was better and more confident at prayingÂ aloud with her own words. She preferred to pray the Lordâ€™s Prayer in German â€“ as it meant moreÂ to her, yet, Grandma, as always – thinking of others, – she admitted that Lutheran worship, whileÂ being rich and deep and full of meaning, that if a visitor had no idea what was going on, then itÂ needed to change â€“ that we wouldnâ€™t be, and these are her words, â€œselfishly Lutheranâ€.
She was 79 when I interviewed her and at that time she was suffering excruciating chest painsÂ which stopped her sleeping. Still, every night, she would pray this prayer. Pray it with me softly ifÂ you know it. â€œNow I lay me down to sleep, I pray thee Lord my soul to keep, If I should die before IÂ wake, I pray thee Lord my soul to take. Amenâ€. Every single night until she was able she prayedÂ that prayer, and she prayed for us.Â Grandma relied on God. And why not? We sit here with our fancy phones, and fancy educationÂ and think we have it all together, but Grandma soon found out that she couldnâ€™t rely on her brotherÂ to keep her safe, she couldnâ€™t rely on Wally to keep her safe, she couldnâ€™t rely totally on Ray, orÂ her family or even her mind. She relied on God. You imagine what it would be like to live in aÂ society where, having a German name, someone tried to burn down their Church in the warÂ because it was German, when your favourite brother and new husband were killed in that sameÂ war, fighting FOR Australia. I can see why she relied on God.
The fact that she was a good person didnâ€™t matter so much in her relationship with God, becauseÂ God was always going to accept her, but by hang did it make a difference to us who were part ofÂ her life. She was an amazing woman.
But she wasnâ€™t so spiritual that she forgot about her earthly duties and joys. Apparently one day,Â one of my sisters burst through a door, and found her playing cards and smoking with her sisters â€“Â and Grandmaâ€™s first shocked words were, â€œDonâ€™t tell your mother!â€
She loved sport, she loved Baileys and ice-cream, she loved beer, which she had to use a straw inÂ the later days â€“ thatâ€™s commitment for you â€“ good on ya Grandma! And what about Scrabble? IfÂ anyone here beat her in scrabble I salute you!Â And we spoke of her own death, and at that stage, she had already felt a spiritual battle going on.Â And you probably donâ€™t realise it, but you know that battle â€“ itâ€™s the voice inside your head thatÂ says, â€œYou are worth nothing. You canâ€™t call yourself a Christian with your track record â€“ I knowÂ what you have done, I know who you are. You arenâ€™t good enough for God.â€ And you know what,Â I can just imagine this 4â€™11â€ (and a half!) spiritual powerhouse taking a stand and saying â€œNothingÂ can separate me from Godâ€™s love. Not doubt, not sin, not dementia, not death, not problems, orÂ chest pain, or mortalityâ€¦. I know that I havenâ€™t been good enough. I know I havenâ€™t prayedÂ enough, I know I havenâ€™t loved enough â€“ but thatâ€™s not the issue. The issue is that God loves me,Â God died for me, God carries meâ€.
Nothing can separate us from the love of God. This is what Grandma wanted you to know andÂ remember in this very, very sad day.
In her handwritten notes about her own funeral, she scribbled down a Sermon text, with a typicalÂ Grandma Statement. It said, â€œSermon Text Romans 8.38-40; If pastor is agreeableâ€. YesÂ Grandma. Iâ€™m agreeable. I agree to let everybody know that itâ€™s not who you are or what youâ€™veÂ done or that gets you into heaven. Itâ€™s that you are a Child of God, and as a Child of God, nothingÂ can get in the way of Godâ€™s tender love for you. I reckon Grandma might have even liked the songÂ in the charts by the band called One Republic, â€œ(Youâ€™ve got something I need), If you only dieÂ once, I wanna die with youâ€ (turn to cross) â€“ (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_xvWdY6Gr4
for the song)
Lets Pray: â€œNow I lay me down to sleep, I pray thee Lord my soul to keep, If I should die before IÂ wake, I pray thee Lord, my soul to take. Amen.â€
Romans 8:38-39 (Andrew McLean)