Sermon – What Can Separate Us?

Romans 8:26-39

8:26 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.

8:27 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.

8:28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

8:29 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.

8:30 And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

8:31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?

8:32 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?

8:33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

8:34 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.

8:35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

8:36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”

8:37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

8:38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,

8:39 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.

What can separate us? Well, a lot. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t do well with separation.

When I was 2 ½ years old I was separated from my family. Yeah, they left me home alone. I was in the original Home Alone cast. Move over Macaulay Culkin.

Actually, I was not left at home. I was left, dropped off at, my Aunt Josie’s.

What can I tell you about Aunt Josie. She was tall and skinny as a bean pole. Personally, I didn’t think she was all that attractive but recently I found out Aunt Josie won the Mt. Airy beauty contest. Picture of her sitting on the hood of a car posing like a beauty queen and all that.

What else about Aunt Josie? Her favorite TV show was Hee Haw. She and her husband, Bill, who was a long distance truck driver, loved to play Rook. They had a wood cook stove in their basement and its surface we would put sliced potatoes, salt and pepper them, and consume as fast as they were browned. Also in the basement was a small record player. Aunt Josie liked “Twist and Shout” and she could twist her beauty contest winning body.

One more thing. Aunt Josie and Uncle Bill could not have children.

So you are asking why was I left for a week, seven long days, at Aunt Josie and Uncle Bill’s when I was 2.5. My parents, my two brothers, and my grandmother and a friend of my grandmothers were going on vacation, going from Winston-Salem, NC to Miami, Florida, which was nicknamed “The Magic City.”

I always thought I was left behind because there wasn’t enough room for me in the car. My older brothers grinned from ear to ear when they informed me that was not the problem. Mother Horn and her friend drove down separately.

Ok, so why leave me behind while y’all are swimming in the ocean and splashing in the pool and building sandcastles on the beach and eating out at restaurants? My brother’s answer: I was a pest even at 2 ½ years old.

They also say I was adopted and mom and dad weren’t supposed to transport me out of the county.

The real reason, and I’ve never been convinced it was a good reason, is that Mom and Dad were worried about me traveling that far in the heat because back then cars did not have factory installed air conditioning. AC was a luxury, a dealer add on. And we were just poor white folk traveling 804 miles, poor people who didn’t have the money to rent a place half way on the way down and half way on the way back up.

So I got dumped at Aunt Josie’s who couldn’t have kids. That would be Aunt Josie who liked to demonstrate how good she was with kids. That would be Aunt Josie who knew I would not eat eggs and for seven days she crammed eggs down my throat – I’m not exaggerating – she crammed eggs down my throat so she could tell my mother she was able to achieve what my mother could not achieve with me. The woman tried everything, even camouflaging the eggs with large amounts of sausage.

I hate eggs by themselves to this day. And as a Baptist, I hate anything, particularly coerced religion, forced down my throat.

What can separate us? Huh. Parents worried about babies being on a long trip without AC.

When I was five years old I had my next episode of separation anxiety. My mother and I were in a large department store. Somehow I got detached. You know how little, can’t be still boys can be. Anyway, I might as well have been lost in a desert.   I couldn’t find my way back to the one who had brought me into the world. Fortunately, an employee of the department store noticed I was motherless and clueless and took me to the service desk. At which point they announced, “Jane Ayers, please come to the service desk.”

I wish I could say I’ve gotten better at separation. Well, truth be known I have. It’s part of being comfortable in your own skin. It’s part of learning to like yourself and not be too dependent on others for soothing and affirmation and entertainment. But – Vicky during the last three years has traveled to California about 6 times a year and I do well for two days, but the third day – well, I don’t like that much separation.

How well do you do with separation?

What are the reasons for the separations you have experienced?

You see, there is separation and there is separation. There is separation due to family vacations in cars that don’t have AC that must travel long distances, and separation due to being lost, and separation due to your spouse having to travel for her or his job. But then there is separation that is caused by conflict, or troubled or difficult relationships.

Relationally, there are so many things that can separate us. Judge me without caring about me and you know what you can do with your judgment. Be a friend and offer constructive criticism and then no separation but judging the hell out of me just because you don’t accept me or like me or what I believe then it’s going to be separation city, until I can learn not to care about what you think or until I don’t mind wasting precious time with you.

What can separate us? So very, very much. If you have oppositional syndrome, if you work hard at pushing people away, if the glass is always half empty and full of homes from your perspective, if you like one way relationships which are to your benefit, if you don’t play well with others, if you don’t share, if you mostly take selfies, if you know it all and have all the answers and haven’t asked many questions, if you harm my spouse or my child or say something nasty about my dog that died five years ago, if you eat with your mouth open while simultaneously delivering a speech, if you act as if you are better than other human beings, if you yell at me while waving a Bible in my face, if you are sick and coughing and running a temperature and out in public, if you insist on dessert being community dessert – gosh I hate that, well – there’s a lot that can separate us. A lot!

What have been the things that have separated you from others?

All of us come to worship dealing with the heartaches of separation. And that is why the words of the apostle Paul are words we hang onto. The apostle Paul writing to the Roman church had this to say about separation. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,

8:39 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.

May God help us with our separations, and may we know and live with the faith that – that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers – none of that or anything else will ever separate us from the love of God.

Pray This Prayer With Me (A Prayer for those with volcanic lives)



Direct our eyes to what is coming out of the volcano:

Fear, anger, mistrust, revenge, excessive frustration with others, financial stress, inability to forgive one’s self or others, addiction, obsession with controlling others, undeserved suffering, getting what we asked for, what goes around comes around, an endless flow of crap.

Provide for us community, friends and family sufficient enough to live a life of joy and purpose and meaning no matters what flows out of the volcano.


Palestinian/Israeli Conflict – History To Know

Smoke and fire from an Israeli bomb rises into the air ove Gaza City

Excerpt from Genesis:  Truman, American Jews, and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict by John B. Judis (a Jew who has no religious allegiance to Judaism)

At a meeting in Basel during the Seventh Zionist Congress in 1905, Yitzhak Epstein, a teacher who had migrated to Palestine, raised what he called the ‘Hidden Question.’  Among the difficult problems associated with the idea of renewal of life of our people in its land, there is one question that outweighs all the others, namely, the question of our attitude to the Arabs,’ Epstein said. ‘We have overlooked a rather ‘marginal’ fact – that in our beloved land there lives an entire people that has been dwelling there for many centuries and has never considered leaving it.’

Hillel Zeitlin, who wrote in Hebrew and yiddish, charged that Zionists ‘forget, mistakenly or maliciously . . .that Palestine belongs to others, and it is totally settled.’

Some Disturbing Gay History You Should Know (Kill the Gays! Burn them! Stone them!)


Excerpt from Homosexuality & Civilization by Louis Crompton

“Philo of Alexandria – the only ancient Jewish writer whose surviving works treat [homosexuality] in detail – could invite mob violence by urging that suspect effeminate men should not be allowed ‘to live for a day or even an hour.’ Unfortunately, with the ascendancy of Christianity, this deadly tradition which held that all male homosexuals should be ruthlessly exterminated became dogma in European states in some fourteen centuries.

Philo’s wish seems to have been realized under Constantine, Rome’s first Christian emperor, who, we are told, exercised his authority by exterminating the effeminate priests Philo had inveighed against in Egypt.  Such a campaign accorded with the endorsement of the Levitical death penalty by such early Christian writers as Tertullian, Eusebius, and the authors of the Apostolic Constitutions.  It was also furthered by the fateful transformation of the Sodom story in religious teaching for a tale of selfish greed and mistreatment of aliens to an indictment of all consensual homosexual acts.  By 390 the fanatical emperor Theodosius felt it incumbent to rid Rome ‘of the poison of shameful effeminacy’ by consigning passive men to ‘avenging flames in sight of the people.’  At that same moment Saint John Chrysostom, preaching in Christian Antioch, called for all homosexuals to ‘be driven out and stoned,’ an inflammatory cry of hate that bore terrible fruit in the Eastern Empire when Justininian launched his blood campaign against bishops, rich laymen, and political enemies a century later, causing the death of many.”