Love on high idle
October 11, 2010
by Rev. Richard Flynn, St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, Delano

Lying beneath almost 10 city blocks in my home town of Chicago, II is Union Station. Over 3,000,000 passengers board and unload from trains there on the 24 tracks lined up between concrete walkways every year.

I remember as a child boarding a train in Union Station and being overwhelmed by the sheer size and complexity of the place. I suppose there must have been a half dozen or more of those massive diesel engines, all running at high idle – engines just waiting to be released to full power, pulling loads measured in millions of pounds.

In my older life now, and as a person of faith, I recognize that the power of those massive trains is not much of a match for the power of the love of God.

In a stirring climax to the eighth chapter of St. Paul’s letter to the young church gathered in Rome, he writes, “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” (Romans 8:38-39).

What a profound affirmation of the power of the love of God!

Why is it then that we Christians often find ourselves putting up artificial barriers designed to prevent the love of God from finding a heart and soul in need of a divine touch? How foolish we are.

If you are of the “wrong” religious tradition, the love of God cannot find you.

If you are a sinner of a certain kind, the love of God cannot find you.

If you live a lifestyle slightly out of the “norm,” the love of God cannot find you.

If you have not said certain “magic words” of faith, the love of God cannot find you.

And worst of all, if you are not like us, the love of God cannot find you.

Thankfully, none of that is true. The love of God will, in fact, find you and me. It found disobedient Adam and Eve hiding and ashamed in the garden. It found Job sick, ruined, despondent, demanding a day in court and besieged by four pathetic friends telling Job that God’s love could not find him. It found Jonah trying to hide from the “presence of the Lord” in the city of Tarshish, something which made even a great fish sick to its stomach.

It found St. Peter denying, in salty language from his longshoreman background, that he even knew who Jesus was. It found Saul, who was to become the Apostle Paul, at high noon on a dusty road, accompanied by a Temple goon squad, on his way to “do in” some early Christians in Damascus. It found an unknown thief on a cross about to breathe his last, the only person we know who, by the end of the day, actually made it to paradise.

And the love of God found Jesus of Nazareth tortured, dead, and descended into Hades for our sins. In order to keep an ancient promise, God waited a couple days, but on the first day of the week, a resurrected Christ demonstrates, once and for all, that there is no barrier the love of God cannot overwhelm.

Often, in our difficult, uncertain world, the love of God does seem to just be on high idle, a lot of noise and vibration, but not much happening. Well, it might take a couple days once again, but just wait until the love of God in Jesus Christ gets rolling. Miracles happen before your very eyes. Things you did not think possible come true. Loads measured in millions of pounds will be lifted from the hearts of all God’s children.

And in the distance, you may hear someone calling, “All aboard!” Since there are no barriers strong enough to prevent it, I think it really means “all.”