“Come Together: Things Fall Apart”
May 13, 2018
Pastor Lucas Bitter
Intown Lutheran Church (Atlanta, GA)
35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Welcome to the first-ever sermon series at Intown Lutheran Church. Hopefully it’s the first of many! This is a 4-part “preview series,” which means we’ll be worshipping just once a month during May, June, July, and August. But even though they’re a month apart, all 4 of these services are tied together under the same theme: “Come Together.” In the months ahead we’ll talk about coming together as families, as a community, and as a church. Lots to look forward to. But this morning, before we talk about things coming together, we need to talk about them falling apart. In fact, that’s the theme for our sermon today.
I’d like to begin by quoting a classic piece of literature. Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again. That’s probably one of the most well-known nursery rhymes in the whole English language, but if you think about it, it’s also super depressing! This poor guy named Humpty Dumpty (who is usually pictured in children’s books as an egg with limbs and a face) falls off a wall and breaks – and you know what happens next? Nothing! Nobody is able to fix him. He just stays permanently broken. And that’s where the story ends.
It’s a lot more depressing than I realized when I was a 3-year-old.
But, it’s nothing compared to our first Bible reading this morning, from Genesis chapter 3. Talk about a great fall! The preceding chapter tell us how Adam and Eve were created in the image of God, put into a perfect world, and they lived in a garden called Eden. Imagine what their life must have been like. Imagine living in a paradise where the sun never burns you, and the bugs never bite you, and it’s the perfect temperature all year round. Imagine having a perfect body that will run forever without getting old, sick, or dying. Imagine having a perfect marriage partner who is strong and beautiful and kind and complements you in every possible way, and you complement them right back because the two of you were created for each other as God’s original power couple. Imagine that God’s design for you is to raise a family in paradise, filling the world with perfect children who are always obedient and always get along, and you all get to live happily ever after.
That’s a pretty sweet deal! And the best part of all is that God himself was their leader and their guide and their friend. In fact, on a regular basis God himself would come down to the Garden of Eden and walk with them and talk with them face-to-face, discussing anything that they would like to talk about.
We read the first two chapters of the Bible, and we’re like, “Man, Adam and Eve had it made!” But then we get to Chapter 3, which we read today, and the story takes a very dark and sinister turn. One day the devil slithered into that perfect paradise in the form of a serpent, and he convinced Adam and Eve to disobey God and eat some forbidden fruit . . . and in an instant their whole world was turned upside down.
In a very real sense, that fall into sin broke. . . everything. Their relationship with God was now broken – they felt guilty, and ashamed, and afraid, and when God came walking in the garden they had from him. Their relationship with each other was now broken – they started casting blame and pointing fingers and throwing each other under the bus to get themselves out of trouble (“that woman you put here with me – she made me do it!”) Their relationships were broken. Their world was broken. Their bodies were broken. Everything was broken. And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put it back together again.
The Fall into Sin was a tragic story for Adam and Eve. But it’s an equally tragic story for us. This story explains why our world is the way that it is. Why people are the way that we are. Why things happen the way that they happen. The Fall into Sin is the prologue for every other sad, tragic story that has happened in the history of our world. Stories of hatred and violence and warfare. . . racism and injustice and abuse. . . .sickness and pain and death. . . broken families and broken lives and broken hearts. It all goes back to the Fall into Sin – the story of how our whole world fell apart.
And yet in this very same chapter God makes a promise to put it back together.
It’s such a small verse that I wonder if you missed it. At the very end of the reading, God says to the serpent, “I will put enmity (or hostility) between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers. He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” In other words – and God indeed spoke many “other words” about this in the years that followed – he was going to send a Savior. A Savior who would defeat the devil, and fix everything that was broken, and re-connect people with God, and give our story a happy ending. And finally one day that Savior came. His name was Jesus.
Paul writes in Galatians, “When the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.”
So how exactly does all this work? Let’s look at this verse one piece at a time. “God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law.” That means that simply by sending Jesus into the world, God was already connecting himself with us. Jesus was a real human being, just like us. He had a mom, just like us. (He probably bought her flowers on Mother’s Day.) He lived under God’s laws, just like us. He faced a broken world full of pain and suffering, just like us. He faced temptations every single day, just like us. And yet unlike us – unlike Adam and Eve – unlike Humpty Dumpty – Jesus never fell. He never sinned, not even once. He was perfect.
And yet why is Jesus famous? It’s because he died! The only perfect person ever to live, and he died in this horrible way, being tortured to death on a cross. Why would God ever let something like this happen? Well, the answer is “To redeem those under the law.” Jesus “redeemed” us – that is, he bought us. And we came at a tremendous cost. Jesus gave up his blood, he gave up his life, and quite literally he gave up his soul. Perhaps some of you remember that as Jesus was dying on the cross he shouted, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus was allowing himself to be disconnected from God and punished for all of our sins. . . . so that in turn we could be connected with God, and forgiven.
All this happened, the Bible says, “that we might receive adoption to sonship.” So that instead of hiding from God in guilt and fear and shame, instead of wallowing through a selfish and miserable existence here on earth, instead of facing God’s punishment for all eternity, we instead get God’s love! We get God’s inheritance! We get to be a part of God’s family!
What an amazing turn of events. We’ve gone from being broken and disconnected and separated from God, to being put back together and adopted as his perfect children. That’s an amazing fix!
But will it last?
I want you to imagine something: Imagine that your life depends on a fix. Maybe you have to go scuba diving and the oxygen tank is broken. Maybe you have to blast off into outer space and the window is cracked. Maybe for some reason a pipe needs to be sealed to keep poison gas from leaking out. (I didn’t say this was a realistic situation; I just said use your imagination!) But the point is this: your life depends on this fix. Those broken pieces must hold together. If they don’t – you’re dead.
Now here’s my question for you. What would you use to fix it? Since your life is on the line, you wouldn’t want duct tape. You’d probably want to find the strongest adhesive in the world. As part of my research for this sermon, I Googled “strongest adhesive in the world,” and it turns out there are some pretty solid options out there.
Option #1 would be Super Glue or Krazy Glue. As the Internet informed me this week, both of those glues are examples of cyanoacrylates (SIGH-anno-ACK-rill-ates), which means that when you open them up they react with the humidity in the air and start to harden within seconds. Cyanoacrylates are incredibly strong, as you know if you’ve ever accidentally Super Glued your fingers together. But they have also have a weakness. They don’t flex very well. If two things are Super Glued together but then forcefully twisted, they’ll come right apart. So much for entrusting your life to Super Glue.
Perhaps a better option is an epoxy glue – where two difference substances are mixed together to form a compound. Unlike Super Glue, epoxy glue is both incredibly strong and incredibly flexible. It’s also waterproof, and heat-resistant! Not bad. But epoxy glue has its own set of weaknesses. It takes forever to cure, and it still has a low peel strength. That means if steady pressure is applied over time, it will peel right off.
But there are still more options! What about a polyurethane adhesive like Gorilla Glue? It sets quickly, and it’s strong, and it’s flexible! But Gorilla Glue has a weakness of its own. It doesn’t have the same “shear strength” as those other glues do. Apply enough sudden force, and Gorilla Glue will break.
You get the point, don’t you? There is no such thing as a perfect adhesive. There is no such thing as a glue that will hold up to anything in the world. There is no such thing as an unbreakable bond!
Except for the love of Christ.
If you think about it, our life really does depend on a fix. Jesus has patched us up re-connected us with God. . . .and yet we still live in a broken, sinful world. We still struggle against our own broken, sinful hearts. There are still so many things try to tear us away from God every. And yet the bond of Christ’s love holds strong. Paul writes, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble, or hardship, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” No! “In all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
But, you say, what about the really big stuff? What about the sins that I struggle with and the guilt that hammers my soul? What about the fact that I’m going to die someday? What about the very real devil who is still slithering around out there trying pull me down to a very real hell? What about all that? Well, Paul says, “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
That is a powerful connection! That is an unbreakable bond! That is the strongest adhesive in the world. Stronger than any superglue. . . stronger than any relationship. . . . stronger even than the love of a mother for her child. . . . God loves us with a powerful, everlasting love which will not rest until we rest with him in the perfect paradise of heaven – which, interestingly enough, the Bible describes as a lot like the Garden of Eden.
Imagine living in a paradise where the sun never burns you and the bugs never bite you and it’s the perfect temperature all year round. Imagine having a perfect body that will run forever without getting old, sick, or dying. Imagine sharing this paradise with so many loved ones who have gone before you – but more importantly, sharing this paradise with the God who created you in his image. Imagine being able to look God in the eyes without fear, guilt, or shame. Imagine God talking to you, face to face, the way a man talks to his friend. And this time, there is no serpent to mess it all up. All this is what God promises you will have because of the unbreakable love of Christ.
I’d like to talk with you more about Christ’s love. I’d like to talk about how it doesn’t just cement our bond with God; it also cements our bond with our families and our community and our fellow Christians. But we’ll have to save that for next time. For now, let’s say a prayer to the Savior who fixed us with the unbreakable bond of his love.