What Separates You From God?

What separates you from God? If you are familiar with Romans 8:38, you may think this is a trick question. But last year on the same Sunday we heard those comforting words, we also hear the unsettling words of Matthew 13: 47-50. 

I was hoping our priest would address the contrast in her sermon, but she didn’t go there, so I was left to grapple with it myself. 

Nothing Can Separate Us From The Love Of God

In Romans 8:39, Paul tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of God:

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.

But Jesus tells this parable in Matthew 13: 47-50:

[T]he kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

I rarely prefer Paul’s words to Jesus’s, but this particular parable is pretty harsh.

While I believe that Paul’s words are true, I also believe that we can let things come between us and God–or at least between us and our awareness of God.

I started thinking about this when I was grappling with my annoyance with a regular worshiper at my church who always grabs a cup of coffee on his way in to the sanctuary.

First, I wondered why it bothered me so much. It’s not like he slurps noisily–I wouldn’t even notice if I didn’t see him with his cup.

My best answer was that it was disrespectful–or at least that I had been taught that drinking coffee in church would be disrespectful.

Then I found myself judging him–if he wanted coffee so much, why didn’t he get coffee before church like the rest of us?

But as soon as I formed that thought I recalled the many Sundays I risked being late to church so I could enjoy one more cup of coffee at home.  

I rationalized that at least I didn’t let coffee distract me once I made it to church.

But then I thought of how frequently my mind wanders during service–to my grocery list, the route for next our bike ride, or whatever is going on at work. 

I realized that I had no business judging him for his cup of coffee when I also let worldly things interfere with my own worship. 

I realized that while “neither death, nor life, … nor anything else in all creation” can “separate us from the love of God,” there’s an awful lot that can distract me from listening, learning, praying and worshiping. Drawing on other words from Paul, I need the Spirit to help me with this weakness.

How do you cope when someone annoys you in church?

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7 Responses to What Separates You From God?

  1. carla says:

    I love your honesty and I also adore your religious open mindedness as well.
    Around here lately I think the worldly has grown REALLY INTERMINGLED with the worship but (as with all things lately) Im kind to me and simply grateful I make it to worship.


    • Coco says:

      Intermingled is not so far from incarnation. 😉 For the Christmas Eve sermon our priest had us sing Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer and embrace the merging of the secular with the sacred because that’s a key part of the Christmas story – God coming to live among us. The more my faith progresses, the more I see God in the messiest, most mundane parts of our lives.
      Coco recently posted…What Separates You From God?My Profile

  2. Wendy says:

    Who brings coffee into church? I was always taught that you couldn’t eat or drink an hour before receiving communion–does that still apply? I’m surprised at how people dress for church too–Harley Davidson t-shirts and all–but I guess at least they are going.
    Wendy recently posted…Look, Listen, and Feel: Using Your Senses to Improve Your Running TechniqueMy Profile

    • Coco says:

      I’ve heard that before, but I think that’s more of a Catholic thing than Episcopalian. I am guilty of bringing the dress code down a notch when I’m heading to spinning after church — but I do cover up my leggings with a dress. 😉 I think some churches have tried to relax the “rules” to get people to come, while others try to hold the line.
      Coco recently posted…What Separates You From God?My Profile

  3. Kimberly G says:

    I love your honesty about this! Currently I’m searching for a church home so I don’t see any “regulars” just yet, but it annoys me when I see people on their phones in church. I know some people have a Bible app on their phone, so sometimes they are following along with the scripture which is find, but I’ve actually seen people text and respond back to emails – not cool.
    Kimberly G recently posted…January 2018 GoalsMy Profile

  4. I would have thought that you could not bring beverages into church. Huh I never thought about that. I have noticed in our temple that people are a lot more casual than they used to be. I don’t know if that is good or bad.

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