Meditation on Romans 13:8-14
The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton, OH
Pastor Karen Crawford
Sept. 6, 2020
Video of our Sept. 6, 2020 service:
I am so happy to be here today! I feel the power of the Spirit as we gather in this space. I feel the joy of the Lord! Welcome back, my friends! Welcome home! I’ve missed you.
Who saw this coming? A global pandemic that would lead churches to close their doors for months? We thought maybe a few weeks, then a couple months and the crisis would pass. The virus has claimed more than 188,000 lives in our nation alone. And it’s not over, yet.
No, we didn’t see that coming.
If we had known and had time to get ready, what would we have done? Would it have been too much for us to bear?
Something about our situation made me recall the words of Corrie Ten Boom in The Hiding Place. In her book, she recounts the time in her hometown in Holland before and during the Holocaust in World War II when her Christian family were stirred to hide Jewish people and those who resisted the Nazis in a secret room built into their home. They were betrayed by a Dutch informant, arrested and imprisoned. Many of her family and friends would die as a result of their heroic acts of compassion. Corrie and her older sister, Betsie, were sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp.
Corrie, the youngest daughter, had a special relationship with her watchmaker father. She would become the first female licensed watchmaker in the Netherlands in 1922. As a little girl, she would go on train rides to the Naval Observatory. There he would hold his pocket watch and a pad and pencil, and would stand almost on tiptoe with the joy of precision to watch the tower arms drop at the stroke of 12 noon. He would say, “There; 4 seconds fast!” Within an hour, the astronomical clock in their shop in Harlaam would be accurate to the second.
On the ride home would be the time for Corrie to bring things up that were troubling her. In those days, sex was never discussed, even in the home. But young Corrie had heard a poem in school that mentioned “sex sin.” Corrie, seated next to her Father in the train compartment, suddenly asked, “What IS sexsin?”
“He turned to look at me,” she writes, “as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case from the rack over our heads and set it on the floor. “‘Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?’ ” he said. I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning. “It’s too heavy,” I said.
“‘Yes, he said, ‘And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger, you can bear it. For no, you must trust me to carry it for you.’
“And I was satisfied. More than satisfied—wonderfully at peace,” she writes. “There were answers to this and all my hard questions; for now, I was content to leave them in my father’s keeping.”
I believe this is so with us. There is knowledge too heavy for us that is best to leave in our Heavenly Father’s keeping. As God speaks through Isaiah in 55:8, “My thoughts are not your thoughts.”
No one in Corrie’s family imagined the terrible systematic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of 6 million Jewish men, women and children by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. But Corrie lived to tell the story—and tell it, she did, through the perspective of her Christian faith, from the ocean of God’s love within her.
Love comes up again in our passage in Romans 13 today, following, strangely enough, the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to pay taxes to the authorities, and “pay to all what is due.” He shifts gears from financial debt to a debt we owe the Lord—obedience to His commands.
“Owe no one anything,” he says, “except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Paul quotes Leviticus, as Jesus does, saying, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He adds, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor.” Love, very simply, does no harm to another human being.
It is in this way that we become spiritually ready—awake, alert, for when Jesus comes again. We want him to find us loving God and each other. For, as Paul says, salvation is nearer than when we first believed.
Jesus may come today! Isn’t that a wonderful thought, my friends?
What gave Corrie Ten Boom strength and courage to persevere through the harsh reality of the concentration camps and her many losses? Faith–hers and that of her older sister and father, who once said of the possibility of losing their lives for helping the Jews, “I would consider that the greatest honor to come to my family.” Corrie and Betsie led secret worship services at the camp after dark, sharing God’s Word through a smuggled Bible. Before Betsie died in the camp on Dec. 1944 at age 59, she told Corrie, “There is no pit so deep that He (God) is not deeper still.” The Lord gave her visions of a ministry to the vulnerable. Betsie’s visions would be realized through Corrie’s passion to serve the Lord.
Corrie was released from the camp 15 days later on what Corrie discovered had been a “clerical error.” A week after Corrie was released, all the women in her age group were sent to the gas chambers. She went home and opened her door to the mentally disabled who were in hiding for fear of execution and, after the war, set up a rehab center in the Netherlands for war victims. She returned to Germany in 1946 and met with and forgave two Germans who had worked at Ravensbruck and had been particularly cruel to Betsie. Her mission to share God’s love to the world and tell the story of how Jesus was Victor in the concentration camps carried her around the globe to speak and led her to write a number of books.
Her favorite prop while speaking to groups was a flashlight. She would throw the switch and when the light failed to shine, she exclaimed, “Is there no light in your life?” She unscrewed the end of the flashlight. “Invite Jesus into your life!” She pushed a battery into the flashlight. The light still failed to shine. Her audience was startled. “What’s wrong?” she asked, echoing their surprise. She removed the battery. “What is this?” She pulled out a rag. “Pride!” And another. “Envy!” And another. “Love of money!” Finally, she would slide in the battery again and the flashlight beamed brilliant light.
I spent some time thinking about Corrie and our Scripture readings yesterday when I took a break from writing to visit my garden. I admired the evening primroses, once again, that Dick and Alice Hoover gave us in the spring. They are the funniest looking plants. Some people call them weeds for their invasive growing habit. They kind of look like dandelions on steroids. Jim and I love them! Every evening, sometime between 8 and 8:30, as darkness falls, we go out to watch and sometimes make a video as the new, bright yellow blossoms open before our very eyes— 2, 4, 6, or 8 blooms a night. When morning comes, the flowers close and begin to fade; their work of bringing light and beauty in the darkness is done.
This is a picture of our calling, dear friends. We may seem like ordinary people much of the time, but you should see us in the dark of night—when we shine the light of Christ and bring hope to the world.
It might be dark, but the time is now to wake up and get ready! Salvation is near! What will you be doing when Jesus comes back? Remember: love does no harm to a neighbor!
Live as Children of the Light! Owe no one anything, except to love!
Lay aside the works of darkness with which you’ve struggled—hurt, pain, anger, bitterness, disappointment, fear and unforgiveness, jealousy and quarreling. Do this with me, now, friends. Lay them aside. We don’t need that burden. It’s like that heavy suitcase that young Corrie couldn’t carry. She let her beloved father carry it for her, and she felt wonderful peace.
Accept God’s love. Forgive! Forgive! Be healed! Be an instrument of healing for others!
The past doesn’t matter. This is the moment that counts. Do this with me!
Put on the armor of light. Put on Jesus Christ!
Let us pray.
Holy One, we thank you for all the saints who have gone before us and were faithful examples to us, people such as Corrie Ten Boom. Thank you for the honor of the call to serve you, Lord, and the opportunities you give us to shine your light in the darkness daily. Help us to lay aside the works of darkness, the sin that leads us away from you, hurts our witness, and causes us to stumble from the righteous path. Teach us how to put on your armor of light and clothe ourselves with Jesus Christ at the break of each new dawn. Lead us to owe no one anything except to love. In Christ we pray. Amen.