Text: Romans 8:18-23
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be alway acceptable in thy sight, O Lord my strength and my redeemer. Amen
It may be that the events of the past few weeks have proven to be quite discouraging for the Christian church and in fact many of you here today, and as the world rages with madness it might be perfectly reasonable to conclude that the Christian should become despondent. This, however would be an unreasonable, erroneous and theologically improper conclusion to come to. Perhaps, if the news of the past two weeks has hit you pretty hard these words are hard to hear, but the Christian does not live with a worldly vision, but an eschatological one. That is a vision not of the way things are, but the way they will be at the end of time.
The Christian worldview turns the world on it’s head, we learn, most often of this view from St. Paul’s epistle where he establishes the theology of all ready, but not yet. We are all ready saved, but we will be saved. The kingdom of God has come, but it is not yet complete, though it will be in the fullness of time. We have new life, but the resurrection is not yet here. All ready, but not yet. So the Christian worldview is contrary to that which the world tells us.
Now, let’s be clear, this does not mean that the recent events are without consequences or do not mater.They most certainly mater and there will be consequences both now and eternally. This also doesn't mean that we must simply be quiet and complacent, or ignore our consciences. But, we must live within the rule of the land, so far as our consciences allow us to, and where we cannot, we do not seek to harm others, but gently and kindly follow our own consciences.
It may be that persecution will come to the church, it all ready has in other places in the world, it may be that people will hate us for being Christian, there are some who all ready do. These things should not surprise us because before Christ left he he promised these things would come. But, it may be that nothing will happen, it may be that we would be able to live peaceable with those whom disagree with us, and those whom we disagree with. The later is of course the hope of the constitution of our country, that people of many beliefs and views could live together and through earnest dialogue not live more segregated lives but rather be the better for it and live peaceable with each other.
But, the former could happen too, and as heartbreaking as it may be, as sorrowful as it would be, we must not lose sight of the fact that God is on our side and as one commentary said of the first verse of our epistle lesson for today “the ultimate glory that Christians will receive is so stupendous that the suffering of present time are insignificant in comparison.” It is this truth that we hold on to when the world rages in a way that we cannot comprehend, when every thing falls apart, whether it be personal turmoil, family trouble or the world around us is crumbling, the future glory is so stupendous.
Now, we hold on to hope in this wild and mad world for in St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he talks about how though we, in particularly those of us who have converted to Christianity, we once sons of darkness, sons, or daughters of the world, are now in the light and we are to walk as children of this light. That the fruit of this light is all that is good and right and true and one day the light will come in all fullness and wickedness will be exposed, so we stay faithful to the good and the true and the beautiful, no mater the cost, believing that the light, that is Christ will come back again one day.
Before we delve further into the epistle lesson today, I think it would be wise that we wrestle for just a moment with what the christian life should look like. For our life is to be a witness to the gospel of Christ, to shine forth its goodness, not because we are good, but because Christ’s goodness is in us. For those of you who have been coming to Christian Education after church, you know we have been talking about the Holy Spirit, and how after Christ ascended into heaven the Holy Spirit was sent to dwell within the church and works in us for our sanctification. Now, the mark of the Christian is that he or she exhibits the fruits of the spirit and what are these fruits? They are found in St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians and they are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and against these there are no law. The saint also talks elsewhere about the importance of humility, and so we pray that we might grow in these attributes as we grow in our sanctification, and if we are dwelling in the spirit, then certainly there are no forces in the world that can stop the gospel of Christ.
Now, let us delve a little deeper into the Epistle lesson. There is no sin, no crazy idea that can be espoused by the world that is new, I know they may seem new, and certain ideologies of today try to imply that they are new and therefore enlighten, but really, there is nothing new under the sun, only new ways of saying old things. Old heresies packaged in new wrapping. So when the saint tells the Roman Christians, who lived in a time of decadence and self service, that he doesn’t even consider the suffering of present time, that the persecution that the church faces at that time, is not even worth his breath, isn’t even work acknowledging, he might as well be talking to us, or to those churches in the world that face true physical persecution. For the church has endured this and will continue to endure it, so long as we stay faithful to the gospel, and dwell in the Holy Spirit.
However, he does not want to give the false hope that things will definitely get better in this time, rather, our hope is the glory that is to come. Our hope is the eternal glory that is so much greater than the things of this world. For when the heavens and the earth were created, they were created in perfection, they were called very good by the creator and the only one who could ever be good. Yet in the fall, not only did the will of man fall and become corrupt, but all of creation fell along with it. Instead of peace and glory reigning under the king of kings, we find rebellion, dissonance and a delighting in lesser things. Yet creation still aches for the coming restoration and we see little glimpses of the coming glory in a beautifully painted sunset, in the majesty of mountains, in the compassion shown to the weak, the poor and the innocent, in a thousand actions and incidents that happen through out the day. Yet we also see the ravaging effects of sin, as it disintegrates the world around us, weakening relationships, demolishing the natural world and mocking the God that created it.
Now, not only do we see the coming glory at random points in time, the point of the liturgy is to point out the coming glory, to give us a tiny taste of what is to come. In the liturgy we start out with an observation of our state, that we are sinful and separated from God, that we have failed to uphold even the most basics of God’s law, which is why we call out for his mercy, but then we are taught, we hear the word of God which acts to convert our hearts and minds, we are taught that we might grow in the grace which has beckoned us here. We approach the heavenly throne with prayer and are brought into holy fellowship. Then finally when we break bread together and in a very real and mystical sense, in a way that surpasses our understanding we communion with God himself, we for a moment experience the coming glory, we experience that which we ache for and that which the world aches for.
Creation, and all of the creatures there in are eagerly waiting for the time when all of us will experience that which we taste in the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the cup. We know that there is something greater, something better than that which we have now, we know that we taste something great, at the table and we long for it in our hearts, but some how we know that there is something greater and though we glimpse it with weak understanding at the table, we hope for its fullness when all things are completed. It is this glory that will come in the fullness of time that St. Paul talks about and that we wait for with all of creation in eagerness.
It would be easy to think that when all things are made right, that God is just going to wipe the earth out, and demolish it, sending it spinning out of it’s orbit into insignificance, but this is not what scripture teaches. Rather the heaven and the earth will be recreated. Popular modern american theology teaches that only your soul maters and the resurrection is the resurrection of the soul only, but this is not only unbiblical, it is profoundly dangerous and because of this danger and the prevalence of this thought in our culture today, I wanted to pause a moment to point it out and redirect you towards a more biblical understanding of God’s coming glory.
In the fullness of time God will make a new heaven and a new earth, just as He is in the process of recreating each and every one of us, and in the end of times we will be raised in glorified bodies, so too will the earth be recreated, and returned to its perfected and pre-fallen state. So, creation does not eagerly await its destruction but rather all of creation waits for the time when all glory is restored, remade and finally made anew.
Though we see the destructive power of sin in the world, though we feel the heart ache it causes and see creation pained by the fall of the caretakers of it. Yet in some way it seems the Saint expects that creation knows the end game and like a woman eager for her child to be born creation groans for the coming glory. He compares this expectation to that of a woman in child birth and this is not an analogy that is original to him, but one Christ used too to express what it is like to wait for the coming glory. The coming glory will be much like the joy and glow we see in the face of a new mother, yet first we must go through that pain of child birth, we must endure the things that are coming. We must pass through the unreasonableness and wickedness of the world. For just as pain in childbirth was part of the curse of the fall, so too is the wickedness of men.
This groaning is not limited to creation as I have mentioned we long for this coming completion. For although we have the fruits of the spirit, although we are being recreated we wait, eagerly for the time when we will be fully adopted as sons, and daughters. We wait eagerly for bodies that will not fall apart with time. We await the time when our adoption into the kingdom of God is complete.
Now the world around us may very well be mad, the world around us may very well fall apart and even the American church may face persecution, though we pray that it does not, but we see our hope is not in such things. We see our hope surpasses anything we can experience in the here and now. We see our hope is great indeed.
So although the world may seem very mad right now, let us not grow weary, let us not give up hope. Rather live out the gospel every day in our lives, live out the promise that if we repent and believe that the kingdom of heaven is at hand that it will come in all glory and we will be made children of God. We will be brought into his warm embrace to enjoy His glory forever. Let us make that our hope, enjoying the gifts that we are given now, but dwelling always in the Holy Spirit and the fruits that he endues with with. For not mater what may come the eternal hope and glory is a much greater thing.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.