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November 19, 2016

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All Creation Waits, Groans, Hopes

 

SERMON

Rom. 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 

Rom. 8:15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 

Rom. 8:16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 

Rom. 8:17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. 

Rom. 8:18 ¶ I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 

Rom. 8:19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 

Rom. 8:20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope

Rom. 8:21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 

Rom. 8:22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 

Rom. 8:23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 

Rom. 8:24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 

Rom. 8:25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. 

 

I don’t often preach on Paul’s letters! Or any of the epistles. So, of course, I think I should do that on my last Sunday preaching at New Life. That seems to fit our New Life ethic - thinking outside the box, and knowing “you can’t do it wrong.” 

 

Oh beloveds, I will miss you. And we are ready, all of us, for the new thing that comes next: for me, for New Life, for our larger community and for the world. 

 

One of the things I love best about New Life, this crazy and wonderful faith community, is our ability to laugh at ourselves. How did this happen? How did most of us even end up in any kind of CHURCH? Talking about Jesus and stuff? Paul says, in this great passage from Romans, his capstone writing, that we were not captured and forced into this, but ADOPTED. Not welcomed, not befriended, adopted. 

 

Rom. 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 

Rom. 8:15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 

Rom. 8:16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 

Rom. 8:17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. 

 

That phrase makes tears come to my eyes sometimes. God found us and didn’t make us serve some distant deity - God found us and made us beloved family. In adoption, parents take this incredible leap of faith: they not only take in a child, they bind themselves to that child forever. In adoption, legal rights are given, this is a forever bond. That is how God feels about us: adopted. Equal to God’s own only begotten child, Jesus. Heirs alongside Christ. 

 

Here we are, loved by God into church, of all things. Adopted into this family, which is lovely and weird and wonderful. Like families are. And we look around and think, “Of course, this is the place God grafted me to: a crazy outdoor church. Of course. Where we climb trees and garden while saying ancient words of ritual and sacrament.” If we weren’t called here and adopted by God, we’d never believe it. 

 

And then Paul continues, and seems to talk right to US: 

 

Rom. 8:18 ¶ I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 

Rom. 8:19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 

Rom. 8:20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope

Rom. 8:21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 

 

Linking this call, this family, this Christian thing we have found ourselves in - to suffering of the present time (!) and CREATION. It is a reminder that our siblings in Christ in 50 AD were also in times of suffering, with Roman imperialism, with slavery, and being a fringe movement of Jesus followers. Perhaps they would visit Dripping Springs in 2020 and say, “Yeah, being human is hard, no doubt: plagues, poverty, we know, and we understand.” And yet, Paul links this hard human life with creation - we are linked to creation, he says. We are, as is sometimes said these days, the ones we have been waiting for. This time is for us to do our best, to find our way. And creation is waiting, watching, hoping for us. As we find freedom in Christ, so will all of creation. 

 

How, though? How do we become a family in Christ, not just with this crazy congregation of amazing people the Spirit has drawn together, but with other Christians (some of whom we can’t actually stand - some who we want to work with - like our real families!), and with all of creation? 

 

Not easy. Like GIVING BIRTH. 

 

Rom. 8:22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 

Rom. 8:23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 

 

Paul links our work to join God’s family in not only surviving the hardships of our time, but redeeming all of Creation all with us, with BIRTH. Adoption and birth. The way families are formed, have always been formed. Labor pains, vows, God’s hand bringing us together, assuring us that we are precious. Parenting is painful, not matter what. Being a family is messy and complicated and HARD. Like pushing a child out of your womb. Joining with God in the creative process. Like finding a child in this world through adoption, miraculously. Like explaining over and over the road you took to get them, to love them, to choose them. Joining with God in the redemptive process. 

 

This call, this life, this faith. Hard and so very good. Miraculous. What will happen next on this journey for each of us? What will happen next in this faith family? How will we all participate in God’s redemptive work for the sake of all creation - after a pandemic, through isolation, during unemployment? 

 

If there is one thing I’ve thought about over and over in this time of COVID, it is that we have no idea what comes next. We never did, but we thought we did. And we had some good guesses: probably school will start in the Fall, probably church will meet on Sunday, probably…Not now. So what keeps us afloat? This letter for 2,000 years ago to people in a crazy time in Rome reaches across the millennia to give us a word: HOPE. But what do we even hope for? Well, like this crazy Christian family, and this whacky outdoor congregation, we hope that God has more surprises in store. Hope is trust is FAITH. Against all odds, a rag tag band of Christians in 50 AD and a rag tag band of Christians in 2020 hope for the same thing, trust the same thing: that what comes next is from God, and it is good. 

 

We can’t know. We can’t see the future. And Paul the poet names it. 

 

 

Rom. 8:24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 

Rom. 8:25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. 

 

Hope that is seen is not hope. If we feel we know the future, then who needs faith? We stand here looking into the future, for each of us, for this congregation, for our world, and we boldly hope. We know we don’t know, and that brings us honest to God, for once. Trusting that all of creation is groaning, giving birth to New Life. Trusting in what we cannot see, clinging to our adopted family of faith, and believing against all odds that God has this, that the sufferings of today will be outshone by what will be revealed. 

 

Children are welcomed through labor and through the work and miracle of adoption. Creation is waiting for US, to be the ones to help God usher in a new creation, a redemption of all. Nothing less is at stake. Adelante. 

 

 

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