Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sermon -- 8th Sunday after Pentecost (July 30, 2017)

ROMANS 8:18-25

WE HAVE A CERTAIN HOPE 
FOR A SINLESS HOME.

In the name + of Jesus.

     St. Paul wrote about the hope that all Christians have.  “For in this hope we were saved.” (Romans 8:24)  Now, when Americans hear the word hope, it is more of a cross-your-fingers-and-make-a-wish idea, such as, “I hope it does not rain tomorrow.”  But that is not how the Scriptures use the word “hope.”  A better word would be confidence or trust, maybe even certainty.  Our hope is that God will keep his word and give us the eternal life he has promised.  We have not seen it yet.  We have not seen the glory of his kingdom.  We have not seen the resurrection to eternal life.  We have not seen the end of sin and death.  But we believe it is coming.  It is our hope.  The Church's confession has been constant: “We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” (Nicene Creed)  This is not a cross-your-fingers-and-make-a-wish confession; it is taking God at his word.  It is trusting that God did not lie when he promised a glorious and everlasting life to all who believe in Jesus Christ.  It is the confidence that God will fulfill all that he has promised to us.
    The reason we groan for God to fulfill his promises is because we long to be set free from our present sufferings, no matter what form they take.  That is not to say that Christians are dismal people who whine about problems all day long.  We are not ungrateful people.  We are not blind to the blessings that God gives us.  The Lord created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them.  We recognize the beauty of his creation and the blessings he gives us here.  But we are not blind to the problems in this world.  We know pain and loss and heartache.  We know guilt and shame.  We have been grieved at the death of loved ones, and we know our own death is coming.  These are all the results of sin and the curse we have earned for it.  The world is not perfect, either.  A perfect world does not have hurricane season or allergy season.  A perfect world does not know rip tides, sink holes, or car accidents.  In a perfect world, you do not suffer from poison ivy, mosquito bites, or rashes.
     The world is broken.  The earth and all that is in it have fallen under a curse, as St. Paul says, “The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it.” (Romans 8:20)  When sin came into the world through Adam, it was not only people who suffered the curse of sin.  The Lord God said, “Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you...” (Genesis 3:17-18)  And for this reason, God's perfect creation is no longer perfect.  It has been made subject to death, decay, and destruction.
     None of man's efforts to rectify the situation have corrected it.  We use fertilizers and pesticides so that crops will not be wiped out.  But our efforts to curb bugs and blight result in other problems.  We try to combat sickness and disease with drugs, only to foster stronger bacteria and viruses.  And we have no way to control natural disasters.  We are at the mercy of wind and waves, cold and heat, and floods and drought.  We are a far cry from what God has created.
     For this reason, “the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” (Romans 8:19-22)  Creation itself longs to be freed from the curse and from the corruption which rules it.  Creation longs to be restored to what God had created it to be.
     The Lord God loves what he has created.  Even though it has become corrupted by sin, the Lord chose not to disown his creation, but to redeem it.  Material things are not evil.  God's plan is not to set us free from a physical world or from a physical body.  These are creations of God, and he once called them “very good.” (Genesis 1:31)  Rather than set us free from our bodies or this creation, the Lord acts to cleanse our bodies and purify his creation.  We have a certain hope of a sinless home.
     To deliver us and this world from sin and corruption, the Lord became a part of his creation, took on flesh, and became man.  He acted to set us free from our sins.  Jesus took our sin and its curse into his body.  That sinless body bore the punishment for all our sin.  Jesus willingly paid the price for all sinners.  Your sins are forgiven you now; you will not be condemned.  In redeeming you, Jesus did not free you from your body.  God created you to be body and soul.  God has never planned for you to be a body-less soul floating around on clouds.  That is why Jesus became man with a fleshly body.  Jesus went into death and his body was buried in the ground from which mankind came.  But in springing forth from the ground in new life, Jesus demonstrated the new life that awaits all who believe and are baptized into his name.  Jesus did not shed his body, but rose from the grave with a body that will never die again.  In the same way, Jesus does not set you free from your body; rather, he sets your body free from sin and death.  This is what we long for.  “We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:23)  In other words, we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.  Thanks to Jesus, we have a certain hope of a sinless home.  
     It is not only we who have this hope and long for its fulfillment.  St. Paul wrote, “For the creation was subjected to futility ... in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” (Romans 8:20-22)  God loves what he has created, and he is eager not just to have us renewed, but heaven and earth as well.  Remember that when God created the heavens and the earth, he assessed his creation.  God saw all that he had made and, behold, it was very good. (Genesis 1:31)  When Jesus was on earth, he gave us a glimpse of the new creation and the restoration of all things.  He gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and strength to the lame.  When the disciples were panicked on the Sea of Galilee because they were convinced they were going to die in a storm, the Lord Jesus rebuked the winds and the waves, “Quiet!  Be still!” (Mark 4:39)  For it was never God's plan to have the forces of the world destroy the people in it.  God's plan is not to set us free from the world, but to give us a world that is free from sin and corruption.
     We have a certain hope of a sinless home.  God will restore creation to its original glory and to once again have a world where all things are very good.  St. Peter promises you the same thing: “According to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:13)  St. John also records the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: “Behold!  I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)  
     We have a certain hope of a sinless home.  Just as the Lord intends us to live as body and soul people for all eternity, so he also gives us a beautiful world in which we will have all we need and in which we will be freed from all disasters, disease, death, and destruction.  He will remove all elements of sin.  He will deliver us from all evil.
     We have a certain hope of a sinless home.  Eden shall be restored.  God will dwell with man, and man will dwell with God.  And we will all love and serve each other perfectly and rejoice together in God's perfect Paradise.  This is not a cross-your-fingers-and-make-a-wish dream.  It is our hope.  It is our hope because it is God's promise.  And those who hope in the Lord will never be put to shame.  We have a sure hope of a sinless home because we have a faithful God who fulfills his word.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

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