Sunday, August 6, 2017

Sermon -- 9th Sunday after Pentecost (August 6, 2017)

ROMANS 8:26-27


In the name + of Jesus.

     The Lord does not desire you to go through your Christian faith and life on your own.  It seems to be somewhat trendy these days for people to insist, “I don't belong to any church.  I follow the Bible.”  Somehow, this is viewed as enlightened or the sign of spiritual maturity.  However, it is contrary to God's desire and design for his Church.  The Church is the body of Christ.  The body does not have stray parts that go it alone.  Parts of the body that are removed are diseased or dead.  Likewise, Christians are not designed to go it alone.  The Lord joins us to a body of believers for our own good.  We are weak, and we need each other to aid us in our weakness.  God unites us to him through his word and joins us to one another so that we can pray for each other, encourage each other, comfort each other, and if necessary admonish each other so that we do not fall into sin and away from the faith.
     However, the people with whom you are united are all sinners.  We all have our own particular weaknesses and struggles.  We are also absorbed in our own problems.  As a result, we are not considerate of the weakness or struggles of others.  We do not care for each other or pray for each other as we ought.  Some take this personally.  I might get upset that you do not have as much concern about my problems as I do.  My problems matter to me, and they should matter to you just as much.  Then sinful weakness continues to assert itself when I may question your Christian faith with the snide accusation, “I thought Christians are supposed to love each other,” suggesting that if you are not as absorbed in my problems as I am, then your faith is a fraud.  It may even get to the point where I leave the Church thinking that I am better off going it alone.  This is sinful arrogance.  Remember: We are all sinful.  We are all weak.  We do not serve each other as well as we ought.  Repent.  And remember your own weakness.  Then, you will remember to be merciful to others in their weakness.
     The Lord does not have any weaknesses.  He is faithful in his love for us.  That is why the Lord does not cut us off from himself.  We fail the Lord daily, but he continues to love us perfectly.  The Lord does not see our weakness and conclude that we are not worth it.  Rather, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. (Romans 8:26)
     The Lord does not desire you to go through your Christian faith and life on your own.  God gave you his Spirit so that he would help you in your weakness.  St. Peter urged the crowds at Pentecost: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:39)  At your baptism, the Lord united you to Jesus.  In your baptism, your sin became Jesus' sin, and his righteousness became your righteousness.  You were delivered from your sin and covered in Jesus' holiness.  You were adopted into God's family.  And more than that, you received the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Now, the Spirit dwells in you.  The Holy Spirit has given you new life and continues to create in you a right spirit which wants to do all that God wants.  This is why your weakness frustrates you.  You want to do what is right, but you fall short.
     Nevertheless, the Spirit helps you in your weakness.  He continues to work in you so that you continue to fight against sin and temptation.  But he also assures you of your place in God's kingdom.  St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “In (Christ) you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it....” (Ephesians 1:13-14)  The Holy Spirit, who dwells in your body, will also raise your body at the resurrection to receive eternal life in God's kingdom.  Through word and sacrament, he will preserve you in the Christian faith until life everlasting.
     The Lord does not desire you to go through your Christian faith and life on your own.  This is especially true when we are seeking to do God's will in our lives right now.  Therefore the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)  
     The Spirit helps us in our weakness.  He gave the prophets and apostles the words of God to write down so that we can know God's will and pray that it be done among us.  But we do not always know what God's will is.  Do I take a new job or not?  Should I move to a new town or not?  Is this the right person to marry?  Should I have the surgery or can I put it off?  God does not tell us these things in his word.  He leaves the judgment of these things to us.  But then we are left to groan under the uncertainty and stress as we wonder what to do.  Our prayers falter, because we don't know what to pray for.  Dear Christians, you have not failed when you stammer through difficult prayers.  That is when the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  He prays for us and carries us with groanings too deep for words.  Though the Spirit's intercession for us may be unspeakable groans, the Father and the Son hear his prayer loud and clear.  The Father and the Son know the mind of the Spirit.  And the Triune God is fully united in doing what is best for you.
     The Spirit helps us in our weakness, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:27)  You don't know what God's will is for every direction or decision of your life.  But you do know that the God who gave up his only begotten Son to redeem you and you has sent his Spirit to dwell in you will always do what is best for your eternal well-being.  And the Holy Spirit intercedes for you that this will always be done for you.  It does not mean that you will always get what you want.  Children always know what they want, and they are convinced that their ideas are always best.  Parents who are older and wiser recognize that it is not best to give children whatever they ask for.  In some cases, it is destructive.  You can't have ice cream and candy for every meal.  In some cases, it is unrealistic.  You can't go to Disney World every weekend.  And in some cases, parents recognize that denying a child or disciplining a child is what is best for them.  A spanking now purges bad behavior later.  Having your children learn not to gratify every craving now will teach them contentment in the long run.  You may have to hear tantrums now because they want their goodies.  Later, what is perceived as hardship now will prove beneficial.
     So it is with you.  Out of love, God may have you endure problems, struggles, and pain just so that he can highlight your own weaknesses to you.  You will not think so, but this is good.  God even graciously puts up with your tantrums as he lovingly shows you how much you need him.  If you know that you are weak, then you have to rely on God for your strength.  If you suffer, then you will look for comfort.  If you struggle and grow weary, then you will not pretend that you can go it alone and you will seek mercy and aid.
     The Lord does not desire you to go through your Christian faith and life on your own.  You can't.  Therefore, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  The Lord is our strength when we are weak.  Throughout a life of uncertainty, God upholds his sure promises.  Through days of sadness and death, the Lord promises us the peace and joy of eternal life.  In our frustration and weakness, when our prayers come down to groans of “Lord, have mercy,” he does.  The Spirit prays for us and helps us in our weakness.  The Spirit, who dwells in us, serves to comfort, to encourage, and to preserve us in God's kingdom for all time.  This is his work, because this is God's will.

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

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