Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
Passage: Romans 8:18–8:27
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Romans 8:18-27
Date: July 23rd, 2017; Pentecost 7 ; Series A
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).
What exactly were these sufferings that Paul was speaking of?
Well here are a few of his sufferings that he shared in his letters: he was imprisoned, beaten, flogged, five times he received the forty lashes less one, three times he was beaten with rods, once he was stoned almost to the point of death, he was shipwrecked three times, and he endured many other hardships as well.
Paul knew what it was to suffer.
It is difficult for us to relate to such suffering, isn’t it?
We live in a country and a time (at least for now) when we do not need to worry about persecution because of our faith.
We can freely gather in church on a Sunday morning without the fear of being beaten.
We can freely proclaim our beliefs to anyone we want and not fear that we will spend time in jail as a result.
Beyond our religious freedom, we have also been blessed with everything we need - and so much more.
Beautiful homes that keep us warm and dry. All of the food that we want. The luxuries of hobbies, sports, and vacations.
It can be difficult to understand where St. Paul is coming from here.
We don’t seem to endure much suffering at all. Things are pretty good!
And maybe this is part of the reason why we see that God isn’t a priority for many people - they are doing just fine without him - thank you very much.
But I think if we reflect a little bit deeper we recognize that things aren’t all rosy – at least not all of the time.
We live in the exact same sinful and fallen world that Paul and the Romans lived in - and we experience suffering too.
Maybe not the same kind that Paul went through.
But we do suffer.
The world is still groaning in the pains of childbirth, as Paul described it in his day.
Creation is groaning and we hear it.
We hear it as the hurricane winds blow, the tsunami waves crash, the earthquakes rattle, the fires burn, the waters flood.
Creation is groaning.
The groans of humanity join the terrible sounds we hear.
Wars, murder, and poverty fill the air.
Humanity is groaning.
We groan as we experience the stress of living in this fast paced, action packed, constantly changing world.
We groan as we suffer from the worry we feel over our loved ones.
Are our children and grandchildren going to be okay? Will they make it through those bad choices they made? Will they ever return to the church?
We groan as we suffer the pain and agony of sick and injured bodies. Diseases, broken limbs, faulty eyes, faulty hearing, faulty heart.
We groan as we suffer the pain and sorrow of death. Our lives are turned upside down when someone we love dies. Nothing is more devastating.
We groan as we struggle with our sin and suffer the guilt of our failings. The things we have done and have not done weigh on us. Will God forgive us?
Creation and humanity are groaning. Groaning in the pains of childbirth.
That is an interesting way for St. Paul to put it, isn’t it?
He didn’t call them the pains of dying. He called them “labour pains”. The pain of childbearing.
The groaning of this present world, all of the misery you read about and see on TV, all of the suffering you experience personally, are the birthing pains of the new creation.
In the Gospel of St. Mark we read that Jesus said exactly the same thing, “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains” (Mark 13:8).
These are the labour contractions of the new creation that has come in Christ Jesus.
The way to the new creation is the way of the cross, and that means suffering.
St. Paul says that we who have the first fruits of the Spirit, we who are baptized into Christ - groan inwardly as we eagerly await our adoption, the redemption of our bodies .
To be clear, we are already redeemed in Christ. There is no doubt about that. The victory is ours now.
Our sins are washed away in the shed blood of Jesus on the cross - a blood that is poured on you in your Baptism, poured into you in his Supper, put into your ears with his Word.
You are redeemed now.
But our bodies remain captive to the death and decay of this fallen and sinful world.
That’s why we get sick. That’s why we age. That’s why cells become cancerous and arteries clog and bones get brittle and arthritic.
Our bodies remain captive to sin and death even as we ourselves are free from sin and death in Christ.
And it has to be this way. A simple rehab won’t fix our problem. We must die to sin.
It must be this way because out of that death comes your life. Out of that death comes your adoption and the resurrection of our bodies.
Now all that remains is for God to claim you in the resurrection of your body.
Our salvation is not in doubt - it’s just waiting for its completion.
We endure the suffering and we groan - knowing that the future is secure.
Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory to be revealed to us.
It’s what a mother about to deliver her child would say.
The pains of labour are not worth comparing with the glory of the birth – of holding her brand new baby.
The suffering we experience today will not compare to our promised eternal life.
Eternal life with no more natural disasters.
No more stress, anxiety, pain, sorrow, and sadness.
No more death.
The suffering we experience today will not compare to our promised eternal life that is filled with joy, vitality, love, and life.
The suffering we experience today will not compare to our promised eternal life spent with God and all of our loved ones who have departed in the faith.
As we suffer and groan today - this promise from God for tomorrow gives us peace, comfort, and hope. Thanks be to God! Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.