July 26, 2020: 8th Sunday of Pentecost

Let us pray: Dear Savior, as we slog through these hot days of summer, our thoughts turn to cooler weather with crisp days, and temperate nights.  We know it’s out there.  We know it’s coming to relieve our doldrums.  So, too with the promise of heaven.  It’s real and coming.  Today keep that hope alive within us so that we have an excellent reason to never give up our struggle of faith.  Amen


TEXT:  Romans 8: 18-25

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

          A few years back, one Presidential candidate had a slogan for his campaign.  It was: Hope and Change. When I first heard that I was jealous that I had not coined those words.  It’s catchy.  It’s pithy.  Who could ever be against: Hope, or Change?  The ad people who put it together certainly earned their money!  But if you analyze it, the slogan begins to raise questions.  What kind of hope?  Hope in what?  And what does “change” really mean?  Put in terms of another long-ago campaign slogan: “Where’s the beef?” behind those two words. 


          Today’s lesson, penned by St. Paul, talks a lot about hope and the change it elicits for all Christians.  Paul begins by talking about future glory.  “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Not simply ‘to us’ or ‘for us’ but ‘in us’—we’ll be direct recipients.) The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons (children) of God to be revealed.” 

          The Roman world wasn’t always rosy, even though at this time it was at its zenith.  Slavery was rampant.  Diseases stalked the empire.  Wars were ongoing.  The economy was “good” but welfare (bread and circuses) kept people from revolting.  Everyone in every age longs for some sort  of utopia and in human terms they will never have it.  Such is the result of sin.  But in Christ, God promises a better world, literally a utopia beyond our imaginings!  It all results from, of all things, death.  The death of God’s Son to save our souls and then His glorious resurrection to life and heaven!  This is His gift to you through faith.  And yes it will be revealed—in, to, and for you! This change will happen since it is God and not merely some political leader who promises it.

          There’s more “beef” in the following words.  “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage (slave status) to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.  We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth, right up to the present time.”

          The climate change people like to point out that weird weather and natural disasters are creation’s groans over human oppression and destruction of our planet.  If you’re a Christian you can agree with that simile.  St. Paul does right here.  But is it worse now than 2000 years ago?  Maybe.  However, those killed by the eruption in Roman times of Mt. Vesuvius  might disagree.  In any case, women in labor make a lot of noise.  Childbirth is never a quiet affair.  Neither is  life at any time on planet earth. Change is constant and seldom does it  make life more “utopian” on its own….This is all a result  of God’s punishment over rebellion against Him which began in Eden.


          We go on: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth, right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved.  But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what he already has?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

          I marvel at the grandeur of those words!  Here we are, children of God Almighty and brothers and sisters of His beloved Son.  Just as He groaned over our lost souls in Gethsemane and while nailed to the cross, so we slog on through the trials of life.  But we are also, because of His redemption made ours via faith; we are special.  We are the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit Who gave us saving faith.        We are the very first ripe tomatoes of the season and we taste glorious to His palate!  Yet we still groan and are restive in that we desire heaven and everlasting freedom right now!  We want the fulfillment of our purpose in life right now.  We want perfection right now.  (Think of green tomatoes impatiently waiting to ripen and to show off their goodness and the promise it holds.) But, God wants us to know that it’s all coming.  He holds out that hope to us. 

          Hope is a delicious word.  Hope holds out the promise of perfection. Once you have that first of the season BLT, the second one isn’t quite so fulfilling, is it?  “Hope that is seen is no hope at all.  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

          My point and Paul’s point is that: hope is a universally feel good word.  In the Christian context it’s a fulfilling word, too.  It’s not just something “out there” which is dreamlike and unattainable.  No, true hope is found in Jesus Christ Who was and is real.  Christian hope is grounded in the reality of His death and resurrection.  It’s grounded in the reality of His ascension into glory where, “I go to prepare a place for you.”  It’s grounded in the reality: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you WILL be saved.”  Politicians can reduce “hope and change” to a campaign slogan.  But, let’s face it, those words have real, true, and everlasting meaning because they belong to God and God alone.  Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox         

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