Saturday, May 30, 2009

B, Pentecost Sunday - Romans 8:22-27 "Eager Expectation"

Text – Romans 8:22-27
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.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. (Romans 8:22-27)
Decay, degradation, decomposition, dilapidation, deprivation, deficiency, dispossession, disrepair and disorder – these are some of the things that cause suffering, pain, despair, despondency, depression and dejection.
There is something in everyone and everything which causes a continual breaking down. It might be the chilling cold of the winter onset affecting your bones, and your bodies; the lack of rain falling from the skies as you watch the bellies of your stock becoming more hollow with each passing day; the financial crisis taking a toll on your security for the future; or, the ever spreading threat of diseases and sicknesses, like bird flu, swine flu, or some other disaster that seems to pursue you. Everything in creation has something working against it, causing it to lament, to sigh, to cry out — causing it to groan.
But why do these things cause us to respond in such a way? Scripture tells us that it's not just us but the whole creation groans as it waits to be delivered from bondage, decay, and frustration just as one who struggles with the pains of childbirth. (Romans 8:19-22) If we take a look at our creation we see its pain too — more and more weeds, saltier soils, erosion, and deforestation to name a few of the many ecological disasters troubling our creation today.
In Romans we're told creation is waiting in eager expectation. Sometimes it's hard for us to wait with the same eager expectation when we experience the same old thing over and over again. The same weaknesses causing creation to suffer and us to suffer too! Be that as it may, what are you waiting for? What's your eager expectation?
Creation's eager expectation is for the sons of God to be revealed! Are you waiting for that too? Perhaps in your weakness there's the temptation to turn and be burdened by the seen reality of a world going crazy, a creation in chaos?
Then again, you might think life's good, it all going well. All this groaning and moaning is just negative nonsense. You might be eagerly expecting many good things in life, not concerned by anything too much. But in your daily happiness are you eagerly expecting Christ's return? Or are there a few things you'd like to do and see before God returns to reveal his children?
It is okay to have expectations and concerns in this life. However, when they become desperate or demand top billing and push our hopes of heaven aside, to second place, these earthly expectations and concerns are sin. And regardless of these earthly expectations being pleasant or bitter once they're revealed in us as sin, sin makes us groan!
Creation groans too, but it waits for our redemption. Why does it do so? Creation has been God's witness as humanity has plucked it in eager expectation from the tree of knowledge of good and evil time and time again. Creation was again God's witness when it opened its mouth to receive the blood of Abel. And today creation is God's witness every time we breathe contempt of others or eagerly spray spirited gossip into the air.
But that's not all! Creation knows it's Creator who made it from nothing except his word spoken in love. Creation also knows its Creator whose blood trickled down the wood of the cross and soaked the soil with redemption, and now creation waits for the Creator's return to finalise the faith of those who believe. And creation also bears the Spirit of God who hovers over the water and comes through the word of God revealing the hidden God of creation – God the Father, God the Son, and himself, God the Holy Spirit.
We celebrate Pentecost today! At the first Pentecost after Jesus' ascension, God sent the Spirit to walk beside us and counsel us in faith and hope. Although we so often eagerly expect everything in creation other than the Creator, God has eager expectations of you and me! He is faithful to all his baptised children willing us to come into Jesus' presence to receive and believe the redemption we have been given, as we continually have our sin forgiven.
The Holy Spirit's job is to bring us to Jesus. His work is to make the invisible visible through faith given when we hear the word (Romans 10:17). It is the Holy Spirit's task to put flesh on the Word of God, so the Son of God — the Word made flesh, is revealed in us. He also gives us hope in the day when Jesus will return and we see him as he is. Not only this! But he gives us eager expectation of what we will be, as we groan in the frustrations, bondage, decay, and weakness of our human suffering and sin.
When our weakness gets the better of us and we begin to eagerly expect creation more than the Creator himself, it's the Holy Spirit's mission to bring us back to Jesus. We like to have a picture of the Holy Spirit as one who always makes us happy but he who counsels us in God's will sometimes needs to give us a short swift kick refocusing us back on Christ.
Jesus says… When he (the Holy Spirit) comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. (John 16:8-11)
But the Holy Spirit will also comfort us in Christ too. If he didn't do this his conviction would surely drive us away from Jesus in remorse or lead us away by becoming pharisaic in justifying our sin. King David knew he needed the Holy Spirit's help when his sin was exposed.
He prayed… Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. (Psalm 51:10-12)
The Holy Spirit gives us a willing spirit, and this spirit bears the Spirit of Christ. With Jesus Christ en-fleshed in us we also bear the eager expectation of redemption and resurrection. Redemption, because Christ saved you at the cross by taking your place in death; and resurrection, because he was raised in all power over your sin and your death, so you too might eagerly await your resurrection into heaven.
Because the Holy Spirit comes from the Father and the Son he speaks only what he hears from the Father and the Son. Therefore, he bears the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, the truth of God that names what needs to be named in us.
Jesus says, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:34-36)
So the Holy Spirit, names you a sinner, but a sinner whose sin has had its power removed by the Son who sets you free. Right now, you are being released from bondage, weakness, and frustration, even in the midst of decay and death. God has freed you so you can allow the light of Christ to dispel the darkness of sin within. God has freed you and now continually and faithfully sends the Holy Spirit to guide you and keep you in Christ. And you can wait in hope when on the last day the Holy Spirit will raise you and give you an eternal life of peace and joy.
And as we wait for Christ's return God's promise to you is this: "I will pour out my Spirit on all people. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' (Acts 2:17a & 21)