Sunday, July 30

Blessed Assurance of God's Love: Sermon for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

In our Romans passage we have some of sayings from Paul, that are often misused and misunderstood, because they are taken out of context and thus removed from Paul’s logic and purpose: Paul wishes to assure us that God loves us and has us no matter what, and not that we will always be “victorious” or have total understanding of the meaning (if any) of a moment of suffering.
The first saying is  “all things work together for good.” Note, not all things are good, but work together for good, but what is usually missed in the quotation of this verse is the good to which Paul is referring.  The good here is our place in Christ, our being brought back into relationship with God.. The good is the restoration of our humanity in Christ and through the Spirit.
This is what we continually find as we look at these passages so often quoted but so often disconnected from Paul’s preaching of the Cross and Resurrection.  The point resting in the assurance of the means of the restoration of our humanity, so that we can be who we were created to be, in relationship with God and in that relationship image God.
This is our predestination. What we are predestined into is the same as we were created to be in the Garden of Eden -, to know and to image God. It is in Jesus Christ that our humanity is restored, and through whom we can know and image God.
Thus, when Paul rhetorically asks, “If God is for us, who Can be against us?” This is about our restored humanity, not some statement about how God will bless anything we put our hands too (Though, with the Psalmists we can and should pray that God bless the work of our hands, but that’s not Paul’s point or focus in Romans). Paul says that the Gospel shows us that through incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Christ God is for our full and true humanity. No matter who or what seeks to rob us of our deepest and truest selves, God is there without reserve and without qualification, saying “I’ve done and am doing everything needed to be in relationship with you and to free you to image me.” This is our victory in Christ, it is living into our created, predestined and restored humanity in Christ, that we are more than conquerors.
This should make a difference in our daily lives as we are buffeted by our own temptations to sin and our own sins, or the cruelty, oppression and indifference of other human beings, or just the suffering that comes from death and illness. But the difference isn’t that God has planned every detail and everything that happens is caused by God.  And it also isn’t that God simply because of one’s faith in Christ, causes everything we put our minds to, to be successful. But we can be assured that whatever life circumstance come our way, success or failure, health or sickness, freedom or oppression, that this doesn’t alter our humanity nor our purpose in God, nor that we are images of God made to be in relationship with God.
This is so much deeper and has so much more breadth and depth than, that God ensures that those with faith in Christ will succeed, and that we can be assured that God is working some temporal and fleeting good from everything in our lives good or ill. Our victory is the restoration of our humanity which God accomplished in the incarnation, which was sealed in the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.
In Jesus Christ, God demonstrated that there is nothing that can separate us from the Love of God, and thus there is absolutely nothing that can separate us from our truest selves, our full humanity: to know and be known by God and to be God’s image.
Paul in this passage is basking in the Glory of God’s work in Jesus Christ, and seeking to assure us that once we enter into and embrace that reality, there’s nothing more, there’s no addition to this, no other work to be done.  Thus, we can have no fear, in Christ we know who we are, and we know God’s love. A love that was there from all eternity, that was hid from us by our sin, by the devil and by death. God in Christ shows us our true humanity, and overcomes sin, death, and the devil.
There is now no one to judge us, no one to tell us we are unworthy, there is only God’s witness to God’s intentions and love, in the person of Jesus Christ. Nothing can or will change that, nor ever could. God has always loved us, God has always wanted to be known by us and for us to be known at the depths of our being. 
Yes, we are more than conquerors! Yes, God works out this Good in and through all things, even death on a cross! Yes, we have been predestined for this relationship with God! Yes, nothing can ever separate us form God’s love! No matter what any life circumstance might bring, no matter who accuses you, no matter your own temptations or sin! God has shown us God’s love in Christ, and accomplished in Christ all that needs to be done for us to have this restored relationship.
Now you know the way, simply walk in it! Walk in the light of God’s love. Walk in the world as an image of God. Walk as one who knows and is known by God. Do this, no matter what may come!