Seventh Sunday after Pentecost (Romans 8:18-27)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR
Bethel Lutheran Church, Sweet Home, OR
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost + July 23, 2017
Text: Romans 8:18-27

Two people can look at exactly the same thing and come to vastly different conclusions, because of the assumptions they have.  Anybody can look at the world we live in and realize that it’s messed up.  Violence in the streets, increasing dissension and alienation, dangerous weather, etc.  One person will say, it’s all up to us to scramble to protect ourselves or strive to fix this human life, or else we will wipe out our species and cease to exist.
Another would sees the very same tumult, and acknowledges the possible dire consequences.  Yet this person isn’t afraid of all these things or the end result of them.  Why? Because their hope is in God who created heaven and earth, who redeemed humanity through His Son, and when He comes again will eternally renew creation.
It’s that second person which is pictured in this reading:
19 For the creation waits with eager longing for othe revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation pwas subjected to futility, not willingly, but qbecause of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that rthe creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that sthe whole creation thas been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
It’s the sons of God who can look at the writhing pain of creation and not tremble.  That doesn’t mean they are naïve about what our world is like or how serious social, political, and health crises are.  That’s because God has called us in the midst of this longing, enslaved, groaning creation into a living hope.
23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have uthe firstfruits of the Spirit, vgroan inwardly as wwe wait eagerly for adoption as sons, xthe redemption of our bodies. 24 For yin this hope we were saved.
There’s where the difference lies: The Spirit, whom God pours out richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.  He has called us to this living hope—that not only do we have a clean conscience toward God, but we also look forward to the restoration of creation and the redemption of our own bodies.  Even as we groan with the rest of creation to be delivered, God has revealed His good news.  In the dying and rising of Jesus Christ, He is making all things new (Rev. 21:5)  In Christ, we have the hope that sin which came into the world will be no more, neither shall death plague us because Jesus lives.  Our hope is that God will bring about what He promised so many years ago through Isaiah:
“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.”[1]
But haven’t we been waiting long enough?  Isn’t creation worn out from groaning and longing?
St. Paul continues, “In this hope we were saved. Now zhope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we await for it with patience.”
First of all, it matters what you hope in.  We are wont to put our hope in certain conditions—when I get the job I want, when I can only get my strength back, if the church grows, or when I retire.  Yet this is not the hope to which the Holy Spirit has called us.  Our hope isn’t in a what, but in a Who—in the Lord our God.  “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth…who keeps faith forever.”[2]  If your hope is in the Lord, you will never be put to shame, left high and dry.
Now, it’s plain to see that God helps us on a cosmic level, uniting heaven and earth, making peace with sinners.  That same hope touches our everyday lives, too.  I read a little from Psalm 146, but let me read more: “who keeps faith forever, who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free, the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless.”
Our hope is in this God, who has compassion on His children in need.  You heard how many calamities were listed, and God has mercy on one and all.  So think of what troubles or scares you, and let your heavenly Father handle it.  What a mess we make when we take our lives in our own hands, trying to master our own circumstances and secure our own future.
That’s why so many times in Scripture, we are exhorted to hope in the Lord and wait patiently for Him—“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”[3]  What’s often translated as “wait” and “hope” are the same in Hebrew (יחל and קוה).  So, to hope in God is also to wait on the Lord.  That’s Paul’s point when he says, “Who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”  It means trusting that He will lift you up out of your distress at the right time—no matter how bad it is and no matter how long its lasted.  Don’t put your trust in your own hand to deliver you.
Sometimes it’s easier said than done.  One of those Hebrew words originates from stretching something out and having it hold under tension.[4]  With hoping in the Lord there is tension, between what we now experience, and what we believe He will do in our future.  It’s not easy.  In fact, it’s humanly impossible to wait under this tension.  That’s why the Spirit is given to us.  He helps us in our weakness as we live in God’s mercy and promises, in the space in time between the Word God speaks and its fulfillment.
Nevertheless, we are filled with hope and that gives us a heavenly outlook on our whole life.  Our heavenly Father will provide for us in all our immediate and passing needs, just as surely as He has salvation and an eternal hope to the whole creation.  So we are able to say, without sugar-coating it or ignoring the struggle, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”  In the Spirit’s strength, we press on toward this glory! Amen.
[1] Isaiah 11:6-9
[2] Psalm 146:5-9
[3] Psalm 42:5-6a
[4] קָוָה – “wait for (prob. orig. twist, stretch, then of tension of enduring, waiting)” – Brown Driver Briggs