Romans 8:12-21 Trinity Sunday
Elizabeth M. Deibert 31 May 2015
This has been a meaningful week in the Deibert household. Firstborn Emily returned to the USA from Switzerland and started Florida State College of Medicine on Tuesday. Rebecca spoke at her high school graduation on Thursday and is preparing for two mission trips, followed by college. Catherine got home on Tuesday from two weeks in Gabon, Africa, with the family, whose five year old boy has autism and Catherine assists with his speech and behavior modification. Catherine and her fiancé, Taylor were in town for the graduation and engagement party here. Andrew is home from college, and as he approaches senior year, we rejoice in the responsible and enjoyable adult he has become. By the way, thanks to all who helped with the party and to all who came. Whether you have been in our family’s life for one year or ten, we are grateful for the role you have played.
As I have been rather consumed with family events this week, Mickey Miller suggested that I might try a little New Testament church practice and open up the mike for anyone who is feeling moved by the Spirit to share a proclamation. Who is ready to preach the sermon today? Just kidding.
As we were spending lots of time with the family this week, I happened to notice that the scripture for today uses family language to speak of our relationship with the Godhead. In our lesson today, Paul calls us brothers and sisters. He says that all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. He says we are adopted by God. (slide) When we cry out for God’s fatherly help, the Spirit is telling our spirit that we are God’s children, joint heirs with Christ. We are not God’s fearful slaves but God’s beloved children, whom God chose. But we are called to suffer with Christ, in order to be glorified with Christ.
I was talking to the parents of Rebecca’s friend from 7th grade, the Lederers, who are also close friends to Patricia and Jordan. Dana and Don Lederer are like us, in that their last child is leaving the nest. I said to them, “Now is the time for us to focus on praying for our young adult children because we are not as involved in their day-to-day lives. They make their own choices now.
Richard has often prayed that God would wound their hearts with Divine love. Why would we pray that their hearts be wounded? Well, because apart from our woundedness, we don’t really get the point of life. We don’t see the glory that Romans 8 speaks of.
Hear these words of the Apostle Paul from the New Living Translation, because I thought it was a little more understandable than the New RSV translation that we usually read, especially as it uses the term “sinful nature” instead of the literal translation of “flesh.”
Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. 13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God's Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, "Abba, Father." 16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God's children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God's glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. 18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God's curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God's children in glorious freedom from death and decay. (NLT)
Your sinful nature is urging you to criticize others, to look down on them, to judge them, to gossip about them, and to ignore them. Your sinful nature is calling you to follow your impulses. If you feel impatient, you act impatient. If you feel irritable, you show it. If you find someone annoying, you write them off in your thoughts and treat them poorly, instead of finding a way to be kind, forgiving, and gently assertive about the problem between you.
Paul says by the power of the Spirit we can put to death our sinful nature and live. The gift of grace here is God’s Spirit, this adoption that we receive. This gift of adoption is easy for us to overlook, if we do not appreciate how significant it is. Think about adoption. It is a very deliberate choice. When you adopt a child, you complete piles of paperwork. You have decided to make the commitment, and you have chosen someone to love. It is an active choice to love – adoption. 1 John 3 teaches us that we are the children of God because of the love lavished upon us.
So our gift is knowing that God has chosen us. That God decided “yes, I love you. I am committed to you. I am for you. Toward the end of Romans 8, Paul says, if God is for us, who can be against us.” God chose the Israelites, by calling Abraham and Sarah. God chose the rest of humanity by deciding to be one with us. God came as Jesus Christ into the world to live with us, suffer with us, and transform creation.
The Spirit is given us to assure us that we are children of God, adopted, chosen, beloved. But the gift comes with expectation that we live accordingly. We are called to be God’s children by being led by the Spirit we have been given. My nephew and his wife adopted Lexie from China 18 months ago. Lexie is being nurtured and guided by the Dale family, so she acts like a Dale. She may have a very different appearance than her sisters who are blonde with blue eyes, but she is just as much a part of the Dale family because she was chosen. She was adopted in love.
Ephesians 1 reminds us of the blessing of our adoption by God. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5 He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, (NRS)
The Spirit nudges our spirit to live like we are part of the family of God. We can actually develop the skill of listening to and being led by the Spirit. So the Spirit is a gift, but our listening to the Spirit is a responsibility. Think about that word – response-ability. God takes the initiative with us always, but if we choose to ignore the Spirit in us, we can go our own way, at for a while. God give us the Spirit and invites us to pay attention and respond to that gift.
Ephesians 4:23-24 tell us to let the Spirit renew our thoughts and attitudes. Put on our new nature, created to be like God – truly righteous and holy. Do you believe that you can put on a new nature? That you can be truly righteous and holy? (slide)
Colossians chapter 3 says Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God's right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. It says, 12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony….And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. (NLT)
So it is not right for us to excuse ourselves from the challenging work of participating in our own sanctification. We are justified, adopted, but that justification, that adoption asks for a response. It calls on us to grow, to become like the family we are in.
We are adopted by the Holy Trinity. That means we are surrounded by perfect love in a Three-some, a Triune God, who dances in such perfect harmony, we cannot really escape. We can try to hide. We can try to ignore. But we can never completely escape the love of God.
Think of a child running away from the arms of one parent. Think of a child running between parents who are separate, who see things very differently.
But if there are three in charge of the world and all humanity, who are perfectly united, surrounding you with love, there really is no way out. And why would you want to be outside love divine, all loves excelling?
Romans 13 says, So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. 14…clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don't let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.
But back to Romans 8, the chapter we are considering today, Paul says, if we are heirs with Christ, we also have to share his suffering. That’s the part we don’t like. We all want to avoid the tough part.
None of us wants the hard work of suffering. Yet we know it is what leads to the glory. You do the hard work of making it through high school, you receive the glory of a graduation celebration. You do the hard work of parenting, you receive the glory of children growing up and becoming responsible adults.
You do the hard work of a career, you receive the glory of a retirement. You do the hard work of marriage, you receive the glory of a lifetime together. You do the hard work of exercise, you receive the glory of a healthier body. You do the hard work of planting trees, shrubs, flowers or vegetables, you receive the glory of beauty around you. You do the hard work of being a caring, listening friend, you receive the glory of a deepening friendship. You have to do the hard work. The gift of glory is there, but not without suffering. Sometimes lots of suffering and painful failures. But the suffering is not worth comparing to the glory, this eighth chapter of Romans says.
(slide) God, the holy Trinity, who walked on earth as Christ the Son, who adopted us as Father, who enables us to grow as we listen to the Spirit teaches us thus: Love is not love without suffering. There is no glory of resurrection without the agony of suffering death.
No matter what you think of the politics or the loose tongue of our Vice President Joe Biden, you must say he has had his share of suffering. Losing his wife and daughter years ago in a car accident many years ago and now losing his 46 year old son Beau to brain cancer.
In the midst of suffering, the creation waits with eager longing for the day when the glory will be revealed in the children of God. We wait for the suffering to be over. It’s hard, but we do not suffer alone. If you read the rest of Romans 8 this afternoon, you will see that even when we suffer so deeply we cannot give words to our grief, the Spirit prays with us with groans too deep for words. For nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. We are adopted by the Trinity, filled with the Spirit, called to live as brothers and sisters of Christ, that we might bring honor to the One Jesus called Abba, Father.