Mini Sermon #57
The subject of our “Mini Sermon,” Romans 8:22-27, will serve as the First Lesson at Florence Congregational this Sunday. Hope to see you there!
We move to Paul’s Letter to the Romans, which is perhaps the most well-known of his letters. Paul is writing to Christians in diaspora—or Christians who live outside of Israel. We know, just by looking at the title, that this particular letter (or epistle) is written to new Christians in and around Rome, the center of the Empire.
These Christians, moreover, are newly converted Jews. They would have separate difficulties and questions than Greeks who would convert to Christianity, as Greeks and Jews have separate backgrounds and, therefore, differently questions and concerns when navigating their new lives as Christians.
We can learn from these letters because although we might not have the same exact questions in our faith as we come from different cultures, we can learn from the struggles of early Christians—how they coped, how they grew, how they persisted—and draw strength from their difficulties and potential triumphs.
A Different World Order
We begin our reading with very evocative language of the earth giving birth. The earth here is endowed with consciousness. The earth longs for sin’s dominion to broken, for decay and death to be gone away with, and for the Glory of God to be forever present.
If we think back to creation, nature was created from the void—a living and chaotic thing in pre-Christian times. It doesn’t take too much imagination to view it as living still.
Also, nature has no free will—unlike humanity. It did not fall from choice. It fell and became enslaved due to humanity’s neglect. Why would nature not long for God? Why would it not long to be free? We possess the Spirit—we have our salvation—but nature? This beautiful world that God gave? What does nature have?
It might also be good to take a moment to realize that nature, that earth, in the Roman religion was a thinking entity. The Jews, albeit followers of the One God, would have been influenced by this thought pattern through Hellenization. Paul would have been more than aware of this and used this thinking (as a Hellenized Jew himself) to his advantage.
A New Hope
All is not lost, however. Paul is forever the optimist and reminds his pen pals that there is always hope. We are not stuck in sin. We are ready for adoption by God. We must have patience. We must remember that we cannot see Christ, but he is nonetheless as real as the most beautiful piece of nature here on earth. Hope is the answer. With hope anything is possible and with patience, we will fortitude to see our hope realized.
I Say A Little Prayer for You
The next section of our reading has to do with prayer. Our weakness, as we hope and as we wait, is that we do not know how to pray.
I’m sure many of us, especially as children, have had this difficulty.
I remember, as a child myself, creating long lists of things and people to pray for because I didn’t want to leave anything out! Sometimes my prayers would last well over five minutes. I would often get stuck on trying to remember all of my beanie babies’ names. We’ve all been there and we’ve all done something rather similar. Now, while I have been rather cute (or at least I hope I was), I didn’t quite understand how to pray at the age of six and that all of my beanie baby cats didn’t need to be prayed for individually because they were toys. This is just an example.
I needed, of course, my parents to intervene on occasion.
Well, Paul writes that in these cases, when we can’t figure out how to pray, the Spirit often intercedes “with sighs too deep for words.” You can imagine such sighs as you may have sighed yourself in such a way, maybe not over prayer, but over something else such as something going wrong in a kitchen.
God the Father, hand in hand with the Spirit, searches our heart, so that he knows our hearts and knows our prayers even if we can’t articulate them.
That is how greatly we are loved. That is how we are helped until we get off our prayer-training wheels and learn to ride our metaphorical prayer bicycle.
Our passage today included small bits and pieces of advice from Paul the Apostle to the Romans. Perhaps you found something interesting in there, something that you could relate to, or made sense to your life right now. Perhaps it was just a learning too.
Whatever it may have been, may the Spirit move with you, may Jesus Christ guide you, and may God the Father look over you.