September 10, 2017 – 11th Sunday after Pentecost
by Pastor Pete Scheele
Read Romans 8:18 – 39
Grace and peace to you as we rally together around God’s Word, from God, our Father, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today is Rally Sunday, the Sunday that we come together to give thanks to God for the Sunday School Students and Teacher who have come to learn about God and all that He has done for us. Today we come to rally together to encourage and support each other in our struggles in this world so that we can continue to fight the battle of bring others to the saving love, peace and joy of God. Rally, the coming together for a common purpose of recovering and reviving ourselves to achieve a common goal. Our goal is to bring others to God’s love, peace and joy so that we all can live together with God.
So, what is your goal in this world? For some, it is to get the most out of our years of life thaw we have here in this world. For others, it is to enjoy all the experiences that you can have here in this world. And still for others, it is to accumulate the most precious things in this world. But there is a horrible problem with all of these goals and that is this world. You see, as Christians we know that this is not the world that God created us to live in. This world is not home! And because this is not the home that God created us to live in, our goals need to be focused beyond what is going on in this world and looking forward to a better world that God, our Creator, has made for us to live in with Him.
That’s why we rally together today, to be encouraged and strengthened in our battle with all the problems of this world, as we look forward to the perfect world that God has prepared for us. That’s what the Apostle Paul is talking about as he says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Rom 8:18 – 21)
The world that we live in right now is really messed up, with people who are only looking after themselves and not looking forward to what is coming. This is the way we have become because of our sins and not the way that our loving God created us to live in His love, peace and joy. Our Sin also has had an effect on the very nature of the world that we now live in and we can see it in the natural disasters that happen because of storms, like Harvey and Irma, or earth quakes, like the ones in Mexico, or the droughts and fires that we find in other parts of the world or just because our lack of care for all that God has given to us. Our world is not perfect and people get hurt, property gets destroyed, that’s the way of our world, we might say to ourselves but it’s not the world God want us to live in forever. That’s what the Apostle Paul is talking about as he goes on to say, “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Rom 8:21-23)
In the midst of the battles that we face each and every day in our lives, we need to rally around God’s Word so that we can be encouraged and strengthened by the Holy Spirit as we wait patiently for the time when we will be taken home. That’s right, we’re not home yet, as we travel in this world but we are not alone either and that’s why it is so important to rally together as we are today to encourage and strengthen each other in the hope of a better life, a life filled with God’s love, peace and joy forever. This is the hope that the Apostle Paul is talking about as he tells us, “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope 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 wait for it with patience.” (Rom 8:24-25)
Mankind is sinful and cannot love his neighbor on his own, but we also know that all mankind is made for love. The world that we live in is filled with problems, disasters and chaos but we also know, through God’s Word, that there is more to life than what this world can give to us. So, we come to rally around God’s Word to reform our live from the unfairness, suffering and death that we see in this world to the hope of love, peace and joy that only God can give to us. We come today to rally around God’s Word and ask God to go to work in our lives as the Apostle Paul reminds us to do as he says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” (Rom. 8:26 – 28)
We’re not home yet, but we are not alone either as we face all the trials of this world and wait patiently for the time when God will take us through all the good-byes, the unemployment, the cancers of this world, and yes even death, to give us a hope that is not in this world but in our heavenly home with Him. As we wait patiently, God is working in our lives to reform us to His love, peace and joy so that we can share it with others. The Apostle Paul explains it this way, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His Own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:31 – 32)
No matter how isolated you might feel this morning you’re not alone. You are at a rally of fellow believers and this rally is centered around God’s love through God’s Word. As we look at the cross we are brought to the love, peace and joy of God, not found in this world but through God’s Word. God’s love is a relentless love that goes beyond anything that we can imagine. God’s love shows us our sins and shows us a Savior who is greater than all our sins. God’s love crashes into the darkness of this world and gives us an eternal light to guide us home. God’s love reach all the way to this place, to this moment, to each and every one of us and because of Jesus’ perfect life in this world, His death on the cross to pay for all our sins and His resurrection, nothing can separate us from God’s love. The Apostle Paul explains it this way, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:33 – 39)
The year was 1521 and Martin Luther was standing before the Emperor Charles the 5th. Luther was asked to recant all that he has written about God’s Word. Martin knew that the Emperor could arrest him and burn him at the stake if he did not recant all that he had written but he still said, “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I can do no more. May God help me. Amen.”
Later that day, though Luther was promised clear passage back to Wittenberg, he knew that as soon as he left the city of Worms his life was in danger of being kidnapped and killed. As Luther was traveling along the way to Wittenberg a group of horsemen came upon his group and blindfolded him and took him away. Before Emperor Charles the 5th could send his arm to arrest Luther, Prince Fredrick had sent his men to capture Luther and hide him in the Wartburg castle for three years. Though it seemed like He was all alone with the world against him, Luther found the true meaning of what the Apostle Paul is telling us, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38 – 39)
Today we come to rally around God’s Word just as Martin Luther rally the people of Germany around God’s Word in the 16th century. Today we stand as Luther did 500 years ago on Faith Alone, Grace Alone and Scripture Alone and we can do no more! May God help us. Amen.