November 19 – 24th Sunday After Pentecost
by Pastor Pete Scheele
Read Romans 15:1 – 13
Grace and peace to you as you share the hope of God with others, from God our Father, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
A city slicker moved to a farm and bought a cow. Shortly afterwards, the cow went dry. The farmer who had sold him the cow got word of this and expressed his surprise. The city man said he was surprised too. “I can’t understand it, for if a person ever was considerate of an animal, I was considerate of that cow. If I didn’t need any milk, I didn’t milk her. If I only needed a quart, I took only a quart.” The farmer then had to explain to the city fellow that the only way to keep milk flowing is not to take as little as possible from the cow, but to take as much as possible.
The Apostle Paul in 15th chapter of Romans is encouraging each of us to take as much as possible of the Hope of God given to us through Jesus Christ as He says: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Rom 15: 13)
We however do not always overflow in the hope of Christ, because of our sinful nature, we are more often ready to be disappointed, agitated and perplexed with our life. In fact, our sinful flesh delights in being this way. That is, only taking some of what God has offered to us, when our need is for more of the hope of Christ to flow out to us, to overflow from us onto those around us. The Apostle Paul says this abundant hope comes from believing. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing.” (Rom. 15:13a) Our hope comes only through the faith given to us by the Holy Spirit working in our lives through God’s Word and Sacraments. The hope in Christ overflows from us as we continue to let the Holy Spirit work in our live through God’s Word and Sacraments and share it with others.
Often the world gives us other sources of hope. It tells us that things will get better when are enemies are dead; when the economy is on the rise once again; when we get well again. The world that we live in wouldn’t suggest waiting for anything but rather to run from here to there – to a new job, a better location, a different doctor, a different church, or to no church at all, to find what is needed for our life. Where is your source of hope? If it is only keeping you on the run here and there, rather than waiting for the true source of hope that comes to you, you have something to think about. The world tells us to run after our source of hope, while the Bible tells us that the true source of hope is here with us now and is coming to take us to be with Him forever.
Martin Luther in preaching on these words of God in Romans reminds us “not in works, not in any other things, but purely in the hope of Christ does the heart of man rejoice in this world as it looks forward to what is coming. The one who seeks to find joy apart from this hope in Christ will labor much but will labor in vain.” Luther goes on to remind us of the Bible story of the Samaritan woman who went from doctor to doctor for 12 years, spending all she had until she met Jesus and then with just a touch and some faith she was healed. Luther adds: “this happens also to those who run here and there with their troubled conscience, now consult these folks and then consult those folks, now do this and then do that, try everything in order to quiet their heart but do not seek the hope found in Christ which gives rest to the soul and rest to all that is within them.”
The world that we live in tells us to put our hope in the things of this world so that we can be strong in our self. The Apostle Paul tells us, ‘We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.  For Christ did not please Himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on Me’” (Rom 15:1 –3)
Our strength does not come from ourselves and therefore should not be kept to our self. Instead our strength come from God alone and is given to others so that they can be strengthened and built up like Christ built us up through His Word and Sacraments. The Apostle Paul uses the word ‘We’ instead of ‘you’ or ‘each one of us,’ like he has been using throughout the rest of the book of Romans. The ‘We’ in this passage is the congregation that God has brought us to be a part of, so that we can be strengthened in the Hope of Christ so that our hope can be shared with others. The Apostle Paul in writing to the Ephesians tells us, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” (Eph. 6:10-13)
Together with Christ we became strong because Christ took all our weaknesses, our sins, upon Himself and destroyed them by suffering the pains of death on the Cross of Calvary for us and then rising again of the third day to give us a new hope, an everlasting hope. The strength of our faith and love of God doesn’t depend on you or me, it all depends of God working in our lives to enable us to grow and become stronger in our faith and love of God. This is done through God’s Word and Sacrament and as we share that love and hope we have been given through the Holy Spirit working in us with others.
As a congregation of believers in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit we are given the hope of Christ through God’s Word, Baptism and Holy Communion. The Apostle Paul reminds us, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.  May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,  that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Rom 15: 4 – 7)
We are fighting against an enemy that is stronger than any of us can ever be, so God gave us a community of believers to help us when we have lost the hope or are short on the abounding Love of God given to us. We are to work as a team with one another giving encouragement when the darkness of the world is blocking the hope and light of God’s love for us. We encourage each other so that we can endure the old Evil Foe by growing in the Word of God that proclaims the victory that He has won over our enemies, that gives us the hope we are looking forward to living in now and forever. With one voice, we give God the glory for the victory He has won for us over all present darkness in our lives and against the spiritual forces of evil that at plotting against us.
It is God’s Word that enables us to take another step forward when it seems like the whole world is against us. It is the encouragement from others that believe in the hope of Christ that we receive as we read about God’s people in the past that enables us to see past what is going through in our lives today to look forward with hope for a better tomorrow. As we meet together in God’s Word and Sacraments we receive the strength that we need to meet the trials and problems of this world. Through God’s Word and the encouragement of others God is building up our endurance to face the trials and problems of tomorrow with the assurance that God will be with us just as He is with us today. God wants us to have the endurance to make it through all the problems and difficulties of this world today so that we can live in the peace and joy of God’s Love now and for all eternity.
The Apostle Paul tells us, “For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs,  and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy.” (Rom. 15:8-9) From the moment of the first sin that destroyed our perfect life in the Garden of Eden God has shown us His truthfulness in order to confirm the promises that He has given to us, the Hope of Christ. That’s the encouragement we need to keep our eyes and thoughts upon, because the Hope of Christ given to us gives us a different attitude about life now and in the future. It might seem like it’s an awful lot to endure but that’s the whole reason that the Apostle Paul is reminding us that we who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. (Rom. 15:1) Yes, together in the encouragement of God’s Word with the strength given to us by the Holy Spirit working though His Word and Sacraments we are able to endure and we, as a congregation, can pray with the Apostle Paul, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Rom 15: 13)
The Hope of Christ can abound in your life if you only let God product it for you. That’s right, done be satisfied with a little hope or enough hope for now, but abound in the Hope of Christ so that it will overflow from your life to those around you and to the ends of the world, for as it changes your life it can change the world we live in as we share it with one another. Amen.