13 July 2017

Today’s Homily

Prayer and Preaching, p. 260

Reading: Romans 8

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to [literally, in] us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 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. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

Catechism: from the Third Article

On the last day he (the Holy Spirit) will raise all the dead and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

To have the firstfruits of the Spirit is to join in creation's groaning, but also to join in creation's way of groaning. There is a way of groaning that is not of creation; but comes from the evil one, the master of discontent and father of lies. There is a groaning that is soaked in gloom and drowns in despair. 

That is not the groaning of creation, nor the groaning of those who have the first fruits. 

Luther correctly noted that the devil is a sad and gloomy spirit. 

St. Peter says that he's always like a roaring lion looking for chow. And how does a gloomy spirit eat? By swallowing up all your joy, devouring all your hope, and filling YOU with his own gloominess, despair, sadness, emptiness. That's how he eats you up from the inside out until finally there's nothing left but bones, and he goes on gnawing on those for a while too.

Philips, in his remarkably insightful paraphrase of the NT, notes the difference with creation's groaning, and so ours: "The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own." 

It's the groaning of little children on Christmas morn: "Can we open the presents yet?" The groaning of the parents, walking back and forth to the door, to see if kids and grandkids have arrived yet. The groaning of the bride as she paces in the back with her father: Is it time to walk down the aisle yet? Or, more at the text, the groaning of the mother in childbirth: real groan, real pain, hurts horribly, and yet she is focused on what waits on the other side. The baby she will hold in her arms.

Creation like a mother, waiting to give birth to resurrection: waiting to see the glory of God's children on the other side of the sorrow and the pain and seemingly interminable slogging. Waiting to see you shining in the glory of adoption; the glory that is already hiding inside you by the Spirit then blazing forth through your very flesh. 

If your groaning has been on the Satanic side which always manifests itself in the invariable gloom to gripe move, St. Paul invites you to get some perspective this morning. 

Listen to how Philips renders Paul: "In my opinion whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared to the glorious future God has planned for us." Whatever you have to go through now. Whatever. Less than nothing compared to where you are headed, to what God has planned and readied for you. 

The first-fruits of the Spirit sort of groaning thus manifests itself in the groan to praise move (remember this is Romans 8 and you remember how the whole chapter or better the whole first 8 chapters sweeps up into the grand doxology that nothing, absolutely nothing in the whole creation will ever be able to drive a wedge between God's love in Christ and you). Nothing. Nothing.

Perspective is something you can't gain, though, when your eyes are on you, which is where the devil likes you to keep them. Perspective is something you only gain when you look up and look out and look away. This is the path our Lord trod: "Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross." And that joy that was His that sustained Him and got Him through? Knowing that on the other side of this agony was bringing you out of death into life, out of exile home, out of alienation back to the sonship God planned for you from before creation began. Or more with today's text: out of the bondage of corruption and into the glorious freedom of God's children. 

As Philips again nailed it: "And the hope is that in the end the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God!" To accomplish that Jesus goes to His cross and to deliver that living hope into you Jesus sends You His Spirit, the firstfruits; that's how your Jesus takes that finger of His (remember Luke has finger where Matthew has Spirit; the Spirit as the Lord's finger) that drives out the demon with its inwards gaze and lifts your chin up and into His eyes. Eyes brimming with love, and the shame melts, but then He turns you around to see with Him what WILL be and you gasp at the beauty of it. Now? Now? Not yet. But soon.

And your very groaning, awwwwww, is then transformed as your eyes are peeled to the eastern skies and you see the first glimmers and realize that the day is about to dawn and the sun will rise with healing in His wings and you will go out leaping like calves from the stall: there'll be joy in the morning on that day. And I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Look for, expect, ache for. Because it will be Jesus on that day and the triumph of love. And meanwhile you wait and watch and hope and and groan and you realize the whole creation is on tiptoe with you and all who have the first fruits of the spirit. Together we whisper an aching prayer by the Spirit: "Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly!" Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

913 O Holy Spirit, Enter In


Alex, Amy, Allan and Jan

Short term missionary team, Living Faith Lutheran in Clive IA in Kenya


Anonymous said...

Wonderful homily. Thank you. We do have reason to be joyful in all circumstances because our Lord has won the victory for us. Not many goim know this, but He rose from the dead on the Feast of the First Fruits, the day after the end of Passover. Certainly, Rabbi Saul, whom we know as St. Paul, was thinking of this when he wrote, 1 Cor. 15:20, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
But to end with “O Holy Spirit, enter in, and in our hearts your work begin …”? Nobody could have written that homily without the Holy Spirit having already entered in. I recall some involvement of the Holy Spirit in Baptism, so that would really have been quite a while ago. He is only beginning His work now?
Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

William Weedon said...

Dear George,

Thank you for the kind words and the thoughts on the hymn. I have to confess: I chose the hymn with thinking I remembered what the text was and I was wrong! I should know better than to rely on my memory of where this or that starts and stops in a chapter. Not that you’d approve of the hymn for any of Romans 8!

But I thought as I wrote the homily, boy I wish we were singing “The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns.” Lovely text, lovely tune, and right in line with looking for the dawn!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Will, for your gracious response.
Some time ago I started to go through the Lutheran Service Book systematically to read the texts of our hymns. Out of the first 100 or so, I discovered about 10% had words that I do not believe should be sung by believing Lutherans. In the process I also marked with an “X” those hymns which I thought expressed the Gospel, and the assurance of our salvation particularly well. #348, The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns, has one of those “X”-s, as does its predecessor, 347, Comfort, Comfort Ye My People. But already by #350, Come Thou Precious Ransom, Come, verse 2 has these words, which I do not sing: “Enter now my waiting heart, …” and “Ah what riches will be mine, When Thou art my guest divine.” And #354, Arise, O Christian People, says this in v. 4: “Come now to dwell within me.”
Are these harmless expressions of pious sentimentality, or do they misrepresent what God has said about His relationship with us?
Peace and Joy!