Seventh Sunday after Pentecost Sermon 2020
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
How many of you like to wait? Guess what… I do not like to wait. In fact, I find it is hard to wait. For example: It is hard to wait in line at the grocery store. It is hard to wait for our name to be called at the clinic. It is hard to wait to open Christmas presents. It is hard to wait for dessert to be served. It is hard to wait for someone to stop talking so that we can finally talk. It is just plain hard to wait.
It is especially hard to wait when we suffer. It is hard to wait when we are told that the lab results will be coming in a few days. It is hard to wait when we are receiving a treatment and do not know what the outcome will be. It is hard to wait when we are experiencing chronic pain. It is hard to wait for a pandemic to end. For most of us, it is just really hard to wait.
So, it should come as no surprise when I tell you that it is also hard to wait for the Last Day to come. Our text from Romans states: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18).
Here we are living in a world of sin and brokenness, holding on to a promise that Jesus will return, and it is just not easy. It is especially hard because it seems like we have waited long enough and suffered long enough. It has been two thousand years.
And I know that God informs us in His calendar a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. Well, in God’s time, isn’t two days long enough? It is just so hard to wait.
I have yet to find anyone who really appreciates waiting. I have yet to find someone who says, yeah, I am a really patient person. I have often joked that when God was passing out patience, God skipped me. As Phyllis and I have often said “Lord, Give Me Patience, and Give It to Me Right Now!
I think many of you feel the same way.
When we have to wait, and when we are suffering in the process, our natural response is to groan. Let me ask you this… are you familiar with groaning? And have you ever heard someone else groan before?
Parents are probably familiar with the groan that comes from their children when their children do not get their way. Probably the all-time favorite groan is this… “Awww, do I have to?” But children are not the only people who groan. Adults groan too. A groan is a deep sound uttered in disapproval. Adults moan and groan about the weather, and work, and about countless other situations beyond human control.
Groaning has this negative connotation to it. But is that the only form of groaning in our world?
In our text, we hear that creation groans. The Spirit groans. But there is a different ‘tone’ to the ‘groan’ that is going on here that Paul highlights for us.
First, we hear that creation groans. “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.” (Romans 8:19-22).
Long before we were born, in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve fell into sin. We are all familiar with the story. The serpent came and deceived them; and they ate the forbidden fruit. Then, the serpent was cursed, then came the promise of a Savior from the offspring of Eve who would crush the head of the serpent, then came the pain in childbirth, and lastly came the curse of the ground. Ever since that day, creation has been groaning.
But it is not a groaning like we hear in our everyday situations. The groan of creation is rather a groan of longing. It is a noise discharged in hope with excited anticipation. One commentator stated that the groan is like the pains of childbirth, where the mother endures great pain and looks forward to the joy of holding her child once the intense labor has drawn to a close. It is looking forward to finally being set free from bondage and corruption. That kind of a groan.
As we look around, we see the world in decay; extreme weather, earthquakes, viruses, social unrest, broken relationships, economic uncertainty; these are but the groanings of a creation that just cannot wait for the Last Day to come.
They are reminders to us that as we wait, for the time of Christ’s return, it is drawing closer with each passing moment.
Our text also says that ‘we’ groan. It says, “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. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:23-25).
All of us need to feel like we belong. All of us need the physical touch of other people. All of us need other people to live healthy lives. All of us, long to be chosen, to be adopted into the family of God, and not left as orphans to fend for ourselves. We long to be fed at the table of a Father who loves us beyond measure. We long to have someone who will hear us and answer the groans that we let out as we wait in this world.
And we can all attest that it does hurt. Some of us are grieving right now as loved ones have gone to be with the Lord. Some are filled with loneliness, especially during this time of pandemic as we isolate ourselves from each other.
Some are suffering physically. Some, spiritually. Some, mentally. We just cannot wait for the day when the redemption of our bodies will be here. We just cannot wait to look up into the clouds and see Jesus descending, to hear the voice of the archangel and the sound of the trumpet of God, and then realize that from that moment on we will always be with our Lord.
This is our hope in this world of sin and suffering. But it is not a vain hope. This hope was secured for us in the water and Word of our Baptism. The book of Hebrews describes the hope that we groan for with great anticipation, to be a sure and certain hope. It is an accomplished hope.
It was accomplished by Jesus who groaned on our behalf on the cross. Think of how he must have groaned with longing and eager anticipation as He bled and died on the cross. Think of how He must have groaned as He willingly subjected Himself to the wrath of God against sin. Think of how He must have groaned as He let out His last breath, and in doing so, swallowed up death, once and for all.
But His groaning was not in vain.
Our Father in heaven accepted His perfect sacrifice, and after three days in the grave, He was raised back to life. Raised to bring hope to our hurting hearts…raised to bring healing to our suffering selves… raised to declare that our death does not have the final say. And now we await the day of our resurrection with great and eager groaning, both for creation and for us.
And we do not wait alone. Our text 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. 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.” (Romans 8:26-27).
When we pray “my will be done,” the spirit changes our prayer to “thy will be done.” When we do not have the words to pray, the Spirit prays for us. When we are confronted with trials and tribulations, the Spirit is with us to help us endure the heartaches of this life.
When we are confronted with a deadly pandemic, the Spirit is there to redirect our groans back to God so that we might patiently await Christ’s return.
Scripture informs us that on that glorious day, our waiting will come to an end. Creation will be restored, and our groanings will be replaced with shouts of joy as we behold a new heaven and new earth, a place where all tears will be wiped away, a place where death will be no more, a place where there will be no more mourning, or crying, or pain. And we will rejoice as we dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
In the meantime, we wait. But one day, our waiting will come to an end. Until then may the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
Let us pray: Merciful God, you know our anguish, not from a far, but in the suffering of Jesus Christ. Take all our grieving and sorrow, all our pain and tears, and heal us according to your promises in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.