“All Things Working Together”

27 July 2014

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches

 

Romans 8:26-39

 

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

 

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

 

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 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.

 

Prayer.

 

What is your greatest fear?

Is it the death of a spouse, a son or daughter?

Is it drowning, a house fire, unemployment?

Is it cancer, Alzheimer’s, being victimized, or dependency?

What is your greatest fear?

 

As you think about this;

a short story-

 

Ted had just been married to Alice,

settled into their new home,

invited his mother to join them,

and started his professional life that would take him to Albany

where he assumed his role as a State Representative.

As a true reformer

and filled with youthful exuberance for life,

he often offended the establishment.

Yet, when news of the birth of his first daughter reached him in the House chambers,

friend and foe alike responded with an enthusiastic round of applause.

Within hours of accolade came the urgent plea to immediately return home.

Teddy came to the side of Alice

to find that although the birth was uncomplicated,

something had gone wrong soon thereafter

and she was hanging precariously onto life.

The silence of the grim scene was broken

by the unrelenting coughing and gasping from his mother’s upstairs room,

where physicians were treating her for tuberculosis,

which was common in that day.

Within hours

both Teddy’s wife and mother died.

The anguish so overwhelmed him

that he gave his daughter to his sister to raise

and never spoke of Alice again.

Never.

Teddy Roosevelt suffered his greatest defeat.

(Thanks to: “The Bully Pulpit,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin)

 

What is your greatest fear?

 

The worst time to go searching for answers is in the midst of crisis.

First responders know this all too well.

The last thing they want to get caught saying is, “we never thought of that.”

Such is true for the life of faith.

I can’t begin to tell you

of the number of hospital rooms or conference rooms I’ve entered

Where patient or family break down in tears

Asking “how is this possible?”

“What did I ever do to deserve this?”

“Why is God taking my wife/husband/daughter/son?”

The worst time to seek answers is in the midst of crisis.

Preplanning is the better strategy.

It makes a lot more sense to spend a life time of building up faith,

Deepening faith,

Exploring faith

Before calling upon faith in the midst of disaster.

 

The Apostle Paul was attempting to mature the faith

Of his church in Rome

When he wrote the words we heard proclaimed this morning from Romans.

Written approximately twenty years after Christ’s passion, death, resurrection, and ascension

Paul is laying the groundwork throughout his letter

To advance individual faith,

To speak about God’s fidelity to humankind

Through covenant, law, redemption, and salvation.

Paul is attempting to grow people deep;

Leading them forward in their spiritual journey,

Drawing them ever closer to Jesus Christ.

Better to know the writings of Paul today

Than to go searching for answers in the Bible tomorrow.

 

Paul had firsthand experience when it came to suffering, sin, and death.

He knew the depth of crisis

that his members and friends in Rome would soon be facing.

There would come a time when members of his beloved flock

Would become like him, when struck down on the road to Damascus:

So filled with despair,

Overwrought with grief,

So filled with remorse,

So completely overwhelmed by catastrophe,

That it would be impossible to speak even a single, solitary word.

 

Know this, Paul assures,

When you don’t have words,

The Holy Spirit will speak with God for you.

The Spirit will intercede on your behalf.

“The Spirit intercedes precisely at the point

where, he or she, faced with the ruin and misery of the world,

finds that there are no words left to express

in God’s presence

the sense of futility

and the longing for redemption.”

(“The New Interpreter’s Bible,” volume on Romans)

 

“Both creature and creation have been infused with God’s Spirit.”

(“Preaching the New Common Lectionary: Year A,” Craddock, Hayes, Holladay, Tucker)

Paul knew, from his personal experience,

That God was not only the God of creation,

But that God was also the God who chose to live in it.

In simpler words,

God created you.

God loves you.

And God is pulling for you.

 

God created each of us from the dust of stars

And breathed life into our lungs.

Who can’t marvel at the miracle of birth?

Of life; not only life as a biological organism,

But life as the divinely created intersection

of body, consciousness, and soul?

This awareness was rooted in the Apostle Paul,

Proclaimed to his people in Rome,

And is shared with us today.

 

Never forget whose you are,

Who has claimed you,

And who is calling you.

Because each of us are God’s own

We are called to live in His image,

We are led to improve our fidelity to and love of God all of our days,

That we might, therefore, live in the promise of His glory.

 

God loves you.

And there isn’t anything you can do about it;

Except love Him back.

God’s love for you began before you were born,

Spills into you

every day of your life,

And one day,

That love will be made complete

When you are welcomed home.

 

Love is good.

“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God.”

(Romans 8:28)

The old saying, “Everything will work out in the end”

Is a glossing over of an incomplete understanding of Paul.

What would be better

Would be to love God back.

Love God just as God loves you,

With all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.

When we reciprocate God’s love for us

Then

All things work together for good,

Even when,

Especially when,

We are facing the crisis of our lives.

 

You can’t be bad enough, Paul assures us,

To separate yourself from God’s love.

Life can’t serve you up your worst fears,

To cut you off from God’s intervention in your life.

God’s in your business,

So get used to it.

God knows your personal affairs,

So get over it.

No hardship, distress, persecution or famine;

No poverty, peril, or violent act

Is able to cast you out from God’s love.

(Paraphrase of Romans 8:35)

God so loves you that he sent his Son to be your Savior.

When there is nothing left in the world that can save you

- no cure, no relief, no job, no family, no hope –

There is Jesus.

You don’t even need to ask;

The Spirit intercedes on your behalf.

 

God is pulling for you.

“If God is for us, who is against us?”

Paul so eloquently proclaims.

(Romans 8:31)

A while back

I called on an individual in the hospital.

He was struggling with his faith.

The hospitalization was long.

The future uncertain.

The poking, prodding, and unrelenting pain

Had undercut his confidence,

Led him to depression,

And was dangerously close to leading him to despair.

We are all aware of our mortality.

At the same time it is easy to become completely disabled by fear

When looking death straight in the eye.

Romans 8 came to mind.

“If God is for you, who is against you?” I asked.

God is greater than any conspirator,

Greater than the devil himself.

God is greater than any mortal wound or disease;

He demonstrated this fact with the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ.

God wins all the time.

God’s win is your win:

Over sin,

Over death,

Over anything else any of us might fear in this world.

 

What is your greatest fear?

The day may be coming when your greatest fear will be realized.

So grow the faith deep today.

Walk closer with God.

Return God’s love with praise and thanks.

The God who created you

loves you.

The God who loves you

Works on your behalf.

May each of us return God’s favor.

Amen.