Wednesday, 24 May 2017

We have hope

18 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 of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; 23 and not only the creation but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 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.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. 27 And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Romans 8:18-27

It is difficult not to read Paul's words (verse 18) without thinking of what happened in Manchester recently with the senseless killing of 22 people - many of them children - by a 22-year-old who blew himself up in the process. Here Paul reminds us that as beautiful and wonderful as life can be, there is darkness mixed in with the light. There is always the presence of suffering in one form or another, whether that is the suffering caused by war or terror, or the suffering of illness or old age.

But, as Christians, we live in hope:
First, that what we are seeing now, is not all that it is meant to be; what God intended. And so Paul talks about the present creation "waiting in eager longing" for the new creation God is going to bring about, and which one day will be revealed in all its glory. At the moment we are all subject to a "bondage to decay" (verse 21) which leads to death. But creation is looking forward in hope, and as it does it "groans inwardly" - or as one translation puts it - "in travail".

The picture is one of a woman in labour, struggling with the pain and effort of bringing a new baby into the world. For now, there is struggle and agony, but it is not in vain, for what will come will be qa joyful and glorious new life.  There will be a death, but there will also be a resurrection.

Second, we live in hope because we as Christians were saved in hope. In other words, we know that although the "wages of sin is death" (Romans 3:23) - which is the consequence of living in a world affected by sin and decay - yet by faith we can receive the "free gift of God" which is life in Christ Jesus. And it is "In this hope", writes Paul, that "we were saved" (verse 24).

Because of Jesus we know that death is not the end, that evil will not have the last word, and God will raise up his people, and his creation, to new life.

That is the glorious vision John the Apostle has in Revelation 21:1-6:

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.......And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 'He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Lastly, we as Christians, by our faith and our lives, are meant to be signs of this coming new creation. We are, says Paul "the first fruits of the Spirit" (verse 23). We are light bearers and hope bringers. We know the power of the Spirit in our own lives for "the Spirit helps us in our weakness" (verse 26). He 'intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words" (verse 26b), when we have no words to say. And through our interaction with the Spirit, we come to know with assurance the mind and the will of God for us and for all (verse 27).

Listening to the news over the past few days, the word that kept cropping up in the comments, messages, poems, speeches and songs in response to what happened, was the word 'love'. And that is true as we saw wonderful examples of people helping others. But another important word is 'hope'. We need hope, the hope that one day evil will be judged and eradicated, and the love of God will ultimately triumph over death, suffering and the evil we saw in actions of that one individual and the ideology that persuaded him that wat he did was somehow pleasing to God.
(Talk given at midweek service in St. James, Uplands 24th May 2017)

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