Have you ever had a conversation with a friend that had you excited about the future as you talked, only to turn into negativity and despair?
That’s the way I felt about moving into this passage today….. After all…..last week in Chapter 8 of Romans we came away on a high didn’t we?
“Nothing can separate us from the Love of God”
To these words today: at the beginning of Chapter 9 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit— 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.
What happened between vs 39 of chapter 8 verse 1 of Chapter 9?
What is going on here in Paul? Some scholars believe that Paul would have been much better off going from Romans 8, skipping chapters 9-11 straight to Romans 12 for a much better flow of his message to the church in Rome.
From: Nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord….to… I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, on the basis of God’s mercy, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable act of worship.
2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.
I have a confession to make……Romans was one of the hardest classes for me in seminary. You might have thought it might be systematic theology of hermeneutics….but it was Romans…. I could not understand the flow of Paul’s theology…..his consistent run on sentences that would drive an English teacher crazy…and his lack of flow of thought that would somehow make logical sense.
So rather than try to explain this which puzzles most scholars in the commentaries I have read,
As a good fill in preacher this morning knowing that our pastor, a New Testament scholar, who chose this series in Romans, I’m going to leave that explanation up to him next week as he continues in Chapter 9 of Romans.
But I wonder this morning if this verse of Paul, My heart is full of anguish and sorrow describes you in your life this morning?
Life is full of heartbreak isn’t it?
For Paul, in verse 3 he describes what that heartbreak is….he has been abandoned by his family…..his spiritual family..after all, He a jew, transformed on the road to Damascus by a blinding light…. a man who was changed by Jesus and his life giving truth of love and grace. And called to share that good news with first the jews and then the gentiles…a Gospel for all……being rejected. It was breaking his heart. To the point in vs 3 that he was willing to give up his life with Christ…..
What or who is breaking your heart today?
For us it might be all about the big and small….things within your own family from daily disappointments to life altering change…
Death, divorce, conflict, job loss, financial woes, wayward children, elderly parents who are struggling, illnesses……many things that cause us heartbreak and anguish.
It is true isn’t it that none of us is free from heartbreak?
I must confess this morning that this past month has been heartbreaking for me as I have felt abandoned by my Baptist family and the exclusion and acceptance of women in ministry.
But I have never felt so affirmed by you my church family and your support has meant more than words can express this morning…
Lets face it…..the past few years have been very hard on our church family. And the church at large. But we believe that God is ultimately in charge of the Church ? Don’t we? For Christ is the bride of the church.
So I want us to focus on this idea of what Divine family means…..for ultimately Paul comes back around with a positive message today….
4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; 5 to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever.[a] Amen.
It is absolutely true and without doubt that Paul asserts that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
But it is also true that people with every advantage have thrown away God’s goodness and love. God never left them, but they abandoned him.
In the very next verse after today’s lesson Paul says: “This does not mean that God’s word has failed” (Romans 9:6, EHV).
God’s people stood at the foot of Mount Sinai when thunder crashed and lightning lit up the mountain. Moses was permitted to go up and speak with God and receive the law from his hand there. God made promises to the patriarchs. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that pointed ahead to the Savior.
This was THE INTENDED Divine Family of God…. God opened the door of Jesus Christ to anyone who would open their own heart and receive Him as Lord.
So what does this mean for us this morning?
What IS the purpose of the church? His chosen ones called out to Disciple the world? Are you a part of that Divine Family?….
NT Wright describes it this way…
“The church is the single multiethnic family promised by God to Abraham. It was brought into being through Israel’s Messiah, Jesus; it was energized and empowered by God’s Spirit; it was called to bring transformative news of God’s rescuing justice [and love] to the whole of creation.
The church exists for 3 primary purposes: 1.To worship God , 2.to work for His Kingdom in the world, and 3.to encourage and build one another up in the faith. “
So Divine family, adopted children of God….how are we doing? Covid certainly threw us in a tailspin, didn’t it? We are in the process of rebuilding. Getting our bearings of what it means to still be the church that God has called us to be.
How are we doing?
- In our worship?
- In working alongside the Lord Jesus Christ with the help of the Holy Spirit to bring God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven?
- In encouraging and building one another up in the faith?
We are called to proclaim Jesus as the one through whom we are forgiven of our sin by God’s love and grace and through faith we are called to live our lives under the Lordship of Christ, live this life transformed to love God and express that love as we encourage and build each other up in our faith.
Quite simply….God is still here and we need each other…we are strongest when we are together in our mission…in our worship… together and in building one another in the faith. God is the source and giver of life. And calls us as church family to not be anxious.
It begins with each of us individually….here are some honest questions that might help:
- A relationship with the church begins with a personal with personal relationship with Christ? Have you made that decision? Are you as excited as you first were in that part of your journey?
- Has worship become only a chore you attend to on Sunday morning and not something that excites you as a part of your daily existence?
- Do your physical blessings of this life determine your evaluation of God’s love for you? Have you begun to set your sights more to the things of this world rather more than spiritual things?
- Do you really believe that Nothing can separate you from the love of God?
- Do you feel in anyway that that you have walked away from Jesus being the Lord of your life? And thus your hunger and thirst for God has waned?
- What was the last thing you have actually sacrificed in your life for the love you have for Christ? Tough questions but important ones!
If we went from the claim of Chapter 8 of Romans that Nothing can separate us from the Love of God to “Present your bodies a living sacrifice Holy and Acceptable to God which is your “reasonable” service to God….what does that mean? How do I get there? How do you return to making Jesus Lord of your life? And why is that important?
Racheal Held, a young Christian women in her 30’s set out on an adventure to find the Holy again in church and her own walk with Christ….what was she looking for?
In her book Searching for Sunday, she writes, speaking on behalf of her generation,
“I’m tired of the culture wars, tired of Christianity getting entangled with party politics and power.
My generation wants to be known by what we’re for, I said, not just what we’re against.
We don’t want to choose between science and religion or between our intellectual integrity and our faith. Instead, we long for our churches to be safe places to doubt, to ask questions, and to tell the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable.
We want to talk about the tough stuff but without predetermined conclusions or simplistic answers.
We want to bring our whole selves through the church doors, without leaving our hearts and minds behind.
“Imagine if every church became a place where everyone is safe, but no one is comfortable.?
Imagine if every church became a place where we told one another the truth. We might just create a true sanctuary.” Or using Paul’s word…That which is Holy and acceptable to God….”
I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching myself recently…..have you? You can’t help but fall on your knees and ask God, God what is going on this the world that you Love so much and have created? What is going on in my church?..my family?
My heart is in anguish and broken?
I don’t know about you….but I am a “fixer”….that is my nature…..I see a problem and I want to fix it. I long for peace….I long for healing….I long for people to love one another….in our own families and in our church family……
I think most of us long for those things… I want to fix it!.
But guess what? The reality is that we were not created to fix all things….in the church we were created to love and worship and trust in a God who only can do those things….
Even God could not turn the hearts of His own People….so He became a Man through Jesus Christ is SON…he became one of us to show us the way of love, mercy and grace…..that is the story my friends of why we are gathered as the church…
The truth is I nor you can change anyone’s heart….it is only when we bow before God and present our own hearts before him as a sacrifice that God can then begin His redeeming work.
Rachel Held came to the conclusion that she needed to get out of her head and into her heart and she needed the church to help her do that.
What if that is true? What if the world out there is needing our help to find Jesus? What needs to change in your heart today?
Imagine if you were to walk through these doors each week knowing that whatever you bring in that is heavy on your heart…..you do not have to carry it alone? Friends….we need each other!
Rachel re-discovered her faith in God through the Sacraments of the church. As Baptist…we don’t have sacraments….., we have several ways we express that which represents best the heart and mercy of God’s Grace and Love….Baptism and Communion. These we call our Holy Ordinances….a way of remembering the grace and mercy of God.
It is a Holy time.
It was in Communion that Rachel’s eyes were opened again to the love of Jesus.
I love the way Rachel describes this time together.
“The elements in the meal can be identified in different ways, depending on your tradition:
the body of Christ, broken, the blood of Christ, shed, the bread of heaven, the cup of salvation, the mystery of faith, the supper of the lamb,.
But in every tradition, I know someone at some point says remember.
When we are in a rough place in our lives….there is something about going back to a place or remembering the Love of God. Sometimes that might be an early memory of church…or it might be a relationship with a grandparent and the faith they shared with you.
I imagine that is true of those first disciples….
“Remember how Jesus became one of us, remember how Jesus ate with us, and drank with us, laughed with us, and cried with us.
Remember how Jesus suffered for us, and died for us, and gave his life for the life of the world? Remember? Remember?
Perhaps this morning you can take a journey back in time with me…..a time of remembering your very first communion…..a time of remembering the joy of communion Sunday with your church family…
There is something about communion that triggers our memory, and helps us to see things as they really are. There is something about communion that opens our eyes to see Jesus in clearer vision at the table.
Christians recognize this act as Holy.
Christians believe bread can satisfy not only physical hunger, but spiritual and emotional hunger, too.
And when collective memory brings Jesus back to life, every breaking of the bread and pouring of the cup… all the taste, smells, and sounds, is a holy moment for a Holy people… God is present. God is loving us once again…God is drawing us once again to himself and to each other as family.
Any one here who claims Jesus as Lord is a part of this family today…..as we come to this open table of our Lord Jesus Christ, we come with open hearts and minds releasing today anything that is bringing us heartbreak or sorrow…..we confess to Christ that which has kept us from following Him fully and we present ourselves as a living sacrifice this morning…Holy and acceptable to Him….trusting in the love of Jesus and his sacrifice for us……Let us prayerfully come to the Lord’s Table…. And as we do…..let us in the time the choir comes to sing…..offer this time as Holy Time….whatever may be on your heart this morning…whatever is breaking your heart and causing sorrow…..present it to God.
Whatever you might need to ask forgiveness for,,,,confess it it to God.
Christ is present in this very moment.