Sermon , Pentecost 7th A, Sunday July 19, 2020
12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation – but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[a] And by him we cry, ‘Abba,[b] Father.’ 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[c] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
The changes are coming thick and fast, aren’t they? How are you going with this time of significant change at every level; world, nation, community, family….?
One thing is true. We are God’s people right in the middle of all this change, and we need to respond as best as we can.
Adapting to change is always challenging. Sometimes we just want to run away. Sometimes we try to pretend nothing has changed so we can just be how we have been and do what we have been doing. Sometimes we can over-react and change too much and lose ourselves.
I know it is a lot easier to just stay with what we know. Sometimes we need to do that for our own well-being. But then there are times when we need to adapt. We have adapted quite well so far. We need to keep adapting.
In this COVID time adapting has been easy in a way. It has been forced upon us. We just have had to change things. But adapting is harder when it is not forced- when we don’t actually have to change.
COVID is still here and may be for some time. And yet, at least here in SA, for now, things are lifting. It is now that our trust in God’s grace and responsiveness to his calling will be tested. Are we up for it?
Change is hard. Change is messy. Change can make us feel like you are losing precious things and that you are all at sea. You might feel this way at the moment.
Someone said that change is hard not because of the change itself but because of what you feel you lose in the change. Change is in large part about grief, not so much change.
Maybe we are all grieving loss of various things – easy lifestyle, freedom to do what we want when we want, ability to be with whoever we want, where and when we want, connection to your fellow disciples of Jesus.
Maybe we are grieving what church used to be. Not just in this COVID time, but in this last 20 years when our culture has been changing rapidly, but in ways that are harder to see and understand or accept, than in these restricted times.
But we are here now. We believe we need to adapt to the changes that are upon us as a church. We believe we need to honour what we all have learnt these last months.
Strange, isn’t it? On the one hand, it is hard to adjust to changes in precious things. On the other, there is also a hint of exhilaration that the Lord is moving us into his precious plans in his future for us here.
So, whether your quietly disturbed by all this or quietly exhilarated by this moment, why change? Why adapt? Why take this harder road?
Well, if I hear anything in this word of Paul’s it is that we people of Christ’s kingdom adapt and change for the sake of him, and for the ones he has sent us to love. That is why we accept the challenges and adapt – for the Lord and those to whom he sends us.
And that is the spirit of any changes we make now: in our church building and in our church community. We change things in response to God changing us. We are straining to hear God; his voice, his Scriptures, his Spirit nudging us all on into his future for his world.
We are always serving, loving; always focused on people, so that they may know the love of God in Jesus and the hope he brings to life and to this world. That is why we adapt and change.
We hear this call to adapt everywhere in this letter of Paul to the Christians in Rome.
“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law (or powers) of sin and death. (Romans 8:1)
We ourselves have been changed – by God! We always are!
9 You, [now] however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if [or as] indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. (Romans 8:9)
This is THE change we have experienced – transformed from ‘flesh’ to ‘Holy Spirit’.
What does that mean?
Paul is describing our new freedom despite our old flesh.
“Flesh’ here is more than just the muscle on your bones, but a spiritual power at work in you. It is your broken desires; your basic self-serving; self-interest at the expense of God and others. It is the spiritual power that drives you look after number one at the expense of all other numbers. As we hear Paul say last week,
“I do what I don’t want to do and don’t do what I know I should…”. (Romans 7).
My flesh is all in me that pulls me away from who I am and what I have been created to be in Jesus.
But there is another spiritual power greater than my flesh. This power is at work in you. It is the realm or the influence or place of the Holy Spirit in you, says Paul.
As a fleshy person baptised into Jesus and sealed with the Holy Spirit, I live in the Spirit’s gifts, because he has made it so.
He has changed you from ‘fleshy self–focussed, dying, prisoner to searching for love’ you to ‘loved, alive, free and sent to serve and love’, you.
You now live in a relationship of love and grace with the Creator of all things.
This relationship is one that God achieved for you. You could earn it, make it, do, it or find it on your own. God created it, earnt it, did it, found you and gifted you himself in his Son.
We are in God’s last will and testament. He has written us into his family will in a blood signature. We have a sure inheritance that cannot rust or fade. We are ‘Co-heirs with Jesus’, says Paul, no matter what changes and challenges come.
No, we no longer live under that spiritual power called ‘flesh’. We don’t have to cave in or bow down to things of merely physical need or pleasure or desire.
We now live in another place, another power, another kingdom’s rule – the Spirit; the Holy Spirit’s holy will, powerful word and divine calling.
Friends, can you see why I as pastor and we as leaders and fellow servants want to go accept the challenge of change and adapt?
It is the harder road. Can you see why we take it though? Can you see why we want to spend time talking, listening, praying, asking and doing to adapt well to these changing times?
Can you see why we willingly go into the topsy turvy waters of change when it would be easier to just keep paddling along quietly and safely?
It is because we want to live with our heavenly Father and love the Saviour Son.
It is what living in the new realm; the new relationship; the greater power of God’s Spirit produces in us and you.
We want to follow the Spirit’s lead in the Saviour’s love more than we want to keep things the same.
Why? Because, as Paul says here,
“….we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. (Romans 8:23-24)
In this hope we are safe for this change and any change. Change changes but hope stay unchanged.
Change is upon us. Let’s not run. Let’s not pretend. Let’s not dismiss. Let’s not search for safety in anyone more than Jesus and his presence and promises.
Let’s live in the Spirit, not the flesh.
Let’s listen, pray, speak, and do – together.
Friends, I truly “…consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)
This is Spirit of change that does not change.
Holy Spirit, reveal the glory of the Father’s grace in this place through us in these changing times. Amen.