|During the children’s time we read |
this excellent and beautifully story of Pentecost.
Rev. Teri Peterson
Gourock St. John’s
Romans 8.14-39 (NIV)
9 June 2019, Pentecost, NL1-40
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 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. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 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.
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 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. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
‘For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered 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, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Many of you know that I think these last few verses are among the most important words in scripture: that there is nothing, not one thing, no matter what it is, whether it’s real or imagined, desperately awful or amazingly wonderful, nothing at all in the entire creation can separate us from God’s love. It is literally impossible to be separate from God. Grace is irresistible...for us, and for the people who don’t really think deserve it, too. Nothing we do, nothing we say, and nothing we experience can ever cut us off from God’s love.
I was all prepared to preach a whole Pentecost sermon on these few words, maybe even just about the little word “nothing.” Or maybe since I’ve probably said that a hundred times already in the 64 weeks I’ve been here, to talk about that first day of Pentecost, because I heard a really interesting idea about that story just yesterday.
But instead I can’t stop thinking about something I learned this week about verse 28. It’s such a famous verse, Christians around the world have it memorised...and sometimes it feels like one of those verses that is always being misused. But for all that, I had never read it in my Greek Bible, I’d always relied on the translations, until this week.
The way I learned the verse by heart, it says “All things work together for good for those who love God.” The translation we read this morning says “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” But in Greek, it literally says “God works together for good WITH those who love him, those called according to his purpose.” The word is synergei...the word we now use to speak about working together to make something that is more than the sum of its parts.
God works together for good with those who love God.
Or, to put it another way, God and those who love God are coworkers. Colleagues. Cooperators.
After I saw this, I started to see similar words, with prefixes “Syn” and “con” that both mean “together”, all over this chapter of Romans. We are adopted into God’s family together, co-heirs with Christ. The whole creation, together, groans, and waits, and will be revealed. And God made us to be conformed to the image of Christ—con-formed, formed with, or literally made together, to be alike.
God works together for good with those who love God, called according to God’s purpose.
We are coworkers with God, revealing the kingdom by the ways we follow Christ, the ways we become like Christ.
And on that first Pentecost, isn’t that exactly what happened? The Spirit rushed in, and pushed the people out of their comfortable upper room, out into the streets where normal everyday life was happening...and out there, they became God’s colleagues. They told the good news of God’s love and power to anyone who would listen, in ways anyone could understand. They worked together with God to do something amazing, something they couldn’t have done on their own. And in doing so, they were formed into a new Body, the Church. Working together with God led them deeper into relationship with each other...and that led them deeper into the process of being con-formed, made together, alike with Christ...and so on, in a cycle that God uses to bring about good for the world.
God works together with us to accomplish a greater good than we could ever do on our own.
And nothing—nothing....NOTHING can separate us from God’s love. The Holy Spirit has been poured into our hearts, and we are coworkers in God’s kingdom, and nothing can change that. This is a job you can’t leave, you can’t get let go from, you can’t lose, and you don’t have to search for. It’s a gift, it’s a calling, and it’s for all of us. We are literally made to be together, with each other and with God.
On Pentecost morning, Luke records that the disciples were “speaking about God’s deeds of power” and that each person heard in their own native language. I am sure they spoke of the resurrection of Christ, but what if they also spoke about God’s power to bridge gaps, to bring us together, to hold us so close we can never be let go? The power to work together, in a world that so often tries to separate. The power to build community in a world that so often pretends we can go it alone. The power to stick together, to refuse to allow anything to come between God and humanity, in a world that believes love is weak or fluffy or ineffectual.
In all things—even the things we think separate us, crush us, tempt us, trouble us, as well as the things we appreciate and enjoy and celebrate—in all things, God works together with us for good. Nothing can keep God away from us, nothing can come between us—not language barriers, or class, or national borders, or experience, or danger, or fortune, or heights or depths. God needs coworkers in the kingdom, and has called us for that purpose, and will stick with us in the work, through thick and thin.
Made together, called together, working together, with love, by love, for good. That is true power indeed.
May it be so. Amen.