May 27, 2018

Three Ways to Look at Romans 8:14-17

Trinity Sunday
First Lesson:  Isaiah 6:1-8

Second Lesson:  Romans 8:14-17

Gospel Lesson:  John 3:1-17

Sermon Text:  Romans 8:14-17

Devotion #1
There were 3 ways our text from Romans stuck out to me, so rather than having some odd segues, we will have 3 devotions. What is something you’re not good at in any way at all? Cooking is a common one. Sewing might be up there for most. Maybe it is a sport, like bowling or tennis. You what I am not good at? Anything involving tech. I didn’t update my phone for almost two years because I didn’t know what to do. 
I handed it to Cooper, and he was done in 2 minutes.  I can put batteries in things, and I can hit them with
a fist with the idea that will accomplish something, but that’s about it.

But although I don’t know how they work, I do understand and appreciate the benefit of them.  We used to have Direct TV.  I know that for things to work, a signal is sent to a satellite which beams info back to our TV.  If something would need repairing, I’m useless. But I do know that when I sit down in front of the TV and push a few buttons at noon on Saturdays in the Fall, I will be able to watch the Badgers play.  I don’t know how it works.  I just it does.  And I benefit greatly from that.

Why mention that?  Today is Trinity Sunday.  We focus on the fact our God is Triune – 3 distinct persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) yet just one God.  Numerous people over the years have tried to make this understandable to the human mind.  The most common analogy is an egg. There is a yoke, a white, and
a shell, but it is all part of just one egg.  Others have compared it to a tricycle – three wheels but just one bike.  But those analogies limp. If I showed you just the shell of an egg, you wouldn’t say it was an egg. 
If I gave you one wheel, you wouldn’t call that a tricycle.  But take any person of the Trinity – Father, Son,
or Holy Spirit – and you can say that one person is God, not 1/3 God or partial God.  The reality is that our limited, imperfect human minds can’t come close to grasping how the Trinity works, how there can be a separate and distinct Father, separate and distinct Son, and separate and distinct Spirit, yet be only one God.  It is truly mind boggling.

But we do know the results of God being Triune. Paul speaks to that in our text.  How are we blessed by the Holy Spirit?  Paul says we’re led by him. We were led to faith years ago when the Spirit set up shop in our hearts, and we’re led now as he speaks through the Word. He also says the Spirit adopted us. We’ll focus on that in another devotion. And Paul says the Spirit testifies. One who testifies in court tells the court the truth.  The Spirit does the same for us.  And what is that truth?

Turn your attention to the Father.  The truth to which the Spirit testifies is that we are most definitely God’s children.  Paul uses that exact phrase.  If we ever doubt, due to a short term weakening of faith or due to our conscience causing confusion because we feel terrible after some sin, the Spirit, through the Word, reassures us that nothing has changed.  He continually testifies to the fact that we are part of God’s family – loved and forgiven.  And this Father is not one we have to be scared of.  He is abba, a term of endearment. Our relationship with him is stronger than any relationship we have here on earth.

Why? Focus on the Son. The strong relationship we have, to which the Spirit testifies, is because of Jesus.  At the cross, Jesus removed all our sin which made a relationship with God impossible.  Instead of being slaves to sin, death, and all such other horrible things, we’re part of the family - dearly loved.  And all this because of what Jesus, our brother did for us.

Can you make heads and tails of how the Trinity works?  No. But can you revel in the benefits? Absolutely. When you have a down day for whatever reason, you have the Spirit testifying, declaring, you’re one of God’s people. You have no reason to doubt.  When you feel alone for whatever reason, you know that is never true.  Your loving Father is always there to do whatever you need him to do – console, comfort, build up, forgive. And when, for whatever reason, you’re tempted to believe somehow this relationship will change, just look at the cross. There Jesus won your welcome into God’s kingdom, a welcome that can/will never be revoked or changed. Can you understand that?  Yes, you can.  And thank God, you do.
Devotion #2
In the 1990’s, it was a tactic that was all the rage in Hollywood films.  The movie would start with 5 or 6 random stories and it seemed like none of them were in any way related to each other.  But then, about 2/3rds of the way into it, there would be some meeting or whatever, some convergence of the stories.  Somehow, someway, all the stories and all the people were interconnected.  And by the end of the movie, everything fit perfectly, everything fell right into place.

We already talked about how trying to figure out how the Trinity works is a futile effort.  But we do know the benefits.  And we can see the majesty of how all 3 persons come together/work together for our good. And talk about a story that seems to have a lot of moving parts that don’t initially look like they have anything to do with one another.  Go all the way back to the beginning.  God created mankind – holy and perfect.  Mankind sinned, rebelling against God and ruining creation in the process.  Flash forward 2000 years.  A Jewish guy is put to death on a Roman cross on the other side of the world.  Flash forward anywhere from 1930 to 2018.  A child is carried into a church like this one (or maybe this exact one), and after a brief ceremony, that child is carried back to the pews as a member of God’s family.  That is a long, disjointed story, isn’t it? 

Not at all.  Our Father, our Creator, made all things.  Despite mankind’s sin and rebellion, his love for them never changed. He promised to send one who would make things right.  In time, that one – Jesus – came, and did everything he was prophesied to do.  His death paid the price for mankind’s sin.  And how was God going to apply this benefit to his people?  He devised a way, using simple things like water and word – His Word – to plant faith in human hearts.  God the Spirit did just that at your baptism.  And because he did, you are back on solid ground with your Father, and you know that what the Son, your brother, did on that cross, he did for you. 

And all this means what Paul tells us in our lesson. We’re children of God, people of faith. God’s Spirit lives in us. We know we are loved and are free. And we know the inheritance that is to come – eternal life and glory at our Lord’s side in heaven.

Isn’t that majestic to think about, that from all eternity God knew the plan to bring you into his family?  Isn’t that awesome to think about, that for years, decades, centuries, and millennia, God was working that plan out with precise attention to detail?  Isn’t that heart-warming to know that all he did the past how many thousand years was done so that you might sit here today and sing out his praises with a heart overflowing with grace, confidence, hope, peace, assurance, and so much more? Yes, there are many parts to the story, but to see the whole picture - the parts, the persons of the Trinity, all of it – that is a sight to behold.  And maybe Hannibal Smith from the A-Team said it best.  “I love it when a plan comes together.”  The plan of your salvation, carried out by your Triune God, has come together.  Love it, for it is a sight to behold.
Devotion #3
There are a lot of things we can imagine or try to grasp, but unless we are directly involved, we can’t understand it perfectly.  Take NFL football.  For years I’d dream at night about being on the field, making game-changing plays. But I have no idea what it’d really be like, the toll it’d take, how much pounding I’d endure, aches, pains,  and the like. We try to imagine what it’d be like to be this star or do that activity, but unless you’ve gone through it, you really don’t know.

I say that because there is something I understand intellectually, meaning I know how it works, but not having ever been involved in it, I can’t fully grasp its depth - adoption. I’ve always had a loving mom and a loving dad.  And there is no doubt I am their child.  When I am with my dad and with people who haven’t met him before, I say, “This is my dad. This is exactly what I will look like in 34 years.”  I have never had to wait patiently for someone to adopt me.  I have never had the ups and downs of placement, of going from one place to other, and not knowing what things will be like one year from now.

I can’t imagine how the heart of a child looking for someone to adopt him or her swells with a loving couple walks into an agency and says, “We want you to be part of our family.”  I can’t imagine those first few nights at a new home, nights filled with a little fear of the unknown but more so with the joy of expectation.  I can’t imagine after possibly years of heartbreak, being able to walk down the stairs in the morning and, with a happiness I can’t put into words, call two people mom and dad.  Since I’ve never been on either end of this situation, I can’t really get.  Neither can most of you.

Or can we?  Numerous times in our text, Paul talks about adoption matters.  He says we are children.  But we weren’t born as God’s children.  In fact, at birth, we were the furthest thing from being a part of his family.  So what did God do?  He adopted us.  The Spirit worked faith in our hearts so we know that.  No longer are we fatherless.  No longer are we family-less.  We have a home. And this Father did not adopt us for tax purposes, out of guilt, or anything like that.  He did it because he loves us.  He is abba, dear Father, one to whom we can always go no matter what is troubling or concerning us. 

And far from being the black sheep of the family, we are in the will.  A will goes into effect when someone dies.  Since our brother Jesus died (and took his life back up again), that will is in effect.  The inheritance is ours.  What inheritance?  Every good thing God can give. We have life – now and eternally.  We have forgiveness – complete and total.  We have God’s blessings – everything we need whenever we need it.  And we have heaven – a home in glory at our Father’s side forever.

Doesn’t/shouldn’t that have the same impact on us that a couple taking a child to his or her new home has on that child?  Aren’t we, after being bounced around, part of a family – God’s family?  Can’t we wake every day and call on our Father, knowing he’ll always be there for us? Don’t we wrap ourselves in the arms of his forgiving love when we struggle and fail?  Aren’t we optimistic to think about the future (short & long term) and know it’s one we’ll face with him always at our side?

So no, in a way, those of us who have not been adopted here on earth, can’t know exactly what that feeling is like to be chosen to be part of a family.  But in another way, we know exactly what that is like.  In fact, we know something better.  We know God chose us to be part of his family.  The Father loves us, the Son forgives us, and the Spirit will keep our hearts of faith strong.  No matter what happens, that will never change.  We are part of the family, now and eternally.  Amen.