December 16, 2012 Romans 8 26 though 39

“God is Good, All the Time”

Romans 8.26-28, 31-39

December 16, 2012

 

God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good.  I think it is important to speak those words together especially when it might feel difficult to say them.  We say them together every Sunday before the sermon, but today it feels different to say them.

 

I finished the last edit of my sermon Friday morning.  I was going to preach on Luke 3.3-18 and I had titled the sermon “Thunder Bells.”  I saved it, got online to check my e-mail, twitter and Facebook, and was compelled to turn on the TV to see the news.  I had never heard of Newtown, Connecticut before Friday but now we’ll never forget it.  By the time I had left the office I had become convinced that I needed a new sermon.  So, I punted the one I just finished and began looking for something to address what happened on Friday in Connecticut.

 

It would be futile to ignore it.  Wouldn’t it?  I could try and preach my other sermon, but that would be like not acknowledging the elephant in the middle of the room.  And since the goal of preaching is not “getting something said” but rather “getting something heard”,  I simply have to bring whatever I can to the table this morning.

And this morning I am sad, angry, and grieving.  I imagine many of you are like me - as I sat and watched the news unfold Friday my gut began to get wrenched and my fears reared their heads and I wanted to do something to change it but all I could do was pray.

 

It would be a huge mistake for us to gather here today and not fully recognize the enormity of this tragedy.  The evil that came down Friday was real and pure terror, especially if you are a parent.  Friday, 20 parents dropped off their beautiful, innocent children at school and had no clue it would be the last time they would see them.  Friday, 20 parents heard the news and began to fear and were gathered at the fire house.  Friday, 20 parents waited for the remaining surviving children to be brought over only to realize their child was not among them.  Friday, 20 parents waited for a reunion they will not get on this earth.  We aren’t familiar with this level of evil.

 

It is a real challenge today to come here to this holy ground, on the third Sunday of Advent, and light this candle that represents “Joy”, when we are grieving the loss of all joy for 20 sets of parents in Newtown?   If we really believe in what we say and do here today, we have got to put it all on this table.

 

Can we really have “Joy” in the midst of this pain and sorrow?  In the face of this particular evil, can we defiantly say that we have “Joy?”  Can we speak the words “How Great Our Joy” through clenched teeth and a tear stained face?  If we believe what we say we believe about Jesus, then we have to.  Today, we need to really believe it.  We need to hold onto as tight as we can, because this kind of evil can kill everything in us without the hope, peace, joy and love that Jesus brings.

 

This tragedy certainly proves one thing: we are still a world in need of our Savior.

We have one.  We have the only Savior that will fix this.

One of the most repeated phrases I heard from my friends and from people in front of microphones was “There simply are no words.”  Hear what Paul wrote:

Romans 8.26-29, 31-39  26Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.27And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.28We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

31What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?32He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?33Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.34Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.35Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,39nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

NOTHING can separate us from the love of God.  ALL things work together for good for those who love God.  That can be hard to believe on days like Friday.  But our eyes are not the eyes of God, who sees all things through to the end. 

 

Not an easy subject to broach during the season in which we proclaim "Joy."  “Yet the Joy we proclaim was brought about in the life of a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief...and in the tragic and unjust execution of that man. And in that tragedy, our hope and joy is revealed.”

 

I have said that we are not used to this kind of evil, the kind that slaughters innocent children.  We aren’t prepared for it.  But Jesus is.  I find great consolation that Jesus knew that kind of suffering.  In fact he grew up with it.  Jesus was a Bethlehem baby.  He was a Bethlehem baby that survived.  The ones that didn’t get away got slaughtered by Herod’s men.  Matthew 2.18  A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”  Jesus knows this kind of pain.  Can you imagine the kind of pain Jesus felt when he learned as a very young man that those Bethlehem babies were killed because they were looking for him?  God’s heart broke just like all of our hearts did Friday.  Jesus knows this pain.

 

What is our answer to this tragedy?  Jesus is the answer.  Our Savior is bigger than this thing.  I know it doesn’t seem that way to grieving parents.  But who can expect them to see past their pain right now?  Jesus Christ really is the answer to this evil.  Jesus’ died for all those who died Friday.  Jesus suffered with them and now Jesus has them somewhere where they will always be safe and their innocence will always be protected.  Our Joy is in Jesus and our Joy is indeed greater than this tragedy. 

It reminds me of the words of the old German Christmas Carol:

This gift of God we’ll cherish well,

That ever joy our hearts shall fill.

How great our joy! Great our joy!

Joy, joy, joy! Joy, joy, joy!

Praise we the Lord in heav’n on high!

 

What can we do about this?  As this church, there is actually a lot we can do.  We can worship.  Right now, in this place, our worship and prayers are the best thing we can do to respond to the evil in this world.  This really is an advent kind of thing to do.  There is evil in this world and we can get right in its face and worship God and declare our joy in spite of the evil done.  Our act of worship today can not only be about adoring God, and confessing our sins, and lifting up the name of God and letting God speak to us, it can be an act of cosmic defiance against the evil of this world.  As we worship today, put your heart and soul into it and rejoice that Jesus came and is our Savior and celebrate the Joy we have in a Savior that defeats all evil.

 

And remember, this evil thing cannot separate us from the love of God.

Our hope is in Jesus.

Our peace can only be found in Jesus.

Our joy comes from Jesus, who is our Savior.

Our love we are given in Jesus is greater than any evil this world can throw at us.

NOTHING can separate us from the love of God in Christ. 

Nothing. 

How great our joy!

 

 

 

Victims’ names

 

Charlotte Bacon

Daniel Barden

Rachel DaVino

Olivia Engel

Josephine Gay

Ana M. Marquez-Greene

Dylan Hockley

Dawn Hochsprung

Madeleine F. Hsu

Catherine V. Hubbard

Chase Kowalski

Jesse Lewis

James Mattioli

Grace McDonnell

Anne Marie Murphy

Emilie Parker

Jack Pinto

Noah Pozner

Caroline Previdi

Jessica Rekos

Avielle Richman

Lauren Russeau

Mary Sherlach

Victoria Soto

Benjamin Wheeler

Allison N. Wyatt

Nancy Lanza

Adam Lanza

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