8th Sunday After Pentecost July 26, 2020

Pentecost 0820- “We are more than Conquerors.” – Romans 8:28-39

      Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

      The text for our sermon meditation is the Epistle of St Paul to the Roman Christians, the 8th Chapter.

      28 We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor 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.

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ;

      Reading this passage from Paul, I often wondered why he included the words from Psalm 44. 

      “For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

      we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

It is not until you consider the sacrifices of faith that these words become clear.  For whose sake do Christians suffer and face death?  For whose sake do Christians face daily threat from those who would silence their witness to God’s saving grace?  For whose sake are sinners brought to repentance and faith?  For whose sake are the sheep offered as a sacrifice on the altar of rejection and persecution?

      The psalmist is very clear that the subject of the words quoted by St Paul is God himself.  For the sake of God’s righteousness His people are facing difficulty and death every day they walk the earth.  For the sake of God’s gracious election His people may at times experience every trial of life listed in the catalog of suffering Paul gives in this letter.

      So, are you having a bad day?  What is a bad day for you?  Do you feel downtrodden?  Do you feel put upon by co-workers?  Do the everyday tasks seem monotonous or even pointless?  Do you wonder why these things are happening to you?  Do you think God may be playing a joke on you?  Do you see no avenue to get away from what is troubling you?  Do you feel defeated? 

      On the other side of the coin, do you rejoice in the day which the Lord gives you?  Do you look at life as having challenges to stretch your faith?  Do you see the hand of God in the events of life by which your faith will be strengthened and your election becomes sure?  Do you marvel at the love of God who still gives hope in seemingly hopeless situations?  Who encourages you to stay the course of faith, because in the end you will be a conqueror?

      Each of today’s readings speak of the certainty of salvation, and the work of God to bring into His Kingdom those whom He foreknows in His Son Jesus Christ.  Moses recounts the grace of God who chose Israel from among the nations of the world to be His holy people.  God delivered His chosen people from the hands of their enemies time and time again.  He led them out of slavery in Egypt and established them in the land promised to their father Abraham and to his descendants.

      Jesus recounts in parables the work of God to bring sinners into the same kingdom.  He puts us where he wants us to live and places before us in hidden ways the means of salvation and life eternal.  The pearl of the Gospel and the treasure of eternal life are the gifts uncovered when the foreknown sinner reads and hears the Word of life.  This message is hidden in earthly means, word, water, bread and wine.

      Through these means of grace administered by God’s Church, sinners come to know the God who knows them.  The word of God taught and preached brings the power of that word to bear in the sinner’s life.  Just as we confess in the third article of the creed – the Holy Spirit calls, gathers and enlightens us that we believe and confess saving faith in the God of our salvation.

      Like the man who finds the treasure in the field and the merchant searching for the pearl of great value, we rejoice when we hear and believe the treasure of eternal life.  Like St Paul who wrote in his epistle to the Philippians, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”

      What Paul speaks about gaining, when he says that I main gain Christ, is to receive from God the fulfillment of His promise to us in Christ.  If God calls us to be His children, God will certainly see to it that all things spoken of to us will be given to us.  Paul follows the whole panoply of God’s grace and desires it above all else.  Paul seeks the justification of God, and the final glorification of God in accordance with the path of life upon which the forgiven sinner is placed.

      Paul also reminds us the path of life is not an easy road to travel.  It will be marked by tragedy, struggle, toil, adversity, trial, and death.  Why, because there are enemies arrayed against those who walk the path of life.  Political forces will rise in opposition to the will of God.  The Church will be viewed as intolerant when it speaks against the moral decline of world leaders.  The believer will be labeled as an extremist or even a potential terrorist by holding views contrary to public opinion and against what may be or become accepted social practice.

      Our Lord suffered such opposition from those around him.  Certainly, he had his faithful disciples.  However, His words and message were not well received among those who opposed him.  Our Lord was destined for this treatment by His Father in heaven.  It was for that reason Jesus was sent to this world.  He took on human flesh to restore and to redeem human flesh.  He was born to be the righteousness of God and to glorify God by perfect obedience and suffering to break the power of Satan and pay the eternal wages of our sins. 

      In His suffering and death, Jesus looked forward to the completion of His saving work and what that saving work would accomplish.  It was his joy to suffer the pangs of death and the darkness of the grave to restore and redeem that which was lost.  It was his joy to endure the rejection and persecution of this world so that this world would receive the acceptance and mercy of God.

      Our Lord now asks us to bear such treatment for His name.  The name placed upon you in the water of Holy Baptism.  The name which marks you and sets you apart as the people of God.  The name you hold dear because you are precious in the sight of God.  The name that promises you the fullness of joy at the Return of Jesus.  The name which you proclaim and under which you live in faithful obedience now in preparation for God’s coming Kingdom.

      It is true that God gifts us with a radical faith, but not radical in the sense of doing violence.  Rather it is radical in the sense of bringing unworldly peace.  This peace is a settled peace with God in that the dividing wall of hostility no longer exists.  We are made like-minded with God, desiring to be at peace with our neighbors as well.  This means we live in the unworldly state of forgiveness and reconciliation.  Modeling that life may be difficult, but there is joy that we live as lived our Lord and Savior. We forgive as we have been forgiven. We serve as we have been served. We welcome as we have been welcomed.

      This makes the words of the psalmist all the more precious who wrote: “This is the day the Lord has made … Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

      Therefore, with confidence and faith we may face any and every situation with future hope and present help.  For as St Paul reminds us: “… in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor 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.”

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.