Welcome to Totley All Saints and this week’s virtual service. Welcome everyone whether you’ve joined us before or not, whether you regularly join a church service or not.
As you know from last week we are using some online sermons prepared by the Bishop and his team over the summer period. However I faced a similar problem to Phil, in that I was really inspired by his talk on Romans 8, and wanted to follow on from there!
So for this week, as last, feel free to use the reflection on the page here, or follow the links to the one from the Bishop’s office.
As we begin, take a moment pause and to reflect on the last week – the highs, the lows, the triumphs and the tribulations. Bring that before God, thanking Him, sharing and confessing.
Let’s begin our worship today by fixing our eyes on Jesus.
Here is a very well known hymn, by Charles Wesley, which references Romans 8 and the thoughts we will consider in our reading.
You now have two choices (or do both!): The first reading and talk is based on Romans 8: 26-39 or if you prefer, there is a sermon available from the Bishop’s senior staff here: https://www.sheffield.anglican.org/video-sermons.
Phil, last week, spoke to us from the middle section of Romans 8 – and today we’re going to pick up from there.
Phil took us through the Spirit bringing us into adoption – the full rights of belonging to God’s family and kingdom – and how that has the sense of now-but-not-yet, something we have, but are waiting to see in full.
Part of that sense is because the world is in pain, it is not as it should be, and as we navigate this life – even knowing we are redeemed and looking forward to what will be – we need the Spirit working with us and on us. That is our evidence of God’s grace at work, but also of the future new creation promised.
So today as we look at the next section of Romans 8 through to the end, Paul continues his thoughts and ends with an encouragement.
First he talks about the intercession the Spirit undertakes for us, before concluding from all the Spirit does in enacting the will of God, that all things are worked together for God’s intended good purpose.
Finally Paul finishes this section of Romans, before switching topics, by drawing all this up in imagery from Jewish scripture in the OT and laying out the great hope available in Christ.
‘In the same way’ we begin in the NIV – following on immediately from last week.
In the same way as believers who know the Sprit and therefore have hope groan and feel the pain of the now-but-not-yet state of the world, the brokenness and the hope, the yearning, of future recreation – so in our struggles and wordless pain the Spirit takes these and addresses them to God. As much as Paul is emphasising the future glory that is promised, he is also mindful of the realities of the present and the comforting work of the Spirit in bridging the gap of our understanding, ability and strength to articulate our prayers (of all kinds – Eph. 6:18) to God even when we are unable.
In verses 28-30 we have a survey of the whole of Gods dealings with his people – before the foundation of the earth (Eph. 1:4) God effectively foreknew, predestined, called, justified and glorified his people. This is the purpose of God, to conform his people to the image of Christ (himself the image of the invisible God – Col. 1:15) at the final redemption. This perfectly book-ends the creation of humanity in the image of God – this was ever the purpose of God: To have his creation sharing in his glory. And with that context it helps us to understand the meaning of the variously translated ‘God works all things together for good’ – God and the Sprit together work out the eternal purpose of God through all things, and all his people, bringing them together for good, ie: the future kingdom and new creation.
The summary of all this begins in verse 31. Knowing all that Paul has outlined in chapter 8, realising the enormity of God’s plan and the intricacy of it’s outworking in His people – how can anything or anyone be considered as against us? God has pronounced his perfect plan, announced acquittal and justification for his foreknown people – irrevocably encircled by his love, empowered by the Spirit.
In order to further cement and expound this thinking Paul describes God’s love, making reference to OT touchpoints in that effortless Pauline way as he goes along.
God did not spare or withhold his own Son work out His plan. Paul echoes the binding of Isaac (Gen. 22) in his language and Jewish roots, signalling the example of redemption by martyrdom and further asking will He therefore not freely and bountifully give in all ways.
Paul then echoes the Servant of Isaiah (Isa. 50:8) and Joshua as High priest (Zech. 3:1-5) the language of a courtroom in posing the rhetorical “if God justifies, who can contend that ruling?”. More than that, Christ himself the one who worked out our justification is at the right hand of the father speaking on our behalf, itself messianic imagery from the Psalms (Ps. 110:1), and the Servant song of Isaiah (Isa. 53:12).
Paul then asks what can separate us from Gods love in Jesus? And he answers his own question with a quote from Psalm 44, pleading God for aid in distress before concluding that in all these things, despite all these things and for all these things we are conquerors over all in God through Christ – nothing in the expanse of space, the span of eternity or in the whole of God’s purview can separate the Children of God from His love secured in Christ and evidenced by the Spirit.
…and this is all great, intellectual knowledge – it’s rousing, and it gets a ‘yea’ and ‘amen’ in church circles. It’s inspiring and as we bask in it we renew our hope and feel energised and encouraged and look forward to that future glory.
But my experience isn’t like this: I don’t always or necessarily often feel like a well-loved fore-chosen conqueror. I often feel like a failure, a fraud and an embarrassment. I let the world, this imperfect creation I see around me change my focus, pulling it away from future glory and focussing on the immediate and the needful to the exclusion of that heavenly future vision.
There is a duality we experience as people of God – as Phil pointed out last week we do not yet see a perfect creation, neither in space nor on earth nor in our own bodies, and yet we long and hope for that. We live in a kingdom that is, and is to come. There is a dissonance between what we know, what has been promised by God, and what we experience day to day.
Paul calls us glorified and conquerors and yet as a matter of history and experience, we are not yet glorified – we haven’t fully realised the perfection and glory of being the image bearers of Christ. What we are now, in this world, is a foretaste, seen darkly and waiting to be that future. Conversely though, the difference between sanctification and glorification is one of degree only, not of state – what we will be assured.
So we cleave to the love of God from which we cannot be severed, with the Spirit taking the wordless burden of our hearts to God and with Christ interceding on our behalf to claim our inheritance. We cannot rest easy, but we can rest in the promise of future glory.
Do you find Paul’s message exciting, and encouraging? Or do you find it difficult to take hold of the promises of God he outlines?
How does your everyday experience match the statement that the people of God are more than conquerors? What about God’s love? Does it feel far off, or inseperable?
Explore the differences between your lived position, and God’s full and final view of his people. How can the former be more like the latter?
Prayers of Intercession
conceived in eternity,
foreknown and predestined,
for a future glory,
fills us with awe and wonder.
We thank you for the victory that overcomes the world,
bought by Christ,
by his death and resurrection,
Help us in our daily lives.
Through the tribulations,
the struggles of the day,
and the pain of this imperfect world.
Help us to remain focussed,
when the world distracts,
with the bitter and the sweet.
Lord God, keep our eyes fixed on Jesus,
that we might brought closer to His image,
as we live in certain hope of future perfection,
The community of S17 has drawn together during these unusual times in a very special way. This is reflected in the great work of the S17 COVID-19 Community Support group.
The group aims to support those in the community who may be in need and to provide a support network to the S17 community at this time.
“If there are needy people in our community let’s ensure we help them out with things like bringing shopping to their door.”
Blessing and Dismissal
Father thank you for our time together this morning – for being with us in our worship through music and reading.
Thank you for your great love, your plan throughout history and your intimate love for each one of us. We thank you for a certain hope that we can hold on to, despite our circumstance and fragile faith.
Be with us all in the coming week in all our various circumstances.
In your name,