Sunday, 30 May 2010

Peace with God

What do we have here?  

According to Paul...We have
Peace with God.

When do we have it?

Now…in the present…
it is this grace in which we now stand… Paul writes.

and just how has this peace with God…this state of grace… been achieved…
through Jesus and our faith in him and through the love of God pouring into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. [pause]

This peace with God…this grace in which we now stand…this justified state…this restoration of our original relationship with our creator...
available to us…not because of something we’re doing right…but because of what’s been done... for us through Jesus and through the pouring of God’s love into our hearts... by the Holy Spirit.

Here in Paul’s letter to the Romans… three hundred years
before a doctrine of the Trinity would be articulated... and officially adopted... by the councils of the Church… here in Paul’s letter and our reading from John’s Gospel… we have a clear expression of the work of our triune God…God in three persons...
Creator Redeemer and Spirit.
Today is Trinity Sunday…always the Sunday after Pentecost… and there few things as mysterious and paradoxical to the human mind as the Christian doctrine of the Trinity…One God… Father Son and Holy Spirit.

And yet... we
have this belief...precisely because we are Christians...because of our worship of Jesus…our faith in him…because prays to his father and promises the coming of the Holy Spirit.

and there it is… in Paul’s reassurance to the early church in Rome... and to us…

that the God who created the vast
universe…the galaxies…the giant nebula…the God who created life itself…has somehow broken into creation…
into the dimensions of time and space…in
Jesus and in the outpouring of the Holy SpiritThis creator God from whom we often chose to turn away
has made peace with

We have peace with God [pause]

Just let that sink in for a minute…
God isn’t mad at us…and
we can feel at peace

Instead of throwing the book at us…God has thrown the book away! And God has made this peace through his incarnate Son Jesus of Nazareth…the Christ…through his life...his death and resurrection...

and God
maintains this peace with us...
by pouring his love...into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
Past justification present peace and future glory.

And Paul believes this with
all his heart…after all he’s encountered the risen Christ himself…he’s been lead by the Spirit... himself

But there’s a problem in Rome...
and Paul’s on his
way there…he wants to get some stuff sorted out before he arrives…
at the time Rome has a large population of Jews…
Paul… and many synagogues. The story of
Jesus of Nazareth is being told in their gatherings... and because of this… a church is forming…
composed of
both Jewish and Gentile

it already
irritates the Romans to have Jews in a city that worships Caesar as god. Now there are two kinds of Jews and they’re fighting each other over the claim that Jesus is the Messiah…public disturbances… have got some Jews kicked out of Rome.

And even worse as far as Paul is concerned…quarrels are breaking out between Jewish and Gentile converts… over things like circumcision and equal rights in sharing the benefits of being God’s children.

the Christians in Rome are suffering…some of it’s because of persecution... and some of it’s their own doing...their own reluctance to share these benefits... with the world Jesus came to save…[pause]

Paul writes his letter… not only to train them how to resolve their internal conflicts… but to ensure their difficulties…their suffering… don’t cause them to lose hope and abandon their faith. They are groaning at him through messengers

‘If everything we’ve heard about what Jesus has accomplished is true and the Holy Spirit coming on all the believers…why are we still
suffering and arguing and being persecuted?’

Why are we still suffering?  Why is there still suffering.

Viewed against this background Paul’s letter makes much more sense…Paul knows… what we talked about last week…

with the coming of
Christ into the world and the pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost…the Kingdom of God is now …but not yet complete.

Yes you’re suffering Paul tells them…
we know the whole
creation has been groaning
So we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God.
And not only that, we also rejoice in our sufferings
knowing that suffering produces endurance,
and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…
and hope doesn’t disappoint us…because God's love has been poured into our hearts… through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

In fact… Paul says later on his letter…
I consider our present sufferings aren’t worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
creation waits in eager expectation…
for the children of God to be revealed.

Paul says…I don't think there's any
comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what's coming next.

The Message translation of Paul’s letter says… Everything in creation is being more or less held
back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready… and can be released at the same moment… into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.
So stop squabbling… and rejoice that you will share… in the glory of the Lord that’s to come.

That’s why there can be hope even in suffering

because with the breaking into time and space of his only
Son… God has begun the restoration and reconciliation of all creation … but as we know…its not finished…
but God…
Creator Redeemer and Spirit…
is finishing it…even when it doesn’t feel like it to us…

As the great theologian Karl Barth says…
the Holy Spirit establishes the righteousness of heaven in the midst of the unrighteousness of the earth and will not stop or stay until all that is dead has been brought to life and a new world has come into being.

The question for us here today in our relationship with our community with others on this planet and in our relationship with the planet itself is this…

‘Are we cooperating with God’s saving work as Creator Redeemer and Spirit… in the redemption of all creation… or are we part of the decay and destruction and waste… that attempts to impede it?

Are we prepared to hold onto hope in the face of our human frailty…and failure…and cling to the love of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
This is why the whole Trinity...Creator Redeemer and necessary for understanding our Christian faith.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit…
fundamental to the Christian faith…

past... present and future work…
our salvation
our present peace and our future hope…
of sharing in the glory of the Lord.
Let us stand as we say the Nicene Creed together

[i] from his book The Word of God and the Word of Man