Video reflections: Rev Alison Way – https://youtu.be/6f135i-HfMw
Bishop Ruth – https://youtu.be/o1h9jrT9kLw
Romans 5:1-8 – Matthew 9:35-10:8 –
In the name of the Father, the Son and The Holy Spirit, Amen
Over the next few week’s we have as our first readings – passages from St Paul’s letter to the Romans. This is St Paul at his most developed, not always easy to understand, but flowing and in full voice! It may help as I am talking this morning to have the passage from Romans in front of us. It is chapter 5 verses 1 to 8
Intriguingly the first 2 verses contain – Faith, peace, grace, hope and glory! All key concepts in understanding our Christian walk. Starting with the faith part of this – since we are justified by faith. We have been drawn into God’s promise for us through our acceptance of it. The work done in Jesus Christ. It says our faith is ongoing and it relates to the one time saving love of Jesus through the cross, but also our continuing trust in the promise of it – something that fires our walk of faith in God every day.
The next bit is describing the consequences of walking in faith. We talked about this a lot last week – our experience of the peace of God. Paul’s original audience would have understood this peace, not just in militaristic terms or an absence of conflict but also in it meaning our total well being and harmony.
Speaking into the diverse and multicultural Roman church, this is also peace given by God which embraces all members of races and nations without distinction. Everyone is equal in the sight of God – and our love for other should mirror this. It has been hard to watch the recent events in the USA. Blatant racism has been called out. It must be called out. Prayers for justice are important and for hearts to change to value all equally all across our world.
Going back to our Romans’ passage Paul goes on to describe the grace in which we stand. Technically grace is unconditional love from God, love that is not merited. Paul Zahi explained this further
Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable…. The cliché definition of grace is “unconditional love.” It is a true cliché, for it is a good description of the thing.
Let’s go a little further, though. Grace is a love that has nothing to do with you, the beloved. It has everything and only to do with the lover. Grace is irrational in the sense that it has nothing to do with weights and measures. It has nothing to do with my intrinsic qualities or so-called “gifts” (whatever they may be). It reflects a decision on the part of the giver, the one who loves, in relation to the receiver, the one who is loved, that negates any qualifications the receiver may personally hold….
Grace is one-way love. So the giver here is God – There is nothing we can do to earn God’s love for us. God’s love is a given. So standing in grace is powerful.
Paul then finishes and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. This is shouting from the roof top how great God is – not the more general uncomfortable understanding we have of ‘boasting’ today – which is not generally viewed as attractive or desirable. But we should not shy from the reassurance of life lived eternally in the heart of God that is central to our Christian faith. Knowing this hope has made the difficult days of 2020 easier to bear – and I have been concerned for how it might be for folk who live without this. All the more important, therefore, we take opportunities we have to share our faith in God and the hope it brings. Simple things like offering to pray for someone in our prayers and doing it are so important right now.
Around us near and far are people grieving the loss of loved ones – now over 40,000 in our country have died of Covid 19. Christian hope can shine a light in this that will bring comfort and peace. This is hope that rests entirely on God and his love for us.
Hope and glory are not the only things that Paul boasts of. Paul also boasts in his sufferings. Again something not top of our list to boast about! We know from his story – Paul did suffer significantly for his faith…
but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Romans 8:3-5)
Paul is really talking of character formation. The truth that we grow more in our faith in our trials and tribulations than we do when the going is good. For him suffering is not a contradiction to faith, or an occasion to renounce God, but is a strengthening of patience, maturing of character, and stimulating hope and gives more room for the Holy Spirit to work in us. In The Message which is a modern paraphrase of the bible these verses are rendered.
There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!
The Holy Spirit gives us what we need for difficult days as well as good ones. That imagery of God’s love being poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit is important, this is the overflowing, intimate and lavish love of God. My experience of this – is that when we look back on things we do see how God has been at work in our hearts and lives. Even in our most difficult times and sometimes because we have been more open in our most difficult times, because we give God more control and don’t let our own wills and desires get in the way.
I read in a commentary that the way the Holy Spirit works is a hidden dynamo of divine vitality which maintains the glow of love in us. I don’t have much experience of dynamos except those that power bicycle lights of old. But the inner workings of the Spirit in our inner workings are so important to our Christian growth. A hidden channel through which the love of God sustains us. Giving us the strength we need for today – lived in hope for tomorrow and the glory we will one day share.
The final part of this reading – reminds us how God loves us and what he did for us by sending his Son for us. It finishes God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. It takes us back too to where we started
We can do nothing to earn or deserve God’s amazing love for us. What we can do is love God in return and follow his path. On that path – the going may be easy, the going may be tough, but the power of the Spirit will work on us from the inside.
Be open and filled with God’s peace.
Know the grace of God in which we stand.
Share the hope we live by
And the glory we will one day share
End with a prayer a silence and a prayer
Creator God, we thank you that your amazing unfathomable love has been poured out for us at the cross of Jesus and poured into us by the Holy Spirit. Help us to walk by faith every day. Help us to endure in suffering when it comes. Help us know your peace and grace deep within. Pour your love into our hearts, in increasing measure by the power of your Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ our Lord. It is in his name that we pray, Amen.
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995
Paul Zahi quote from the internet – sorry I haven’t been able to find it again!