Sermon Text: The Spirit prays for us

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Sunday Online Church at Home Service:

Proper 11A, Rom. 8:18-27 -the Spirit prays for us

  1. There’s no denying that we live in a broken world
    1. We see the effects of it around us all the time, on the news and in our community
      1. War, rumors of war, disease, disaster, and violence – a young tech CEO was murdered and dismembered in his NYC apartment this week, COVID numbers continue to set daily highs months into this ordeal
      1. These are but two happenings this week in a continuing litany of violence, disorder, and natural disasters.
      1. But these are symptoms of the problem not the problem itself
    1. However, what happens when those symptoms become the source of your problems? When what had once only been out in the world becomes personal
      1. We know that Christians aren’t immune from all of the above-mentioned calamities and so much more.
      1. What happens when your son or daughter gets hurt, abducted, killed?
      1. Or when the doctor tells you to start planning for the end?
      1. Or when all you’ve worked for goes up in smoke or down the river?
    1. The natural human reaction is a mixed bag depending on the personality:
      1. There are those who despair – life as they knew it ended, everything from that day forward is evaluated relative to what it should have been if that event hadn’t happened.
      1. There are those who get angry: “Why did this happen to me, I don’t deserve this…If there was a God this wouldn’t happen.” They shut down.
      1. There are still others who appear to weather the storm, for whom adversity brings out resilience, the ones that we’d all hope to be, “When the going gets tough the tough get going…adversity is opportunity…”
      1. But who knows how they’ll react until faced with the situation?
    1. Even Christians can find themselves so bewildered by the problems in the world and our lives we don’t know which way to turn or where to begin
      1. You can’t plan for how you’ll react when calamity strikes.
      1. But Paul tells us today that our reaction does not have to be one of despair, that God has made a way for us when we can’t find the way!
      1. He says in today’s reading that even when, “we do not know what to pray for as we ought, the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Rom 8:26)
      1. In the midst of the storm we take refuge in the promise of God – that when we can’t even put a prayer together the Spirit prays for us in our need.
  2. One of the questions that has plagued secular philosophers and theologians alike is, “Why is there suffering and evil in the world and what to do about it?”
    1. Secular philosophy has no answer that’s why its conclusions are so dark, beginning with something called nihilism (the Latin word for nothing) in the 19th century we can see the breakdown of all that society had previously held as true
      1. It posits that, “there is no objective order or structure in the world except what we give it…all values are baseless...”
      1. The resulting conclusion is even more depressing, “When we abandon illusions, life is revealed as nothing…nothingness is the source of not only absolute freedom but also…horror and emotional anguish. Nothingness reveals each individual as an isolated being “thrown” into an alien and unresponsive universe, barred forever from knowing why yet required to invent meaning.
      1. Humanity offers no reason for why suffering and evil exist let alone what to do when it strikes you – you’re left to solve the problem on your own.
    1. On the surface this observation might sound similar to what we hear in Scripture.
      1. Listen to what Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, “And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.  I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.”
      1. How do we respond to such an observation? Is it possible that Scripture too leaves us at a dead end like human philosophy?
  3. No Scripture not only accurately reflects our reality (as human philosophy has) but it also offers the keys not only to understand the problem correctly but also the HOPE that we have to face it!
    1. First, Scripture’s upfront about the problem, we know the “WHY” that human philosophers can’t answer.
      1. Genesis 3 says, “To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;  thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you…” (Gen 3:16-18)
      1. As Paul says in our Epistle, For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. (Rom 8:20-22)
      1. Many (even some Christians) may not accept it, but that’s what the Word of God says about how suffering entered the world – through our sin, we cursed the world by our rebellion.
      1. And without that clear understanding people are otherwise at a loss to make sense of the world we live in
    1. But Scripture also reveals the cure for our plight
      1. Our hope lies not in trying to salvage meaning from the broken world but in the fact that God through Christ has overcome the world
      1. God is not alien to our suffering but in fact took our suffering upon Himself so that we could be freed from it
      1. By His life, death and resurrection Jesus redeemed not only us from our sin, a salvation we receive through faith, but He has redeemed EVERYTHING that He created
      1. As Paul says, “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God…And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”
    1. Are we therefore immune from the problems of the world? Of course not, but we have HOPE!
      1. But where the world throws up its hands in despair, and doesn’t know where to begin to address the problem Paul promises that we don’t have to know where to start
      1. We have an advocate, someone to take over when we can’t even get out of our own way, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words…the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” –
      1. The Spirit prays for us when we are too overwhelmed to know how to pray! Oh give praise and glory to our loving God who is there even when we can’t put one foot in front of the other!
      1. Rest in the certain knowledge that whatever may be plaguing you right now, even if you can’t find the words to express it…the Spirit is already praying for you more articulately than you ever will.