Hope That is Seen is Not Hope

 

Meditation on Romans 8:12-25

July 23, 2017

Merritt Island Presbyterian Church

        12 So then, brothers and sisters we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die;  but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

     18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing slide for the revealing of the children of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it in hope 21 , that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation  has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

***

What a week we’ve had at MIPC! We had a taste of another culture for VBS 2017: Passport to Peru.

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We learned a little Spanish–“Hola!”  And “Gracias!”

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We learned how God gives us good gifts : comfort, patience, peace, love and joy. About 50 children came over the 5 days.

We were blessed with a small army of hardworking volunteers–teens and adults. Thank you to all who helped!

I taught the Bible lessons with Miss Mary Lou and Gertrude the duck.She wore a Peruvian costume, made especially for the occasion. The duck, that is! Not Mary Lou.

On Monday, we learned about David the shepherd, who wrote Psalm 23. Tuesday, we learned about Simeon and Anna waiting patiently for the Messiah. Wednesday, we acted out Jesus calming the storm. The children squeezed into a cardboard boat before sailing on a blue tarp Sea of Galilee.

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The hardest part was getting them all inside as they yelled, “He’s smooshing me!” And then getting them out, without destroying the boat. We made our own sound effects of the wind and waves and sprayed the children with water from squirt bottles.

At the end of each day of VBS, I was tired! All of the volunteers and staff worked really hard for Vacation Bible School–because it matters SO much! We want to share our hope, a hope that saves us, a hope in something that we cannot see and yet we believe! Our hope is in the Lord.

***

This is the message of Paul to the Romans–that we are saved, forgiven, in Jesus Christ. “There is, therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” says Romans 8:1. This life is different than the life we had before knowing Jesus–when we lived for ourselves. But this spiritual transformation isn’t a once and done thing. It is a process that we actually participate in with God. This is what Paul means when he talks about the desires of the flesh. This is a daily battle, an inner struggle, between the Spirit living in us and our flesh–what we feel like doing. Sometimes, the flesh wins! As Paul says in 7:19,  “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” This is the “groaning inwardly” of creation and ourselves, in Romans 8:22-23, while we “wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.”

In Romans 8, Paul urges us to live intentionally, relying on the Spirit within us. “Set your minds” on the “things of the Spirit.” Don’t dwell on the things of this world–your worries or fears, for to do so “is death. But setting our minds on the Spirit is slide “life and peace” (Romans 8:5-6).” Those who do this are called “children of God.”

OK, I know what you are thinking.  Hey, but we are saved by grace! Yes, the apostle assures us this in Ephesians 2:8-9! But then in Romans 8:12, Paul calls Christians “debtors,” and you might say, “What???” He doesn’t mean what you might think he means. This is a good kind of debt owed to the one who has done something wonderful for you that you cannot do for yourself! This makes me think of that old hymn by Elvina Hall: “Jesus paid it all. All to him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.” This is the debt we all owe of humble, grateful service, understanding that we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God, as Paul says in Romans 3:23. We can’t take credit for the good we do or the blessings we have. They are gifts from the God who loves us, unconditionally–even though we struggle to be faithful. God calls us his children, anyway!

This is the God who knows us intimately, but doesn’t remember our sins, as Hebrews 8:12 assures us, let alone hold them against us. This is the God we call “Abba!” or “Daddy” as Paul says in Romans 8:15, the same God to whom Jesus cries in Mark 14:36 as he prays in the Garden of Gethsemane. This is the God who wants us to live without fear. The God who has given us a hope that the world cannot take away, a hope we cannot see, but we wait for patiently. Our hope is in the Lord.

***

Thursday was the most challenging Bible lesson for me at VBS. It was a tough message! So I brought in my bedspread for the kids to sit on and invited them to take off their shoes. The adults asked, “Do I have to?” The children asked, “Can we take off our socks, too?” As one group settled in, a child wrinkled up her nose. “Peeeeuuuuu!” she said.

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What’s that smell?” It was feet! “Maybe we should keep the socks on,”  I said.

On Thursday, I had to tell the story of Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, death, and resurrection to reveal God’s love and the promise of eternal life. I had 20 minutes! I used slides, being careful not to use images that were too graphic. I didn’t want to frighten them or give them nightmares! Some of the younger kids demanded, “Where’s the blood?” One girl insisted, “My mommy says I can see the blood!” That lesson stirred all sorts of thoughtful questions.  “Why did they hate Jesus?!” “Were they bad guys?” “How did he stay on the cross?” “How did he die?” “Who took the rock away from the tomb?” “How did he rise from the dead?”

 

On Friday, the children wanted to take their shoes off again. “No,” I said, remembering the smell. I told them they were apostles now–sent out to share the good news that Jesus is alive! He is risen from the dead! I told them that it was dangerous to be a Christian in the early days. Christians could get beaten–or worse. Gertrude, wearing her hat upside down like a helmet, met the children at the door to my darkened office.  “Are you Christians?” she asked sternly.

Most of the children smiled and said yes. Then Gertrude sent them to “jail”–my comforter draped over my table and chairs, like a tent.

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But my last group–the little ones who demanded to see the blood –were scared when I told them of the dangers of being a Christian. When Gertrude asked if they were Christians, they shook their heads. “NO! I’m not a Christian!” said one little girl, trembling and taking my hand. I told her everything was going to be OK. Then I led her and the group into the “jail” to tell them all about Paul and Silas, whose joy in the Lord was their strength during their times of suffering. The kids were squealing so loud, I had to say in my most indignant voice, “You are having WAY too much fun in jail!”

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The children learned about Paul and Silas’ hope that they could not see, a hope that endured, though they were beaten and thrown in jail. They sang hymns as they waited on God, who would send an earthquake that would set them free from their shackles. The guard and his family would come to know Jesus through their witness.

Our hope is in the Spirit, friends, still working in us, helping us to live as children of God. Set your mind on the things of the Spirit! Don’t dwell on the things of this world. Let go of worry, fear and sadness. May God lead you to new life in His Son. May God grant you His peace.

Someday, our patient wait will be over. And our hope will no longer be hidden. We will see him face to face.

Let us pray.

Holy One, we thank you for loving us, and calling us your children, forgiving and redeeming us, though we still struggle with sin. Thank you for encouraging us to draw nearer to you and call you “Abba! Daddy!” Help us to be patient, Lord. Build up our faith as we wait and hope in You. Transform us, more and more, so that we are more like your Son, led by His Spirit that lives in us. Grant us new life. Give us your peace. And thank you for this wonderful week of VBS–for all the volunteers, for all the children, for their families who love you and want their children to hope in You, too. Bless them, watch over them and keep them in your tender care today and always. In Christ we pray. Amen.

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