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A Sermon on The Epistle For Ordinary 17 - Proper 12 - Year A
Romans 8:28
"For Those Who Love God"
By Rev. David A. Tietz
(St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Taylor, Texas)

READING: Romans 8:28 SERMON : "For Those Who Love God" Rev. David A. Tietz D_Tietz@COMPUSERVE.COM This sermon was written by the Rev. David A. Tietz in 1999 for Pentecost 9, Year A (Ordinary 17) and posted to the PRCL List in July of that year. Reproduced with permission. One of my favorite characters in the Peanuts comic strip is Linus with his blanket. Whenever Snoopy tries to sneak up and steal his blanket, Linus holds on for dear life. He's not going to let go of his security and comfort. As a child, I remember having a favorite blanket that I carried around. And when I got older, I still kept it on my bed. There was something very comforting about that old blanket. Regardless of our ages, we still hold on to our security blankets. We need something to anchor our lives, to give us stability and security: - Family - A familiar routine we follow every day - Bank accounts, investments, pension programs - Good health and physical fitness - Lots of friends… There are all sorts of grown-up security blankets that we hold on to for dear life, to give us a sense of stability and certainty and comfort in an ever changing and often dangerous and threatening world. We spend a lot of time, money, and energy trying to find some anchor, some foundation, for our lives. We keep trying to control our own fortunes and our won destiny. We keep trying to play God by trying to make the world work the way we think it should. But sooner or later we discover, sometimes tragically, that the ultimate answers in life, the security and safety we long for, simply cannot be found in the things we cling to. The answer to life is beyond us, beyond anything in this world we hold on to.... In our Second Reading this morning from Romans 8, the Apostle Paul tells us some amazing things. This single chapter offers us more wonderful promises of God than we can hardly handle. · Paul tells us that we do not even know how to pray or what to pray for, but God in his mercy, through the power of the Holy Spirit, interprets our prayers in ways that benefit us and are for our good. · Paul tells us, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" And then he gives us one of the greatest and most comforting promises in all of Scripture: "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." What a wonderful, powerful promise, full of hope and assurance. In our lesson this morning, Paul also says in verse 28, "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose." As Christians, we believe that our destiny and the destiny of this world is not ultimately in our own hands, nor is it in the hands of world leaders, advanced technology, pension plans, or health foods. No, as Christians we believe that our ultimate destiny, and therefore our ultimate security, is in the hands of God - The same God who has been faithful down through the centuries - The same God who continues to work through human history; - The same God who revealed his love and grace to us through the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. We believe in the providence of God. We believe that God, in his divine wisdom and goodness and love, holds the future in his hands. We believe that God's will in human history, as well as in our own lives - that God's will will ultimately be done. This is what Paul means when he says that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. The only problem is that there are many times, there are many circumstances, where we simply do not see it, do not really believe that all things work together for good. At a funeral home, a child is there lying in the casket. We don't know what to say, but sooner or later someone says, "Well, God must have wanted another angel in heaven. We have to accept God's will. This will all work out for good somehow." What are we saying, that God did this to this precious child? That the death this child is God's will? That the tragic death of a dear child will bring good into our lives? No, the child was what was good. Her death, her loss, is what is bad! There's no doubt about it. - Bad things happen in our world. - Bad things happen in our lives: - Sickness, suffering, death, accidents, addiction, crime, divorce, abuse, war, floods, tornadoes - you name it! Bad things happen! So how can Paul say that all things work together for good for those who love God? Here are a couple things for us to consider, to help us understand what Paul is saying. First, Paul is not making some sort of Pollyanna claim that completely ignores the realities of pain and evil and suffering in our world. Paul is not saying that Christians, those who are called according to God's purpose, will never have anything bad happen to them, that life will be a bed of roses. But Paul is saying that this world and our lives are in the loving hands of God, and God loves us so much that God sent his only Son to die for us. Therefore, we can look to the future with confidence. We don't have to be afraid. Even in the midst of all that bad things that can happen, even in the face of all the uncertainty and insecurity in this world, we can live in faith and confidence, knowing that ultimately, ultimately, the will of God will be done. And the ultimate will of God will be good, will be life and salvation, not evil and death. Secondly, we need to realize that we will not always see or recognize or know the good that comes from the bad in our lives. I remembering ministering to a man who had lost his son in a tragic accident that included the death or injury of a couple dozen other people. This man was a good, committed, Christian who truly believed and lived the promises of God. And since God's Word tells us that all things work together for good, in his grief and pain, he wrestled with and struggled with trying to find some good in his son's tragic death. He finally came to the conclusion that since his son was facing some difficult decisions and a difficult career move, God decided to spare him all that, and therefore caused the accident and took him home early. I felt sorry for the man, that he had to find some good reason for his son's death in order to keep believing in a good God. From my perspective, his reasoning was so convoluted and irrational. - What about all the other people that were killed? - Were they just pawns in God's will for his son? - Is death better than facing some difficult decisions? It didn't make sense, but in his grief, it was his way at the time to try to make sense out of a senseless tragedy in order to maintain his faith in the promises of God. The truth is, to say we believe that in all things God works for good is a statement of faith. There are many times when we will not see the good. When we will not recognize the good even if it were right in front of us. We may have to accept the fact that our definition of good may not always square with what God calls good in God's divine wisdom and infinite understanding. Yes, God works for good, but we may not see that good until that final day when our eyes will be opened and all of the troubling and nagging questions will finally be answered. Won't that be a wonderful day when we will finally be able to say, "Ah! Now I see! Now I understand!" Finally, to believe that in all things God works for good is not a reason to slide into some sort of fatalism that says, "Well, whatever will be will be, and it will all end up good in the end. So what can I do, anyway?" Yes, God's will will be done in the end, but in the end, are we going to be seen as being participants in God's will, living our lives in harmony with God's will? Or is God's will going to be accomplished in spite of us? Are we living in harmony with God's will? Or are we fighting against it by our actions or by our inactivity? This means that if you're unemployed, you don't sit around waiting for God to give you a job, but you go out looking, you fill out applications, you get additional training, whatever it takes. And you trust God that good will come. And when a flood hits that leaves thousands homeless, you don't sit back and say, "God will take care of them. It will all work out for good." No, it means digging into your pocket book and helping that good to happen, or volunteering your time and energy in bringing relief to those who suffer. Sometimes God's good will is accomplished through people like you and me. In the same way, - you study for tests, - you try to eat a well balanced diet and get regular exercise, - you drive safely, - you help the poor, - you strive for justice, - you work for peace, - you protect the environment, - you minister to the suffering, - you proclaim the gospel, - you try to do everything in your power and wisdom to live in line with the will of God and be one of God's agents in bringing about in this world the good that God promises. But ultimately, we live by faith and not by sight. We continue to see and experience all sorts of evil, suffering, and death around us and within us. Sometimes the things that happen just don't make any sense at all. Sometimes we hurt and grieve and suffer, and we don't know why. We do not see the good. Yet at the same time, we believe the promise of God that all things God works together for good for those who love God, who are called according to God's purpose. Sometimes life is like a tapestry, a weaving, a quilt. If you look at it from the back side, all you see is a confusing jumble of knots and threads and colours. It seems chaotic, without form or rhyme or reason. But if you look at it from the other side, from the right side, it all comes together into a beautiful masterpiece of color, design, and purpose. In our humanness, in our limited vision and perspective, we see life from the back side. We don't always see what God's hand is designing and creating. But one of these days we will. And when that day comes, we, along with St. Paul, will be able to say without doubt or hesitation: We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. That promise is our anchor in this troubling and confusing world. That promise is our security, our comfort, our hope. Thanks be to God. Amen copyright: sermon - Rev. David A. Tietz 1999 - 2005 page - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2002 - 2005 please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.


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