Evil Plans Foiled

Message Title: Evil Plans Foiled
Theme: Stories of Transformation
Main Text: Romans 8: (12-25) 26-39; 
Scripture Reading:  Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
RCL Scripture: Genesis 29:15-28; Psalm 105:1-11, 45b or Psalm 128; 1 Kings 3:5-12; Psalm 119:129-136; Romans 8:26-39; Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
Focus: Paul says nothing can separate us from God’s love.
Function: To receive God’s unconditional love and to celebrate our adoption and how large the family of God is, so that we can spread the Good News.  (and remove conditions on other believers)

Scripture reading: Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 31 He told another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and planted in his field. 32 It’s the smallest of all seeds. But when it’s grown, it’s the largest of all vegetable plants. It becomes a tree so that the birds in the sky come and nest in its branches.” 33 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast, which a woman took and hid in a bushel of wheat flour until the yeast had worked its way through all the dough.”… 44 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure that somebody hid in a field, which someone else found and covered up. Full of joy, the finder sold everything and bought that field. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. 46 When he found one very precious pearl, he went and sold all that he owned and bought it. 47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that people threw into the lake and gathered all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, they pulled it to the shore, where they sat down and put the good fish together into containers. But the bad fish they threw away.49 That’s the way it will be at the end of the present age. The angels will go out and separate the evil people from the righteous people, 50 and will throw the evil ones into a burning furnace. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth. 51 “Have you understood all these things?”  Jesus asked. They said to him, “Yes.” 52 Then he said to them, “Therefore, every legal expert who has been trained as a disciple for the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings old and new things out of their treasure chest.”
Lord’s prayer

Movie transformation: ‘Freedom Riders’ was a documentary released in 2010 by PBS that focused on the Civil Rights group by the same name.  This group of students were both black and white Americans with the goal to push the lines on Jim Crowe laws & segregation by riding public transit through the deep south. Their plan was to stop at cafes and diners where segregation was enforced and civilly disobey no matter the consequences.

This documentary is not for the faint of heart. Though it is not graphic, like some Civil Rights movies or documentaries, it shows pictures and film clips from some gruesome moments in our country’s history. And it honestly made me think of the 2020s.

What I admired the most from this documentary was hearing how the Freedom Riders were determined to not let violence prevent them. They refused to let hate win. They refused to stoop down to the level of violence.

Transition: Violence and hatred would not win. In our text for today, we hear that God has the same thoughts: Hate will not win.

God: Romans 8:12-39 (BROAD STROKES!)

LAST WEEK’S TEXT: VS 12-25 Because of my vacation, I chopped our straight reading through Romans 8 up. So for the sake of continuity, I want to read the text from last week before we dive in this week.

12 So then, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation, but it isn’t an obligation to ourselves to live our lives on the basis of selfishness. 13 If you live on the basis of selfishness, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the actions of the body, you will live. 14 All who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons and daughters. 15 You didn’t receive a spirit of slavery to lead you back again into fear, but you received a Spirit that shows you are adopted as his children. With this Spirit, we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The same Spirit agrees with our spirit, that we are God’s children. 17 But if we are children, we are also heirs. We are God’s heirs and fellow heirs with Christ, if we really suffer with him so that we can also be glorified with him. 18 I believe that the present suffering is nothing compared to the coming glory that is going to be revealed to us. 19 The whole creation waits breathless with anticipation for the revelation of God’s sons and daughters. 20 Creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice—it was the choice of the one who subjected it—but in the hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from slavery to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of God’s children. 22 We know that the whole creation is groaning together and suffering labor pains up until now. 23 And it’s not only the creation. We ourselves who have the Spirit as the first crop of the harvest also groan inside as we wait to be adopted and for our bodies to be set free. 24 We were saved in hope. If we see what we hope for, that isn’t hope. Who hopes for what they already see? 25 But if we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience.

  1. Paul says we are all heirs with Christ. We are not slaves to the law! The law cannot condemn us or enslave us. No! In fact, we are heirs alongside Christ. No, though we are not biologically related to Jesus or Abraham, but God added to the family tree by adopting us into the family. God picked us.

THIS WEEKS TEXT: Vs 26-39: Paul will spend the rest of Romans 8 showing how our ‘chosen’ state transforms everything else.

Vs 26-30 26 In the same way, the Spirit comes to help our weakness. We don’t know what we should pray, but the Spirit himself pleads our case with unexpressed groans. 27 The one who searches hearts knows how the Spirit thinks, because he pleads for the saints, consistent with God’s will. 28 We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose.29 We know this because God knew them in advance, and he decided in advance that they would be conformed to the image of his Son. That way his Son would be the first of many brothers and sisters. 30 Those who God decided in advance would be conformed to his Son, he also called. Those whom he called, he also made righteous. Those whom he made righteous, he also glorified.

  1. As Heirs, we’re never alone: The Spirit of God is with us and prays for us.
    1. The Spirit of God helps us
      1. When we don’t know what to pray
    2. The Spirit of God knows our hearts
  2. God is redeeming our choices and story. Not that God makes us suffer to develop, but that God uses those things for good.
    1. “God works all things…”
  3. Yep, God chose us. God knew us in advance (some Christians believe that God preordained (or pre-picked) the chosen ones; others say God planned creation to eventually all come to God; still others believe this is about God desiring us and the fate of humans is up to their choices.)
    1. Regardless of the theology we place on this text:
      1. God decided in advance who would come to God
      2. God made those he knew righteous

Vs 31-29 31 So what are we going to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He didn’t spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. Won’t he also freely give us all things with him? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect people? It is God who acquits them.34 Who is going to convict them? It is Christ Jesus who died, even more, who was raised, and who also is at God’s right side. It is Christ Jesus who also pleads our case for us. 35 Who will separate us from Christ’s love? Will we be separated by trouble, or distress, or harassment, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, We are being put to death all day long for your sake. We are treated like sheep for slaughter. 37 But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us.38 I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers 39 or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.

  1. “So what are we going to say about these things”—Paul has spent this portion of his letter to the Romans building up an obvious point. This point comes to a head in the last verses with a series of questions that lead to an obvious answer.
    1. The Big questions:
      1. If God is for us, who is against us?
      2. 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect people?
      3. 35 Who will separate us from Christ’s love?
  2. Paul’s goal is to help the readers come to the same conclusion…. What is the big conclusion?
    1. The Big Answer
      1. Nothing can separate us from the love of God
        1. Hear it another way:
        2. I cannot separate others from the love of God
        3. My beliefs cannot separate others from the love of God.
          1. mention: growing up thinking that only certain denominations were “right” or would “get in to heaven”
          2. why are we trying to divide humans with our own laws or even theology??
      2. God’s character, God’s love, God’s goals are not defined by human ideas.
  3. Our goal isn’t to police each other or determine who. Our goal is to honor God with our lives by building community through connecting to our commission from the Garden of Eden: to Flourish and Nourish creation!
    1. We are to celebrate our adoption and how large the family of God is, so we can spread the Good News. 

Back to intro: The Freedom Riders were not willing to stop their project, regardless of what opposition they may experience.Nothing would stop them from speaking up and acting up for what was right.Their convictions helped them to remain strong, even when their own mortality was at risk.

Conclusion: We will not hold God back by our human ideas. If we look at the story of scripture, we see a repetition of God wanting to accomplish God’s original goal and giving humans another chance to take part.

I believe in a God who is all powerful, no human plans will hold God back. I believe in a God who is just, merciful, and compassionate. God wants to include us in the plans and gives us plenty of opportunities. 

Are we going to be held back by our own stubbornness? Are we going to miss the bus?

Evil’s plains will be foiled. God’s plans will succeed. We need to change our plans to fit with God’s program.

How can we celebrate and take part in the big family tree of God?

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