Now I have been here for about a month and I can gather that you all are still getting to know Sara and I. So I figured I would help you out today as I begin my sermon and give you an Andrew Ware fun fact. This week’s fun fact is that Sara and I both are big baseball fans and I am a huge Boston Red Sox fan, please don’t hold that against me though. I have been a Sox fan since I was a young child. My two best friends growing up were from the Massachusetts area and so I grew up hanging out with them and watching the Red Sox and growing up with their stories.
I am sure you are all wondering what the Boston Red Sox have to do with our scripture today. Well if you know anything about baseball you will know that the history of the Red Sox is not a grand one and is full of stories of suffering and disappointment. For Red Sox fans, especially those who are older than me, it had been a time of suffering and waiting until the Red Sox could finally pull off a World Series victory.
Let me start from the beginning. On January 2, 1918, after having just won their 4th World Series in 7 years and 5th overall, the owner of the Boston Red Sox Harry Frazee sold the great Babe Ruth to the rival New York Yankees for $100,000. The sale of Ruth sparked the Curse of the Bambino which hung over the Red Sox team for the next 86 years. As a kid I remembering hearing stories from my friends parents about all of the shortcomings and disappointments experienced by Red Sox fans and even experienced a few myself. From Joe Morgan of the Cincinnati Reds in 1975 to Bucky Dent of the New York Yankees in 1978. From the grounder between the legs of Billy Buckner in 1986 to the two four-game sweeps by the Athletics in 1988 and 90. And I remember Grady Little leaving in Pedro Martinez in the 8th and the Yankees making a comeback to tie and later win in 2003.
I am sure you are all asking, “Why would you choose to like this team? A team that continually suffers and never finds glory.” I am not sure why I did that. I just remember growing up and watching the Red Sox play and just being drawn to them. Yes the disappointment and suffering bothered me, but I kept thinking about what could be if they ever would win a World Series.
Then in 2004 something amazing happened. After 86 years the Red Sox won the World Series, but they didn’t just win. They did it in a fashion worthy of breaking a curse. I remember watching the Red Sox face their rivals, The New York Yankees, in the ALCS. down 3-0 in a best of 7 series, and coming back to win 4-3. Leading to a 4-0 sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. The Boston Red Sox 2004 World Series victory is a story of longtime suffering leading to glory for those who continually stood beside them.
Today we continue to journey our way through Paul’s writings in Romans 8. As we have discovered Romans 8 is Paul’s writing on what our lives are like in the Spirit and this week offers no deviation from that writing. Whereas though, in previous weeks where Paul is celebratory about the new life we receive, and rejoices as to what the Spirit brings us, this week it seems a little bit more dark. As I mentioned, last weeks verses serve as a transitional passage, and it transitions us to a different feeling in this life under the Spirit..
We even began to hear words that led us to this weeks passage last week. Paul says in verse 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.” This verse transitions us to this section of Romans 8 we look at today, and we see a grave turn as Paul comes to talking about suffering that we might experience while under the Spirit.
This can be quite jarring to hear. We often always think of the Holy Spirit as a protector and one who keeps us from suffering, and the Spirit does. We hear in other places in scripture that the Spirit watches over us and brings us into God’s love, but let’s also think about this deeper and look at what Paul is talking about here.
While the Spirit protects us and showers us with God’s love it also brings along with it a level trouble.The Spirit offers us God, but this does not exempt us from continuing to our live life. Unfortunately when we commit our lives to the Spirit we are not automatically transported to a future realm of glory to experience only glory for the rest of our lives. No, we continue to live our lives the difference is now we are living our lives with the Spirit. As I noted a few weeks ago we are to move on from our mountain top faith highs. We have to go back out into the real world. The world outside the church where there is more than a fair share of suffering and anguish.
Paul is laying down the truth in this passage. He is saying that this commitment, of allowing the Spirit in, is not one to be taken lightly. As Christians we are seeking for continual movement towards sanctification. Therefore, we must continually fight temptation and the will to do the right thing in our lives. In suffering we must continually live for God no matter how tough it may be sometimes. And that can be really tough.
This can be a very difficult task and Paul is noting that. Paul is being real here. He wants the Romans to understand the commitment they have made. Paul opens in verse 18 saying, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.” Paul is telling the Romans that this life is not going to be easy, and I am sure we can all point to our own experiences of the sheer difficulty of living with the Spirit. A life that cannot taken lightly.
Paul is wanting us to know that we cannot allow pain and suffering to dictate our lives with Christ. That no matter what we must continue to find strength through the Spirit and look towards God. A friend of mine tells of when her mother died while she was in school. She noted the difficulty it took to bring herself back to be able to go to class and do work. She was experiencing more hurt and pain than she could have ever imagined possible. People often look at these situations and wonder how these people can be a part of a religion where a God allows this to happen. A God who does not stop terrible things. However, it is these times that Paul talks of in mentioning suffering.
We have our own human suffering that takes so much out of us. Much like the suffering of every Red Sox fan before 2004. The suffering is deep and can often disparage those who are followers. We can feel weak and powerless and worst of all hopeless.
But hope is what Paul is offering in this passage. Hope is Paul’s main point, because it is by hope that we can turn our minds toward the greater glory that is to come. We often bury ourselves so deep in suffering we forget to remind ourselves of the glory that God has offered us.
Lets look at the time frame in which Paul is writing these words. Paul is writing as the church is still very much an underground movement in the Roman empire. While it was beginning to gain some steam Christians were still looked at as dangerous people by the Roman government and their religion was not to be practiced. Paul is writing to the members of the church in the capital of this very dangerous world. These people who would have had firsthand experience of persecution by the Roman Empire.
Paul has all of this on his mind as he is writing this letter. These people in Rome have probably witnessed things that might have caused them to begin to lose hope. To lose sight of the one whom they have committed their lives to and the one whom they have sought protection from. Hence the writings that we have associated with the early church, especially those in Romans 8. These words written to lift these people up and to remind them that these sufferings are nothing in comparison to the glory that is to come. That we cannot allow suffering to plague us and cause us to lose hope.
Paul says that it is through hope. It is through hope that we can get past this suffering and move towards the promised glory. However, it is a certain type of hope. It is a blind hope. Paul says in verses 24 and 25, “ For in hope we are saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
Hope that is seen is not hope. How can that be. Well lets think back. When the Red Sox won the World Series did I have hope they would win it? No, because they had already won it. I had seen it happen. I didn’t need to have hope because it was occurring right in front of me. However, before that fateful October I had a lot of hope that they would win. I hoped they would win because I had not seen it yet. I cannot say how patient I was about it, but I hoped it would happen. The glory I experienced when they finally won was great compared to the suffering I had been experiencing before. It was through patience that that hope was finally revealed. Now if you want real patience find yourself a Cubs fan.
This can be much like with our hope of glory. If we immediately experienced glory what kind of hope would that fuel. What kind of faith would that create. It would be a meaningless faith in a one time event. However, a faith that we work for and a glory we wait for and hope for is much larger than any of the suffering that we could experience.
Paul is seeking to encourage the Romans. These Romans who are living in a tough time. A time of trial, persecution and suffering. However, he is telling them not to lose hope. All of this suffering is nothing compared to the glory that we will experience.
So I urge all of you to listen to what Paul is telling us here. Our lives under the Spirit are going to be difficult. This commitment we have made to be children of God is not one that comes with a bright bow, but one that comes with work and sometimes with suffering. Our road towards sanctification is a tough one, and I like that Paul tells us that. It could have been so easy for Paul to stretch and say everything will be alright, but he doesn’t. Paul notes the difficulty, and tells us that that is how we grow in our faith. That is how we breed hope. Hope for a glory that is difficult to see, but a hope that is there.
Our faith is what drives us to continue to see this hope and what continues to feed us in our relationship with God. Don’t lose that faith and hope no matter how tough it gets. God is always there looking out for us, and the promises that have been made for us are so much more than any suffering we can experience on earth. Go forth knowing of this hope and keep it with you constantly.