I’m posting my sermon from Sunday, not because it’s my best effort, but because there are some pictures that I didn’t get to use yesterday. Hopefully these illustrations will make it TOTALLY make sense now.
This is a passage that’s packed full of doctrinal things that we could unpack for days – predestination or “the elect”, the Trinity, prayer/intercession, atonement. The mind boggles. It also contains that most annoying verse that is often trotted out inappropriately in times of tragedy. The things that stood out for me as I was getting ready today are things can be comforting to us as individuals and to our community during this time of transition.
One of the things we do here at Mission Bay is that we end our service in prayer. The way we do that is we ask people to share joys or concerns and then we ask someone else to pray for them or their concern throughout the week.
The Spirit prays for us, because we do not know how to pray as we ought. Who thinks you know how to pray? Apparently, you’re wrong. As offensive as that sounds, I think it’s probably right. I don’t think we do know what to pray for, because when we’re praying for ourselves, many times our agenda is to ask for things that we want or think we want or think we should want. I’m glad the Spirit is praying for me because she knows what I actually need. We need to become open to the process of personal transformation so we can see things the way the Spirit sees them. Who’s seen Harry Potter? No, I haven’t yet. Who’s seen it in 3D? When you see a film in 3D, you have to wear different glasses that make it possible to see to a depth or perspective that is otherwise impossible. Without the Holy Spirit, we cannot see God’s perspective. The Spirit enlightens our eyes so we can see the hope to which God has called us.
Not only is God’s Spirit praying for us, but Jesus is sitting next to God in heaven advocating on our behalf. You’ll notice here that it doesn’t say that difficult things wont’ happen to us. We know that all kinds of difficulties in life are possible. Many of us and/or many of the people we love are going through them now. What this does say to us ist hat despite what happens, we are always held in the love of Christ. You and I and our community are held by the love of Christ through all of our circumstances, good and bad. No one can stand against us. No one, no circumstance. .
Isaiah 49:15-16 reads, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will never forget you.” Take a look at this picture:
There are trees like this all around Golden Gate park and I absolutely love them. They’re Narnian or something like that. There is a deep inseparability in the branches and the roots and the earth. There’s more than one plant involved here but I can’t tell the difference. And if you can, keep quiet, because you’ll ruin my illustration. Think of this as a picture of the description of how God holds us closely and how we are inseparably intertwined in God’s love.
God doesn’t promise us that things will all go smoothly. The list of possible hardships in this passage is rather horrifying. What we do know is that all things work together toward our ultimate purpose: being formed in the image of Christ and being salt and light in the world.