July 19, 2020 /7th Sunday after Pentecost / Richard Holmer
1st Reading Isaiah 44:6-8/ 2nd Reading Romans 8:12-25 / Gospel Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Saved By Hope
I had never heard the term “trust fund baby” until I went to college. There was a guy I didn’t know really well, yet he hung around with people who were friends of mine. I guess you could call him an acquaintance. Woody was an easy going, carefree kind of guy. Like a lot of us in those days, he grew his hair long, he wore blue jeans and work shirts and sandals. I would see him at parties I attended. He came across as friendly and likable. One day one of my friends happened to say to me, “You know, Woody is a trust fund baby.” I said, “What do you mean?” My friend said, “He’s part of the Dow family – as in DOW Chemical. He’s worth millions.” I said something like, “Well, he doesn’t act rich – he seems like a regular guy.” My friend added, “Yeah, Woody’s a good guy. But unlike you and me, he’s set for life.”
Imagine what that would be like. Imagine that you had a relative who died and unexpectedly left you a fortune – more than enough to provide for the rest of your life. How would that feel? You might go out and make an impulse purchase – buy something you would otherwise not have been able to afford. But more than that, what would it be like to know that your financial worries were over? That your future was pretty much assured? What would you do differently? How would your day-to-day attitude and outlook be changed?
It’s worth pondering because today St. Paul tells us that you and I are in fact HEIRS. This is what he says: “. . . we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ . . .” This is more than a possibility, it’s a reality. You and I are in the family of God, as baptized daughters and sons. And so we are in fact in line for a major inheritance.
But you know what I think: I think we don’t take God’s promises seriously enough. We don’t take them to heart. We hear a verse like the one I just read and we think: “That’s nice.” And then we go back to worrying about how we will make our way in the world. I must admit that when it comes to the future, my plans can be based more on my retirement account than on God’s promises. My outlook can rise and fall with the stock market. Shame on me when I neglect the promises God has given to me – and to you. Think of what it means to be a joint heir with Jesus! Whatever is coming to Jesus will come to us as well!
So just what can we expect to inherit? Paul describes it as the glory of God. We will receive the fullness of God. Paul anticipates the time when “God will be all in all.” We will share in the eternal life of God, enjoying the glorious liberty of the children of God. It’s like one of those cartoons where the wealthy father says to his son, “One day all this will be yours.” And it will!
Our future is assured. Since Christ has been raised from the dead, we know that we will live with him forever. And so we can say “AMEN” when Paul announces that, “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory to be revealed to us.” (Not even close!) So you and I are like trust fund babies – because our trust is in the Lord of heaven and earth.
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So our future is bright – we’re set. What difference does this make for us – here and now? How does God’s marvelous promise to us change the way we go about our lives – how we think, how we behave, how we intend our lives today?
The real difference maker is HOPE. Paul says it simply: “in hope we are saved.” Consider the difference genuine hope makes. Living in hope we are saved from all our fears, from endless worries, from the threat of despair. Having hope doesn’t mean having no problems, no sorrow, no suffering. Far from it. Jesus suffered a lot during his time on earth – and he tells us we can expect our share of hardships. We will share in death as he did – as well as sharing in his resurrection. That’s the promise.
What hope does for us is it gives us the strength and the courage to persevere through all the trials and disappointments and pains of this life. (Hope Stone)
We are all well acquainted with the fundamental messiness of life. The world is like the field Jesus describes in the gospel: it’s full of wheat and weeds, growing side by side: good and bad, joys and sorrows, triumphs and losses, virtue and sin all around us – and also within us.
We endure and press on because Christ’s spirit lives in us – filling us with hope and assurance that will not disappoint us. Recall how back in chapter 5 of Romans, Paul speaks about how suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope, hope that will not disappoint us. It’s true.
Paul reminds us that we don’t hope for what can be seen. We don’t hope for more money, more stuff, more of whatever it is people are trying to sell us. No, our audacious hope is in the God we have not seen – the God we cannot fully know or completely understand. But nevertheless we hope in the God who has claimed us as his children, heirs – who forgives us and promises us his undying love.
Our hope is in God who promises to redeem not only us, but all of creation – everything he has made. Paul alludes to how not just people but creation itself is groaning in travail, suffering the pain of broken-ness and degradation, waiting for redemption. But the promise is sure: “creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay.” God will renew the face of the earth.
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These days a lot of hope is centered on the promise of a vaccine that will counteract the malevolent force of the corona virus. An effective vaccine could liberate us from all the constraints and fears and uncertainties of this pandemic. That will be a blessing, when it comes. Yet, friends, today I remind you that we abide in a much greater, more profound hope. Our hope is in the amazing trace of our God. In our daily lives, we have been touched by this grace in significant and memorable moments. We know its saving power We hope for the time when grace will not be occasional – but continuous and sustaining.
To live by such hope in God is to be saved. Never lose hope, because God promises to never lose the children he has claimed as his own. We belong to God forever.
Thanks be to God.