sermon – 7.13.11

here is the sermon from last night’s service (had to write a new one since there were people there last night who were also at the installation service on sunday…)

July 13, 2011 – Romans 8:1-11

Grace and peace to you, through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen

Romans 8 is a fascinating text, one that is able to alter lives. This chapter is extremely important in Lutheran understandings of God’s love and grace. We start the chapter with a line that is all about freedom: There is no condemnation for those in Christ. There is no death for those who choose to focus upon God while those who only focus on their sin and flesh will only know death.

At the heart of Romans is God’s love and grace. We learn that God trumps sin whenever our flesh is infused with God’s Spirit.

Here is a brief lesson in Greek terminology to help understand a bit more of Paul’s writing:

Flesh is sarx. Sarx is limited by our weak, sinful, human desires that focus upon finding our own happiness and pleasure in what we think brings us life. Sarx is easily understood in our culture of reality TV where we can see countless people struggling to find joy in life by seeking to fulfill their desires.

Body is soma. Soma is neither good nor evil. Our bodies really are quite neutral. We cannot live unless we are soma, unless we have soma. God created soma, God gave us bodies to dwell in and to live.

Spirit is Pneuma. The Spirit is what gives us life. In Genesis, God breathes life into bodies and the Spirit of God continues to shape life. Pneuma is in our lungs as we breathe and live. Pneuma is how we know that we belong to God and how God gives us peace and life.

Why this brief lesson? It’s not to show off the Greek skills I lack, but instead to point out that Paul sees a nuanced difference in the body and flesh and spirit.

How many of you have ever heard of or referred to people as being full of life? What did you mean by this? Were they the people who laughed a lot, who smiled, who sang, who seemed to possess a deep contentment and joy? Were they the people who took risks and sought pleasure? Were they the people who thought only of themselves or were they the ones who thought only of God?

In our culture we understand the tension between a life that is focused upon sarx or flesh. We understand that some only seek to fulfill desires of the flesh. Fleshly desires are thought of as only natural, no matter how harmful our sinful desires may be.

But we also understand a life that is focused upon the Spirit of God, upon Christ. We understand that sometimes we are most full of life when we do not focus upon ourselves but instead upon an other.

I’m not here to debate about what is natural or good. I’m standing up here to reflect upon how Paul is looking around his world, how we look around at our world. How we look around and see the limits of our flesh that is ultimately weak. People are trying to find ways to be happy but are failing.

They do not know that the freedom, the joy, the peace, the life actually come when we no longer seek to fulfill desires of the flesh but instead desire to fulfill the will of God. Life comes when we stop focusing on our own lives and instead focus upon God.

This looks differently for each person. We each have our own prayers, concerns, desires and abilities. We each have our own way to focus on God. We each experience God’s gracious gift of life and peace in our own way.

But we all have hope when we set our minds on Christ.

Life is a gift from God. Life is given to those who focus on God. Who focus on being who God wants us to be. Who focus on doing what God wants us to do.

Life is found when we stop looking for it in our world.

Today we sang the Prayer of Saint Francis. This prayer is attributed to the 13th century monk St Francis of Assissi, who is known for leading a life of peace and contentment. St Francis is known for having given up all his worldly possessions in order to focus on God. He found life when his life was focused on letting the Spirit of God dwell in him and guide him.

Tonight, let us remember that life is not about us but about God, who gives us life abundant.

I want to end my sermon by rereading the Prayer of Saint Francis, so will you please pray with me:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon.

Where there is doubt, faith.

Where there is despair, hope.

Where there is darkness, light.

Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,

grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;

to be understood, as to understand;

to be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive.

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Amen.

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