Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
July 17, 2011
“The Glory That Is to Be Revealed” (Romans 8:18-27)
Today we continue in Romans 8. Last week we heard that we have received “The Spirit of Adoption as Sons,” that is, that God has changed our status from slaves to sons, that he has given us the Holy Spirit, so that we would know this, and that we have an inheritance waiting for us in the future, which gives us hope even now. So continuing on from that point, today St. Paul tells us more about the inheritance to come, what it is we are waiting for. And so our theme this morning: “The Glory That Is to Be Revealed.”
Reading again from our text: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”
Paul here is describing two “glories,” if you will, which are really linked together: the glory that is to be revealed for us, the children of God, specifically in the redemption of our bodies; and secondly, the glory that is to be revealed for all of creation, when it is set free from its bondage to corruption. Both we and the creation itself wait eagerly, with groaning, for this glory to come.
So let’s start with this bondage to corruption, because that’s where we find ourselves now, both we and this fallen creation we live in. That’s our present reality, isn’t it? We ourselves are caught in this bondage to corruption: decay, decline, disease, disability, and, at the end of the road, death. This is our common lot in life, a long, losing battle that ends in death. We feel it in our bones. Our joints are aching. We can’t do what we used to do. Age does a number on us. We go groaning toward the grave.
Then there is the bondage to corruption that creation experiences. The world doesn’t work the way it should. There is a certain beauty still remaining in creation, but the roses are covered with thorns. Disaster and futility mark the world we live in: crop failure, famine, flood and drought. Tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanoes–the earth itself is groaning, as in birth pangs. Brutal heat and bitter cold. Plagues of locusts and paradise lost.
Yes, paradise lost. That is where all this decay and disorder comes from. We lost paradise, that beautiful garden we were given in the beginning. That garden was very good. Everything worked in beautiful harmony. God had entrusted us with the care of his creation, and that work was a joy, not a burden. God’s blessing rested upon us.
But then we thought we could do better than God. We wanted to cut loose from our Creator, because we thought he was holding out on us. This was the fall into sin, and we’re still repeating our father’s folly. When you and I tune out God, ignore his voice, break his commandments, and go it on our own, we are replaying the sin of Adam. We are those sinners who have fallen, and we can’t get up.
The result of our sin was that we were driven out of the garden, and a curse came upon the earth. Women and men feel the effects of the fall in our bodies, in our work, in the conflict that mars our relationships, and in the futility and frustration we experience on a daily basis. Nature can be our enemy as much as it is our friend. Women experience pain in childbearing. Men experience pain in their working of the ground: thorns and thistles, and toilsome, sweaty labor. And for all of us: “Dust you are, and to dust you shall return.”
So everything is out of whack, our bodies and the earth itself. All the result of sin and the curse that followed. What a sorry mess. This is the bondage to corruption that we find ourselves in.
But Paul says: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” There are the sufferings we experience because we are humans living in a fallen world–sickness, disasters, loss of loved ones, and so on. And on top of that, there are the sufferings we endure for the sake of Christ, because we are Christians–persecution, the world’s scorn, the devil’s temptations. Put them all together, Paul says, stack ’em in a heap, and they are not even worthy of being compared to the glory that is to come. Wow! That’s a pretty strong statement, because the sufferings we experience do seem to us to be pretty powerful as we go through them. But that shows just how wonderful, how surpassingly great and glorious, is the glory that is going to be revealed.
In what does this future glory consist? Two things, the redemption of our bodies and the restoration of creation. Do you know that this body you have is going to be raised from the dead? It will be. “Well,” you say, “is this good news or bad news? Because if God’s going to raise up this old creaky bag of bones for many centuries more of wear and tear, I’m not sure this is something to look forward to!” Well, relax, my friend, it’s going to be better than that. The resurrection life to come is not just going to be a continuation of the present misery. Oh, you will be you, alright, but the difference is, you will be all right! It will be your body, but raised up new and glorious, whole and working perfectly. No more sickness, no more aches and pains, no more tears or sorrow. God our Creator made man to be a whole creature, body and soul, and that is how we will be raised and living in the age to come. We will not be ethereal Casper the Ghosts, floating around on puffy clouds. No, we will have real, material bodies. Now all the details of the resurrection of the body I do not know. God doesn’t tell us everything. That’s why it is still “to be revealed.” But we do know enough to be excited about it and to wait for it eagerly.
And not just our bodies, but all of creation will be restored, new and whole and working perfectly. No more disasters, no more futility. No longer will nature be our enemy. It will be like the garden, only better. Paradise regained, and then some. New heavens and a new earth. The New Jerusalem come down to earth. God dwelling with man, God’s people living in harmony, God’s beautiful creation more beautiful than ever.
The restoration of creation, creation set free from its bondage to corruption. The redemption of our bodies, raised up new and glorious. This setting free, this redemption–how does it come about? Why? What has happened to make it so? The redemption happens because there is a redeemer. Christ Jesus our Lord is the redeemer, the one and only redeemer who sets us free from our bondage. And this redemption came at a cost, the cost of Christ’s most holy blood. For God’s own Son came down from heaven, down to this dirty, fallen world that we had so messed up. He entered our broken humanity and became one of us, the Creator joining his creatures. He came as our redeemer, sent on a mission to set us free. Only God could undo the curse, and that is what Christ has done. He, the sinless one, suffered in our stead, taking the full force of God’s just wrath against sinners. Christ redeems us from our sins, he redeems our bodies, by taking our sin into his body, the body hanging on a cross on a dark but very Good Friday.
Jesus’ resurrection then shows the result. When sin is paid for, death loses its grip. Christ comes out of that tomb on Easter morning, showing us the resurrection that is in store for us. We share in his inheritance, the inheritance of much beloved sons. All the healings, and miracles, and authority over nature that Christ demonstrated in his ministry–all that too serves as a preview of the glory that is to be revealed.
When will this happen? When Christ our Lord returns on the Last Day. Again, we don’t know the exact day, but we do wait for it eagerly. Maranatha! Our Lord, come! Come and release us from this bondage to corruption! Come and restore your fallen creation to the way it ought to be. We anticipate, we look forward to, as if on tiptoes, the return of our Savior. We wait with eager longing for the revealing of us poor sinners as, amazingly, the beloved children of God. All creation is groaning in expectation. The Spirit within us likewise testifies to this coming deliverance and groans in anticipation.
When we see the pain and feel the misery within us and around us, we may weep and cry out in an aching heart. But at the same time, we know there is glory coming, it is on the way, and it will be glorious indeed! Creation restored, as good as new and even better. We, God’s people, raised up unto everlasting life, in new and glorified bodies, no longer subject to the pains and miseries we experience now. “For in this hope we were saved.”
The knowledge of this salvation, this hope that lives inside us, animated by the Holy Spirit working through the gospel and the sacraments–this lively hope, centered in Christ Jesus our Savior, who died and rose and who is coming again–this is what makes our waiting worthwhile. It gives us strength to endure whatever sufferings may come our way. It gives us a joy that is greater than our woes. It gets us going in the morning–and in the afternoon, and in the evening of our days. “The glory that is to be revealed”: It is worth waiting for.