Romans 15:4-13. Good
News for all!! 4/12/16
4 For everything that was written in the past
was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures
and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
5 May the God who gives endurance and
encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ
Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may
glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ
accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8 For I tell you
that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that
the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed 9 and,
moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written:
I will praise you among the Gentiles;
I will sing the praises of your name.”
10 Again, it says, “Rejoice, you Gentiles, with
11 And again, “Praise the Lord, all you
Gentiles; let all the peoples extol him.”
12 And again, Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse
will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him
the Gentiles will hope.”
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and
peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of
the Holy Spirit.
There is hope
as we go forward as God’s people and that hope
is available to all people; if only they would have it. With that we are able
to have the courage and endurance to face life in a world that
is having great difficulty; but desperately trying to pretend that all is well.
Along with that we can have a joy and peace that overflows in our lives.
At this time, as we are approaching Christmas once
more, this is a very important message for us to hear and share with those we
come into contact with. For despite the fact that this is the season of joy and
happiness, for many it is the opposite. Again the other night I heard of the
fact that there is a huge increase in in loneliness, depression and troubled
relationships at this time of the year.
Despite all the nice adds and rhetoric around the Christmas
tree and dinner and the like, the reality is sadly far different. We are told
that Christmas is such a wonderful time for us as we enjoy our gifts,
relationships and merriment. Yet the reality for many is far different.
The financial pressures for many means that they will
be dependent on the Welfare agencies for their basics over Christmas. Broken and
divorced families result in tensions over access and who we will and won’t be
sharing it all with, and the untold loneliness and hurt that results. The extra
work requirements at this time adds to the pressure and lack of time to do what
needs to be done. And the list could go on.
Then to make matters even worse Christ is taken out of
Christmas and the result is a lot of hype about nothing. For without him the
peace, joy and good will is empty and shallow. Christmas becomes a time that we
have to work hard at making it what we want it to be; and it just doesn’t work
out. The more that we make it about what we do, the more frustrating and
divisive it all becomes. There is then no meaning in Christmas other than a few
Yet again, we as a society want to desperately portray
it all as a good time and that all is well. We don’t want to admit that life
for most people is far from rosy. We put a nice glossy coat over it all, and
pretend that all is well. The reality however is far from it.
This then adds
to the dilemma for most people. Since all this is so good, and everyone is
wearing their plastic smiles, it must be only me that is the problem. Everyone
else is having a good time, and everything is going well for them, so my
problem then is even worse. Either I am a failure or everyone is against me, or
my problem is worse than the others. So inside the hurt is even worse.
So welcome to today’s real world. This is the harsh
reality of life in our sinful world. It is all around us, and even in our own
lives. Not only is this real life, but the Bible tells us also that this is the
reality of a world that has chosen to disobey and ignore God. Take Christ out
of Christmas and this is all that is left. Sin brings untold grief into our
world in abundance; and there is no escaping it. As much as we might like to
pretend that this is not so; this is reality.
But as we are prepared to acknowledge this reality and
the hopelessness that is encapsulated in it, we suddenly are confronted with a
whole new story. As we give up on pretending that life is so good, we find that
God has some real, Good News for us. And Christmas is all about this Good News
that suddenly gives us all hope, peace and joy.
This Good News
is that God himself has come into our sick and broken world to give us hope and
salvation. He comes right down to where we are in our brokenness and then takes
it on himself and goes to the cross to take the punishment that we deserve for
it all on himself. In turn he assures us of forgiveness and the certainty of
eternal life in heaven, free from all sickness, troubles and death.
So now we can
know for sure that we are loved, even though we are up to our eyeballs in muck.
No matter who we are or how big the mess might be, God is with us for sure, and
promises us that this is not the end of the story. Rich and poor, healthy or
sick, religious or not, Jew or Gentile, all are confronted with the same
reality and the same hope. It is there for all who do not turn their backs on
wonderful assurance that is for us as we face the realities of life. God is with
us, not necessarily, to take the problems away, but to be with us through it all.
He mostly does not suddenly take the problems away, because they are the
consequence of and reminders of humanities sin. And we need constant reminders
that disobedience and rejection of God has its consequences. We know what
happens when life goes well for us, we become more selfish and give God less
and less of our time and thinking.
troubles and hardships to turn us away from ourselves to look to the great and
glorious promises that God has for us. We need to look to him who is not just
the creator of all things, but also the redeemer and saviour, and there know
for sure that he does have a plan for us all, no matter what sort of mess we
make for ourselves and our world. As we recognise that the realities of life in
our world are not good at all, we do now have One who we can rely on in the
midst of it all.
Here let me
repeat that opening verse of our reading: For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so
that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they
provide we might have hope. So we have God’s word written down from ages
past to help us to know all of this. It was written by God’s inspiration to
teach us all of these things. There he tells us why we have all these problems
and his answers to them.
But most importantly to teach us that he is there so that we can know
that we are loved, forgiven and assured of eternal life in heaven. He teaches
us there that we can look to him with certainty and know that in connection
with him, the troubles and death of this world is not the end of the story.
In the Bible we have that which will enable us to endure in the face of all the rubbish that surrounds us. As we look
to him and what he promises we can ‘hang in there’ and know that it will all
work out for good. In that too, we find great encouragement that enables us to keep going forward with a sure hope that will not let us down.
Here we are
clearly reminded that it does not matter who we are or what our status in life
might be, this Good News is available to all. It is not simply for those who were
the Jews, or those who have been born and bred in the Church. It is not just
for the ‘good religious people’.
No, again the
Scriptures themselves say: “The Root
of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the
nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.” Jesus coming, life, death
and resurrection was for all people. He came into our mess to be with us all
and help us all, no matter how rugged life may be for us. No one is excluded;
except for those who refuse to believe it.
Again it says: For I tell you that Christ has become a
servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the
patriarchs might be confirmed and, moreover, that the Gentiles
might glorify God for his mercy.
reliability of Jesus and his coming for all people is verified again and again
throughout the Scriptures. He is true, and his coming for the benefit of us all,
is guaranteed. So the message of Christmas truly is a great and joyous one. It
is a message that is important and helpful for all who are struggling under the
pressures that surround us at this time.
So no matter
what our financial, relationship, emotional or whatever struggle it might be;
we now can know for sure that God is right there with us and for us in the
midst of it. We have one who cares for us no matter what. We have one who has
provided a way out the other side for us. We can trust him and so endure and be
encouraged in the midst of it all.
So now our
peace, hope and joy is no longer dependent on our making or living up to the
expectations of others and our world around us. It is not some plastic facade
that we place around us. Instead it is found in the rough and grime of life,
knowing that God himself has come right down into our mess and has provided life
and salvation to each and every one of us.
So: May the God of hope fill you
with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit. To him be all glory and honour, now and