Hardly the recipe for a long life together when the “for better or worse, for richer or poorer” are realised as not some silly words put together to get a laugh from the crowd, but prophetic words of how relationships continue to remain strong when the rose tinted glasses are taken off.
The saying to “Burn one’s boats” alludes to certain famous incidents where a commander, having landed in a hostile country, ordered his men to destroy their ships, so that they would have to conquer the country or be killed.
No retreat and no surrender and in 1st Corinthians we are told to “Be on guard, stand firm in the faith: be courageous, be strong.”
Burn our boats and stand firm in the battles knowing that come what may be it for better or worse, that our relationship with our Lord will hold together strong and intact.
In the last verse of our Romans reading today Paul talks of suffering and ironically, we may just be at the pointy end of the wedge where we are heading into a time where the rules of society stand in clear contradiction to that of the Word of God. A time where standing firm would be seen and felt in a tangible manner. A time where fence sitting is not a quantifiable response to the world or our Lord. A time to take a side and stand firm come what may.
Serious stuff that unless grounded on an absolute truth would see us drifting in oceans of despair like that of a refugee still hoping to find dry land.
The Word of God is that absolute truth and in his Word, though we may occasion to feel still at sea, God the Father gives us the solid ground that we can stand firm in our lives with Him of not that of a refugee looking for a home, but that of his child already home.
The Word of God like Jesus parables can cause wonder, debate and different perspectives while in our growth in Christ and that’s O.K. as it’s all in the growing of ourselves in His Kingdom.
In some of the things of God it is good that we ponder on them through our experiences and see them gradually unravel in a time that befits our situation.
Today’s message is not one for another time yet to come, it is for those times that have and will come.
The message not to the refugee that he seeks, but to his child he has found.
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons and daughters of God. For you not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons and daughters, by whom we cry “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children then heirs-heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.”
These spirit filled Words of God through Paul were given very clearly in the context of the day to those present they stand firm for what may await them because in the Roman world, adoption like now was taken very seriously. When you are adopted into a family you truly become part of that family and this was true of the Roman emperors who frequently chose their successors not from the child born to them, but from the children whom they had adopted. The adoption into the family so real that an emperor could even pass the inheritance on to somebody who was adopted over the child of his own loins and similar, should it be a slave-that slave would no longer live under the bondage of his former master but as a free person able to serve not in fear, but in love. Living no longer as a slave but in being son or daughter.
Paul’s words and imagery were not imagined but from God himself. God’s words to us that don’t say “I will think of you as though you were my sons and daughters”, but his Words stressing that in Christ, “You are my sons and daughters in the fullest sense of the word.”
The first funeral I conducted was my Fathers and too this day I’m not sure how I got through it. But the fact is I did and so now when conducting similar work in God’s name and feeling vulnerable I think back to that time because though I don’t understand how, I do know it happened-it’s a fact that cannot be changed. A fact that I can draw on when situations of the like present themselves.
You too would have experienced times of past that once the dust settled you came to clearly see Jesus in it with you. Times that give you courage in the face of times of adversity since and to come.
That’s the faith that sees the words of Romans 5: 4 come alive for us that that we trust “tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and (a)hope (that) does not disappoint.”
A faith as 1st Peter tells of as tested by fire.
But what if the fires so hot its smoke clouds our vision and confuses us like that of the ambulance officer who when tending to a man hit by a car and asking him if he was comfortable, heard him reply “Yes I make quite a good living.”
Life can be confusing and we may wonder what’s next, but let us never wonder of God because God does not lie.
God who promised Abraham descendants as numerous as the stars, and though later when Abraham and Sarah were aged, it came to be through the birth of Isaac. God’s promise to Abraham of a homeland as resulting after his descendants release from Egypt, following Moses through the desert for forty years and eventually led home at God’s command by Joshua.
God does not lie as seen when the Jews were gathered together once again as a nation after World War 11.
God does not lie and so matter the circumstance, the spiritual attack or the physical attack: stand firm and rejoice that in Christ you are forgiven and saved, and rejoice that in Christ and through the Holy Spirit, we know the truth of God the Father, our Father whose will cannot be changed nor contested by our opponents, but his Will and Testament written in the blood of his Son that declares his gift of eternal to all his sons and daughters. His unperishable gift to you and me that allows us to not be guided by earthly currents or the cry of societies whims, but to stand firm in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ who will not disappoint. Amen.