Sermon on Romans 8:18-27, for the 7th Sunday after Pentecost 2020 (A), "Creation and Restoration"
· What we see in creation: beauty or suffering? The positive: the case for design/creation; beauty, engineering, puzzle. The negative: the thorns, the parasites, diseases, COVID, natural disasters, death? Led many evolutionists to doubt and reject God.
· Rom 8—creation groaning—subjected to futility. Futile: ineffective; failure; lack of purpose or success. God subjected the world to this b/c of sin—Adam’s first sin opened the world to futility and subjugation. Sin is an ongoing, thorough devastation of the whole creation, not just humans: entire physical universe. The Christian understands this from God’s Word, that sin has infected everything, and that the world is not as it was or should be, but that what we see now is the corrupted world. But others may look at the defects, diseases, and death in the world and think God didn’t know what He was doing, or that He wasn’t a good designer. They assume that the world as we know it today must have been how God made it, even though the Bible explicitly teaches that the world has changed dramatically since it’s perfect creation.
· “There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent & omnipotent God would have designedly created the [parasitic wasp] with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice.” (Charles Darwin).
· Darwin thought that blind natural selection could produce nature’s carnage and waste (Darwin’s God, by Cornelius Hunter, p. 16).
· 10 yrs before Darwin, Lord Tennyson poem: “In Memoriam” (death of his young friend):
Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation's final law—
Tho' Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek'd against his creed—
· cruelty of nature seems to speak against God’s love and goodness. But the cruelty of nature reflects the corruption of sin, not the character of God. It’s the natural evil unleased the world, and our own moral evil that corrupts the creation. Not God’s design.
· Evil in nature continues to be a challenge for many people: “A good God wouldn’t have created it this way.” And of course, the Bible teaches that He didn’t.
· Even darker contemporary version of this: humans are the “virus” that afflicts the earth. Pop culture villain “Agent Smith” in the movie “The Matrix” calls humans a disease, a virus plaguing the planet. It may surprise you how many people today accept the words of the movie villain as the honest truth and are promoting this idea. Resurfaced in light of the COVID pandemic and it’s a popular theme in doomsday environmental movies, where the planet’s only hope is getting rid of humans. Same idea in the recent Avenger’s series: archvillain Thanos wipes out half the population to save the planet from overpopulation. Even though these movie lines are from villains, many people today openly embrace these human-hating ideas. Not the Bible’s vision of the God who loves us as His children. The devil hates and wants to destroy whatever God loves. God wants to save us and transform us.
· The Bible casts an altogether different vision. Humans are the only moral agents on the planet, the only species that has moral responsibility for the conservation and care of the planet. Truly we haven’t always done the best by the planet, and pollution remains an ongoing battle—but no other species has the ability or responsibility to care for and rule over the planet. Not exploitation, but to protect and responsibly manage it. We are inseparably linked to the life of the planet, and not just humans, but the whole of creation groans in these pains of childbirth. The solution to negative human impact is not to eliminate humans, but to take greater care and responsibility. No other species on the planet is made in the image of God and given the responsibility to rule and govern the creation.
· All creation joins in groaning under the weight of sin. But this is not a groaning without hope! The rest of creation knows that it’s hope is linked to our hope and our redemption! The renewing of creation is linked to our renewal in Christ! It says all creation waits with eager longing or as one pastor puts it: “waiting on tiptoe!” for our revealing as sons of God. And then it connects this picture with the picture of a mother going through the pangs of childbirth, eagerly waiting the birth of the new child! This is how all creation waits! This is the burden of joy, the hopefulness that struggles through the pains and the weight and suffering of this life, but knows that these sufferings are one day going to be over, and that the new creation birthed from this old dying world, will usher in God’s perfect peace and the glorious redemption of our bodies.
· Paul says the present sufferings won’t even compare to the future glory! They will outweigh this by far! When a child is born, you are consumed by the joy of new life, not endlessly reliving the pain of the birthing process. God’s work was to sow the seed of His Word into this world, and new life is germinating inside this dying creation. And like a baby growing to term inside the mother’s womb, so the new creation that Christ has created in us, in this world, in His church, is coming to term, even as the aging, suffering, futility and death of creation seems more and more apparent. Jesus victory over death has undone the curse of sin. He has set us and creation free from the bondage to decay and futility, and new life is already happening in us now. We are already free to live for Christ and see the fruit of the Spirit at work in our lives. We are free to live for Christ and see the fruit of the Spirit transform others. We don’t have to wait to enjoy the blessings of the kingdom—they are already here now, and ours now—the forgiveness of sins, the joy of the Spirit, and Christ’s presence with us in the challenges of life. Those blessings are here now and ours now, but they are still far from completed, in the great glory that is to come! For that joy and hope, we wait with all creation—the singing birds and the roaring lions, the lilies of the field clothed in simple splendor, and the great trees of the forest rustling in the wind, the whales and fish playing in the ocean—all of creation together waits on tiptoe for our restoration in Christ Jesus! Amen, Come quickly Lord Jesus, we pray!