12So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" 16it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. 18I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
For the past few months we've studied and discussed Jesus' instructions, promises, and cautions to his followers from John's gospel and from Matthew's gospel As we continue in the Time of the Holy Spirit, Season of the Church in the Church's Year of Grace, today we take an excursion into the book of Romans. The apostle Paul's letter to the church at Rome also details and explains some of the characteristics and behaviors that accompany our identity in Jesus Christ.
Romans is the seventh and the latest of Paul's undisputed epistles. "Undisputed" means they definitely carry marks and evidence of his authorship, although most likely all of these letters garnered edits and additions as they circulated among various churches round-robin style. We sometimes refer to Romans as Paul's systematic theology. Systematics is the philosophical-style theology that presents ideas about God with definitions, outlines, logic, and structure. By standards of people like Augustine and Barth, Romans isn't all that systematic, but it still gives us Paul's mature, well-developed theology.
Today's very famous passage from Romans is about the interwoven interdependence and interconnectedness of human creatures (that's us!) and the rest of God's created order that we sometimes refer to as the natural creation. We've heard these words so often it may be difficult to read and hear them with fresh eyes and new ears! What happens with us affects all creation; what happens in the rest of creations affects humanity.
Paul distinguishes between flesh (sarx) and body (soma). For Paul, "flesh" is bodily tendencies and predilections carried out to an excessive degree: too much food, sex, drink—sometimes too much to a detrimental degree, as in addictions and other compulsive behaviors. Working out too often and too extensively! Insisting on soaking up too much sun?!
In Romans 8:12-25 Saul/Paul of Tarsus insists all creation waits for redemption because true children of God, humans who authentically mirror and embody the Divine Image in which God has created them, care for the earth and all of nature differently from many others, in a manner that reflects their Divine Nature. In the witness of scripture all creation is mutually covenanted and covenanted with heaven; all creation carries within itself breath of the Divine and breathes the Spirit of Life.
In Spanish the same word, espero (esperare, etc.) means hope, expect, and wait. I always find that helpful whenever I read wait, hope, or expect in any scripture text.
Despite current interest in ecological theology emphasizing the redemption and integrity of all creation – not solely human creatures – a lot of teaching and preaching in the Church still focuses on humanity, which in some ways may not be all that "off," given that so much of the rest of creation is in need of restoration, revitalization and resurrection from death primarily because of human sin and failure to steward creation—which naturally results in failure to take proper care of human needs.
We had a long and helpful discussion of ways everyone can be better stewards of create and help reverse many of the negative effects other human activity has caused. I mentioned that the freedom of humans and of the natural creation Paul references always is bounded freedom with limits. "God marked a line and told the sea…"
Christianity's central proclamation is God's definitive self-revelation in Jesus of Nazareth, in a body formed from the "stuff" of the earth. Jesus the Christ, the one whose body his followers would become... now the Church as the body of the crucified and risen Christ is God's Presence on earth. The Holy Spirit fills and indwells our bodies formed from stuff of the earth, as the God of heaven and earth still chooses to make shekinah, a dwelling on earth, to live right here in the city, right there on the beach, everywhere all over the place.