Pastor's Weekly Newsletter

Each Friday, Dr. Daniel Hagmaier posts his weekly newsletter. Catch up on what's happening and plan ahead.

ROMANS 5:1-5 | “A LITTLE FATHERLY ADVICE”

“A LITTLE FATHERLY ADVICE”

ROMANS 5:1-5

JUNE 18, 2017

 

 

AS BEST, I CAN REMEMBER THE CHILDHOOD BOARD GAME – CHUTES AND LADDERS WASN’T MUCH OF A GAME.

 

GRANTED IT WAS DESIGNED FOR PRE-READING CHILDREN, BUT SO WAS CANDYLAND, AND CANDYLAND HAD ALL SORTS OF WONDERFUL PLACES ON THE BOARD; BRIGHT COLORS; AND QUAINT CHARACTERS.

 

CHUTES AND LADDERS, ON THE OTHER HAND, WAS NOTHING MORE THAN A ROLL OF THE DICE – LANDING ON A SPACE WHERE YOU REMAINED UNTIL YOUR NEXT ROLL;

 

UNLESS, OF COURSE, YOU LANDED ON A SPACE WITH A LADDER, WHICH SHOT YOU UPWARD TO ANOTHER LEVEL, OR SEVERAL LEVELS ABOVE;

 

OR, IF BY MISFORTUNE, YOU LANDED ON A SPACE WHERE THERE WAS A CHUTE, YOU WOULD DROP LIKE A STONE, TO A LEVEL, OR SEVERAL LEVELS BELOW.

 

AND THAT’S ABOUT IT!  A CRAPSHOOT REALLY, ACHIEVEMENT OR MISFORTUNE, NOTHING MORE THAN A LUCKY, OR UNLUCKY, ROLL OF THE DICE.

 

HOWEVER, WHILE IT WASN’T MUCH OF A GAME, IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN A FAIRLY ACCURATE PORTRAYAL, ALBEIT, A RATHER STARK AND GLOOMY ONE FOR LITTLE KIDS, ABOUT WHAT THE WORLD, AND LIFE, CAN BE LIKE AT TIMES.

 

YOU’RE JUST WALKING ALONG AND LUCK OR GOOD FORTUNE COMES YOUR WAY AT A MOMENTS NOTICE; AND, JUST AS QUICKLY, IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE, A ROLL OF THE DICE, YOUR LIFE CAN COME TUMBLING DOWN AROUND YOU.

 

(I THINK I HATE THIS GAME EVEN MORE NOW THAT I HAVE DESCRIBED IT TO YOU THIS MORNING!)

 

BUT SOMETHING LIKE THE GAME OF CHUTES AND LADDERS IS WHAT PAUL DESCRIBES IN THE FIRST SEVERAL CHAPTERS OF HIS LETTER TO THE ROMANS.

 

AS FOR OUR PASSAGE THIS MORNING, THIS IS WHERE THINGS REALLY BEGIN TO TURN AROUND FOR PAUL.

 

YOU SEE, IN THE FIRST FOUR CHAPTERS OF ROMANS PAUL HAS DESCRIBED LIFE AS MOSTLY OUR ALIENATION FROM GOD, FROM ONE ANOTHER, AND EVEN FROM OUR TRUE SELVES, DUE TO A LACK OF FAITHFULNESS, AND LACKING GOD’S GRACE.

 

IT’S ONE LONG, DOWNWARD CHUTE.

 

BUT BOY, DO THINGS TURN AROUND AT CHAPTER 5, VERSE 1!  WE HIT A LADDER SPACE – AND NEVER LOOK BACK!

 

“THEREFORE…” PAUL STARTS THIS NEW CHAPTER;

 

AND THE “THEREFORE” IS ABOUT TURN EVERYTHING UPSIDE DOWN, OR RIGHT SIDE UP AS THE CASE MAY BE.  FROM HERE ON OUT IT’S PRETTY MUCH A STRAIGHT SHOT UPWARD!

 

SO, WHAT CHANGES EVERYTHING?  JUST THIS: THE HEART OF THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST.

 

“THEREFORE, SINCE WE WERE JUSTIFIED BY FAITH, WE HAVE PEACE WITH GOD THROUGH OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, THROUGH WHOM WE HAVE OBTAINED ACCESS TO THIS GRACE IN WHICH WE STAND; AND WE BOAST IN OUR HOPE OF SHARING THE GLORY OF GOD.”

 

BOOM!  JUST LIKE THAT, JESUS CHANGES EVERYTHING!

 

BY THE WAY, IN THE ORIGINAL GREEK HERE, THE VERB TENSE INDICATES A COMPLETED STATE OF ACTION.  THAT IS, ALL OF THIS HAS ALREADY BEEN DONE IN CHRIST; FULLY ACCOMPLISHED; AND COMPLETE.

 

IT’S NOT SOMETHING THAT WILL HAPPEN; NOT SOMETHING WE NEED TO MAKE HAPPEN; NOT SOMETHING THAT HAPPENS AT OUR END; OR IN THE FUTURE; OR IN HEAVEN;

 

BUT HAS ALREADY HAPPENED IN CHRIST, SO THAT WE LIVE NOW JUSTIFIED BY FAITH, AT PEACE WITH GOD, LIVING OUR LIVES IN, AND BY, GOD’S GRACE.

 

AND OUR ALIENATION FROM GOD, FROM ONE ANOTHER, AND FROM OURSELVES, (THE CHUTE) IS REPLACED WITH (A LADDER) LEADING US INTO A PLACE OF PEACE AND RECONCILIATION WITH GOD;

 

INTRODUCING US TO A LIFE OF SANCTIFICATION – THAT IS, LIVING OUT OUR FAITH, OUR LIVES, BY THE GRACE OF GOD, AND IN THE PEACE OF CHRIST;

 

AND, PROVIDING US WITH THE PROMISE OF HOPE, NOT ONLY IN THIS LIFE, BUT IN THE LIFE TO COME!

 

TO SAY THE LEAST, THIS IS A PIVOTAL VERSE IN THE LETTER TO THE ROMANS, BUT WHAT’S MORE, IT IS A PIVOTAL MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF BELIEVERS!

 

CHRIST CHANGES EVERYTHING!

THAT IS NOT TO SAY, HOWEVER, THAT WE WILL NEVER SUFFER AGAIN;

THAT LIFE WILL ALWAYS BE A BED OF ROSES;

THAT HARDSHIP AND MISFORTUNE WILL NEVER COME OUR WAY AGAIN.

 

PAUL IS WAY TOO MUCH OF A REALIST TO HAVE EVER THOUGHT, SAID, OR TAUGHT ANYTHING LIKE THAT.

 

IN FACT, PAUL SEEMS TO GO TO GREAT LENGTHS REMINDING US OF ALL THE THINGS THAT CAN GO WRONG IN OUR LIVES; AND ALL WE ARE UP AGAINST.

 

CONSIDER, FOR INSTANCE, WHAT HE SAYS IN ROMANS 8: “I CONSIDER THAT THE SUFFERINGS OF THIS PRESENT TIME ARE NOT WORTH COMPARING WITH THE GLORY ABOUT TO BE REVEALED TO US.”

 

AND LATER, IN THAT SAME CHAPTER, PAUL LISTS ALL THE THINGS THAT CAN GO WRONG, ALL THE THINGS THAT MIGHT BE AGAINST US: “HARDSHIP, DISTRESS, PERSECUTION, FAMINE, NAKEDNESS, PERIL, SWORD…”

 

BEFORE ASSURING US THAT “NOTHING CAN SEPARATE US FROM THE LOVE OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS.”

 

PAUL IS TOO MUCH OF A REALIST TO THINK THAT LIFE IS ONE LONG LADDER, WITH NO CHUTES, AND HE SAYS AS MUCH IN THE NEXT VERSES OF OUR PASSAGE FOR THIS MORNING;

 

BUT BE SURE TO LISTEN, CAREFULLY, TO NOT ONLY WHAT HE SAYS, BUT HOW HE SAYS IT.

 

“AND NOT ONLY THAT, BUT WE BOAST IN OUR SUFFERINGS, KNOWING THAT SUFFERING PRODUCES ENDURANCE, AND ENDURANCE PRODUCES CHARACTER, AND CHARACTER PRODUCES HOPE, AND HOPE DOES NOT DISAPPOINT US;

 

BECAUSE GOD’S LOVE HAS BEEN POURED INTO OUR HEARTS THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT THAT HAS BEEN GIVEN TO US.”

 

THE “WHAT” OF IT, THAT PAUL SAYS HERE, IS ALL THAT STUFF ABOUT SUFFERING AND ENDURANCE AND CHARACTER AND HOPE;

 

BUT IT IS “HOW HE SAYS IT” THAT MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE.  DO YOU SEE IT?  DO YOU SEE HOW PAUL SAYS IT?

 

SUFFERING, IN PAUL’S MIND, RATHER THAN BEING A CHUTE, RATHER THAN A BAD THING, OUR SPIRALING DOWNWARD, A DEATH ROLL –

 

SUFFERING: FOR THOSE REDEEMED BY THE GRACE OF GOD, LOVED BY CHRIST,

EMPOWERED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT… SUFFERING IS BUT THE FIRST WRUNG ON A LADDER UPWARD.

 

DO YOU SEE IT?  SUFFERING, FOR BELIEVERS, DOES NOT START US DOWN INTO A CHUTE OF DEPRESSION, DISAPPOINTMENT, FAILURE, AND GIVING UP…

 

NO!  SUFFERING, PAUL SAYS, TEACHES US ENDURANCE!  PERSEVERANCE!  PERSISTENCE!  IN FAITH TALK: STEADFASTNESS!

 

SUFFERING, RATHER THAN TAKING US DOWN; BECAUSE OF GOD’S GRACE, PEACE, AND LOVE – SUFFERING MAKES US THAT MUCH MORE DETERMINED TO MOVE AHEAD, IN POSITIVE WAYS.

 

BEFORE TAKING A BREAK FROM OUR ADULT SUNDAY SCHOOL CLASS, WE WERE TALKING ABOUT JESUS’ PARABLES, AND SOME OF THE CLASS MEMBERS SHARED PARABLES FROM THEIR OWN LIVES, OR THE LIVES OF OTHERS.

 

ONE SUCH WAS ONE THAT RON ZEMLICKA SHARED, AFTER THE FACT, JUST THIS PAST SUNDAY.  IT IS THE PARABLE OF THE EMPTY CHAIR.

 

A WOMAN CAME INTO THE GARDEN CLUB TO VISIT.  RON WORKS THERE, GREETING PEOPLE AND TELLING THEM A LITTLE ABOUT THE GARDEN, BEFORE SENDING THEM ON THEIR WAY TO EXPLORE THE WONDERFUL GARDENS.

 

BECAUSE THEY KEEP A RUNNING TAB OF WHERE PEOPLE ARE FROM, RON ASKED THE WOMAN WHERE SHE WAS FROM.   AS IT TURNED OUT, SHE WAS A LOCAL; HAD BEEN PART OF THE CLUB IN THE PAST; AND WAS BRINGING LONGTIME FRIENDS FROM NEW YORK TO SEE THE GARDEN.

 

SHE TOLD RON THAT HER HUSBAND HAD DIED IN THE PAST YEAR, AND THAT SHE HOPED TO BECOME ACTIVE IN THE CLUB ONCE AGAIN; AND THAT TODAY’S VISIT WAS ON WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN HER AND HER LATE HUSBAND’S WEDDING ANNIVERSARY.

 

WHEN RON OFFERED WORDS OF CONDOLENCE, SHE RESPONDED DIFFERENTLY THAN ONE MIGHT SUPPOSE.

 

“OH NO,” SHE SAID, WE’VE JUST COME FROM THE MOST WONDERFUL LUNCH AT SALUTES, WHERE WE CELEBRATED OUR ANNIVERSARY.

 

MY FRIENDS AND I TALKED, AND LAUGHED, AND REMEMBERED ALL THE GOOD TIMES WE HAD TOGETHER, WHILE MY HUSBAND WAS ALIVE, AND THROUGHOUT OUR MARRIAGE.

 

HE WAS RIGHT THERE WITH US, HE JUST COULDN’T MAKE IT PHYSICALLY.”

 

SUFFERING PRODUCES ENDURANCE, AND GOOD SUFFERING, GOOD GRIEF, PRODUCES HEALING AND WHOLENESS.

 

ENDURANCE, PAUL CONTINUES, GIVES US CHARACTER; IT SHOWS US WHO WE ARE; IT SHOWS OTHERS WHO WE ARE.

 

ENDURANCE BUILDS CHARACTER – SMOOTHING OFF THE ROUGH PLACES; POLISHING THE PAINS AND SORROWS; HELPING US MEND IN THE BROKEN PLACES; AND MAKING US STRONGER FOR THE FUTURE.

 

THIS IS THE STUFF OF CHARACTER.

 

AND AS OUR CHARACTER IS SHAPED, BY BOTH THE GOOD AND BAD OF LIFE; THE HAPPY AND THE SAD; THE THINGS THAT COME EASY FOR US, AND THE THINGS FOR WHICH WE MUST STRIVE, AND WORK, AND PRAY;

 

BY THE PEOPLE WHO COME INTO OUR LIVES, AGAIN, THE GOOD AND THE BAD INFLUENCES; THOSE WHO HURT US AND THOSE WHO HELP US; BY EVERYTHING, FOR THAT MATTER…!

 

OUR CHARACTER THEN PRODUCES HOPE, AND HOPE DOES NOT DISAPPOINT US.

 

NOW REMEMBER, ALL OF THIS WE HAVE BEEN SAYING, IS SO, BECAUSE OF CHRIST IN OUR LIVES; AND OUR LIVES BEING IN CHRIST.

 

CHRIST IS THE POWER BY WHICH WE TURN THESE THINGS AROUND IN OUR LIVES.

 

CHRIST IS THE ONE WHO MAKES IT POSSIBLE FOR US TO SUFFER, KNOWING THAT SUFFERING WILL PRODUCE ENDURANCE, AND ENDURANCE CHARACTER, AND CHARACTER HOPE, AND SO ON.

 

BESIDES THE FACT THAT THIS IS THE LECTIONARY PASSAGE FOR THIS MORNING, YOU MAY BE WONDERING WHY I CHOSE TO PREACH THIS ON FATHERS’ DAY.

 

HERE’S THE THING – DON’T THESE WORDS FROM THE APOSTLE PAUL SOUND JUST LIKE SOMETHING OUR FATHERS WOULD SAY?

 

I ASKED ALL OF YOU TO SEND ME SOME THINGS YOUR FATHER’S USED TO SAY; ADVICE THEY GAVE YOU; WORDS TO LIVE BY;

 

AND WE’VE BUILT MANY OF THOSE WORDS INTO OUR SERVICE TODAY, INCLUDING THIS MORNING’S SERMON, AND IN A MOMENT, IN A LITANY PRAYER.

 

IN A MINUTE I’LL SHARE SOME OF WHAT YOU TOLD ME YOUR FATHERS TOLD YOU, BUT BEFORE I GET TOO FAR FROM PAUL’S WORDS HERE; DON’T THEY SOUND LIKE SOMETHING A FATHER WOULD SAY?

 

“WELL SON/SWEETHEART, JUST REMEMBER, PROBLEMS IN LIFE, WELL, THEY MAKE YOU TOUGHER, MORE RESILIENT; TEACH YOU HOW TO ENDURE;

 

AND BEING RESILIENT, WELL, THAT PRODUCES CHARACTER; AND A STRONG CHARACTER MAKES YOU HOPEFUL, AND MAKES YOU BELIEVE, THAT NOTHING, NO THING AND NOBODY, CAN BRING YOU DOWN, IF YOU WON’T LET IT.”

 

AND, IF YOU ARE/WERE FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO HAVE A FATHER WHO IS/WAS A MAN OF FAITH, THEN IT’S NOT JUST WHAT HE SAID, BUT HOW HE SAID IT;

 

AND HOW HE PASSED ON HIS FAITH TO YOU; PERHAPS, MORE BY HIS ACTIONS THAN HIS WORDS.

 

PERHAPS, HE TAUGHT YOU TO BELIEVE IN CHRIST; TO LIVE LIFE, BY GOD’S GRACE; TO KNOW THAT YOU ARE LOVED, NOT JUST BY HIM, BUT BY SOMETHING GREATER THAN HIM.

 

PAUL, TO ME, IN THIS MORNING’S PASSAGE, SOUNDS LIKE A FATHER, PASSING ON WISDOM AND COUNSEL; WORDS TO LIVE BY; WORDS TO GROW ON; WORDS THAT ARE MORE LADDER THAN CHUTE.

 

HERE ARE SOME OF THE SAME KINDS OF THINGS FROM YOUR FATHERS AND GRANDFATHERS:

 

ON PATIENCE AND PERSEVERANCE: “REMEMBER, ROME WASN’T BUILT IN A DAY.”

 

“THE LOVE OF GOD AND FAMILY COMES FIRST; ALL THE REST IS SECOND.”

 

“SWIM IN BLUE WATER AND YOUR GOING TO GET BLUE.”

 

“AT THE BOTTOM OF EVERY NOTE AND LETTER, THE LETTERS DFYPDON’T FORGET YOUR PRAYERS – (UNLESS YOU HAD FLOATED A LOAN FROM DEAR OLD DAD, IN WHICH CASE IT WAS, DON’T FORGET YOUR PAYMENT!)”

 

“STAY FOCUSED, AND STAY CLOSE TO THE CROSS.”

 

“GET SOME REST.”  “ALWAYS LIVE AS HONESTLY AS POSSIBLE.”

 

“ONE THING THEY CAN NEVER TAKE AWAY FROM YOU IS YOUR EDUCATION.”

 

FROM A DAD WHO WAS A DOCTOR, TO HIS DOCTOR SON, AND TO THEIR PATIENTS: “YOU WILL DIG YOUR GRAVE WITH A FORK.”

 

AND THIS, FROM A FATHER, BASED ON HIS FATHER: “AS YOU GO THROUGH LIFE, MAKE IT YOUR GOAL, TO KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE DONUT, NOT ON THE HOLE.”

 

MANY, MANY OF YOU SAID, IT WASN’T SO MUCH WHAT DAD SAID, BUT HOW HE LIVED, AND HOW HE TAUGHT YOU TO LIVE: “STRONG, CONFIDENT, INDEPENDENT…”

 

HOW HE LIVED BY EXAMPLE – LOVING, PATIENT, KIND, OPTIMISTIC, HELPFUL, ETC.

 

SO, HAPPY FATHERS’ DAY, TO ALL OF US!

 

 

 

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Pastor Daniel writes and posts a weekly newsletter that keeps members and friends of the congregation up-to-date. His earlier newsletters are also online, so if you missed something, check those past editions.

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