Sermon, Pentecost 11thA, Wed/Sun August 16, 2020
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32 I ask then: did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what Scripture says in the passage about Elijah – how he appealed to God against Israel: 29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. 30 Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now[a] receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. 32 For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.
I remember that it took around two years for my Dad to finally adjust to asking the first serious questions about what it would be like to have his wife (my step mum) living in a place of care rather than with him at home. He knew that she now needed more care than he could provide, and that really worried him.
The thing that made this decision so difficult was faithfulness. Dad was absolutely committed to those vows he made in their marriage ceremony before family and friends. They were irrevocable for him. He told me this. Dad said that he had said, “Til death do us part’, and he meant it. He was immovable on this vow; this decision.
This immovable irrevocable kind of decision is what Paul is reflecting on when it comes to who he knows God to be and how God rolls.
God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.
“Irrevocable”: Like a judge giving the verdict, a new home owner signing on the dotted line, a couple making their vows, like the AFL chief declaring which city is going to get the AFL Grand Final this year, once the words are said, there is no taking them back!
God decides to call, and you are called. God decides to give, and you are given gifts.
It is like when I used to be at Mr and Mr’s Adler’s house after worship for Sunday lunch, when I was 16. It was always “Eat more, Eat more!” from the tiny little Mrs Adler. So, I did! Mrs Adler had decided to cook a huge meal to feed an army and it was to be eaten.
Paul speaks about God’s decisions like this. He speaks of God’s unchangeable mind when it comes to calling us and gifting us as he asks one of his big questions throughout this letter:
Did God reject his people?
But Paul looks around and he sees that his own people have largely rejected God’s decision to call them and gifts them by being truly with them ‘in the flesh’ in his Son, Jesus.
Because God’s people won’t eat that choice lunch; because they have rejected God’s “I do” vow to them in Jesus, Paul asks if this means that God’s vow, God’s call, God’s gifts right from creation to Abraham to David to the Prophets and to Jesus have failed?
No way! says Paul.
God’s plans don’t fail because God’s love does not fail. His decisions, his promises, his vow of love and commitment to his people and to the Gentiles (all of us) have not and could never fail, Paul declares.
Why? Because it is God who makes them, not us. What God says God does, and what God does is exactly what he says.
Once God decides to love, he loves. Once God decides to heal, he heals, Once God decides to promise, he promises.
And even more than yours or my decisions at times, God’s decision is irrevocable. He does not take his decisions back. He does not fudge on his commitments. He does not make empty promises that he may or may not deliver on, depending on the wind or the sin or the kin.
And what has God decided for you? This is how Paul beautifully puts it:
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8).
God has decided to love you when he did not have to love you; when you could not love him enough, and still does. God has decided to call you and gift you when your purposes were unclear and your gifts a bit shabby.
But so many do not know this, trust this or want this. We know what it is like to be Paul – looking around we also see that it looks like God is failing to convince them, the show them, the get them to see and know his decisions to love and heal and renew, both the Jew and the Gentile, the churched and the unchurched or de-churched, the prideful and the desperate; the good and the bad, the rich and the poor, the religious and the irreligious.
Even in this, Paul is 100% sure that God’s decision is still current and effective. Yes, there are Jews and Gentiles; those who know God’s decision to love them and those who don’t and are currently convinced that they are indeed good enough for their own love.
But even this can change. Things can change over time. Paul says that just as nations rise and fall, so does the living in the loving decisions of God.
Once it was the Jews who knew God’s presence and promises personally. For the time being, they have missed his greatest decision to love. Now the non-Jewish people know the promises and presence of God more than God’s own people. Things wax and wane.
We are the same.
Sometimes we live as we say we believe. We actually trust Jesus. We know him personally.
We delight in his promises and his presence by his Spirit and his love affects everything in our life – what we sign or don’t sign, what we do and don’t do, where we serve and where we don’t serve.
We are close and we live as we believe. We are loyal. We are committed and we know God’s love and give it.
At other times,
we don’t live like we say we believe.
We don’t trust.
We reject God’s word as we largely ignore it and him.
We turn away from God’s promises and go it alone or trust ourselves or others to be good enough, wise enough, loving enough, without this greater love from this greater man – Jesus.
The thing Paul seems to say in all this waxing and waning between Jews and Gentiles, between Christians and pagans or atheists, between the forgetful or the lax or the unclear and struggling, is that God has decided; God has decided to love, to call and to gift, and this will not change.
So, when you wax and wane, he won’t. When your family and friends reject, he won’t. When you go chasing other ways to make life happen, God won’t stop chasing you.
God will love.
30 Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now[a] receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you.
So, one person trusts and receives and knows the love of God given in their baptism and live in that grace gift. Another used to but now does not or never has.
And somehow love and mercy will prevail for one or both of them because;
32 …God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.
Sounds strange. God makes people fickle and disobedient or unresponsive to his decisions to love so that he can eventually love.
But, whatever this means, either way, God’s decision to call and gift people because he loves them remains. Love wins.
God’s decisions remain bankable, trustworthy, solid and effective the way God intends for each person.
Friend, he has decided to love you. Consider yourself loved.
He has called you. Consider yourself still called.
He has gifted you inside and out, consider life a gift of his love and use those gifts in love to him and his world.
This is the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and it is love.