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Airey Sermon 2 Rom. 15..4.13 Final

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Mark Airey

Text:  Romans 15:4-13

Our Hope in Christ

Advent 2

Focus:  God gives us joyful hope in Christ through endurance and encouragement in the Scriptures.

Function:  That my hearers would abound in hope in Christ through endurance and encouragement in the Scriptures.

Sermon Structure:  Propositional/Thematic Structure

Hope…I learned something about the origin of hope during my wife’s second pregnancy.  She had to endure the usual nausea and incredible discomfort for nine months and basically having her body taken over by another being.  Her abdomen was stretched to new limits, even double its size.  But along with all of this she was diagnosed with “preclampsia.”  [DS1] I had no idea what this condition was, but, it turned out that the pregnancy had triggered a High Blood Pressure disorder that put her in the danger zone much more than I, or the doctor, would have liked.  She had to cope with all of this nausea and the changes in her body, but more importantly, she had to prepare herself for the upcoming trauma of birth with this new threat of a stroke.  The doctors were worried that her blood pressure would rise to levels that would endanger both her and the baby during the birth.  She needed inner strength at this time in her life.  Through the enduring of this pregnancy her faith was strengthened.  God worked through the pregnancy and in the end her hope in God was stronger.  This was quite something for me to watch.  She was given a stronger hope, and then faith, in Christ through a difficult time in her life because of the character that was built as she endured the hardships brought on by the pregnancy.  [DS2] This pregnancy was a gift from God in more ways than she, or I, could have ever imagined.  He gave my wife the gift of endurance, which in turn gave her the gift of character, which then gave her the gift of hope.

Paul is asking us to learn something about this same Christian hope today as well.  Not through a pregnancy, but he invites us in verse four of our text that, “through endurance and the encouragement of Scriptures we might have hope.”  [DS3] First of all the hope he is talking about is a specific, Christian hope.  This is the Christian hope that is given to us through our hardships and the endurance of them.

Now, what does Paul mean by “through endurance?”  Well, Christians have been “enduring” throughout history.  [DS4] The entire Old Testament is a story of a people who endured incredible hardship.  They withstood devastation, even an almost complete annihilation…multiple times!  The Israelites endured slavery under the Egyptians.  But Paul tells us that our God is a God of endurance.  He gives us endurance to enable us to withstand what may come our way and through it that we might have hope.  God gave the Israelites endurance through this extremely long period of slavery that they suffered.  They were being prepared for His servant Moses to present a hope they would accept.  After this they barely escaped and after being pushed into a corner between the sea and a huge army they made it to the desert.  They then underwent forty years in this bleak desert.  This was a refinement of the character of the people of Israel and through it they again had hope[DS5] ..  After that they fought every -ite people there was, including; the Hittites, Ammonites, Canaanites…you name ‘em.  This was only to be overrun by the Assyrians, Babylonians, and then the Romans.  They bore persecution and enslavement under most of these peoples.  The only thing that the remnants of the Israelites came away with was a hope that came from having to endure the long hardship of captivity and persecution.  They were given this hope through God’s mercy[DS6] ..

He gives us the gift of endurance but do we use it[DS7] ??  We are often put to the test in our lives, do we shirk the responsibility?  Do we quit when the going gets tough?  I must admit that I have done this.  We sometimes look for the easier route, or just stop going forward at all, instead of pushing on in the direction God would have us go.  This gift isn’t always utilized in our lives to bring the hope that God is trying to give to us.  God gives us the gift of endurance so that we can grow in our Christian faith through character and hope.  Even when we quit God still gives us endurance and even hope.  Despite our unworthiness God is gracious and gifts us with hope through endurance.  He is a gracious and merciful God and loves us enough to pull us through even the deepest despair or hardship.  He did this by example.  He is the one that didn’t shirk His responsibility.  Our Lord and Savior pushed on, all the way to the cross, for us[DS8] ..

In our text Paul tells us that we also have hope through the encouragement of the Scriptures.  [DS9] The Israelites had the prophets, and they were encouraged through the telling of a savior.  As did the Romans have the promise of the final Day of Judgment revealed through the Scriptures[DS10] ..  God told the Israelites, “When you pass through the waters I will be with you,” before they escaped from the Egyptians.  He gave them an incredible hope through the scriptures as it is written, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  They had this same God who had delivered them from each and every one of the earlier mentioned calamities.  He rescued them from the Egyptians.  He provided them with manna in the desert.  He was with them in battle after battle in which He defeated their foes.  They always had a merciful God with them.  He would send prophets to help them see the truth even after they deserted Him.  Even when they had broken through all the boundaries of sin, God would forgive them and save them.  These accounts were written down on scrolls and then they had the prophets.  These are the scriptures that gave the Old Testament Israelites hope.

Now imagine another pregnancy in which the encouragement of the scriptures gave hope.  Mary, a fourteen year old girl going through all of the physical changes along with the overwhelming nature of her particular pregnancy.  Mary is pregnant by the spirit of God, but she was betrothed to Joseph.  This was in a society that is not very tolerant of pregnancy out of wedlock.  She is looking at some pretty rough repercussions as a result of God’s gift to her.  But there it is.  This was God’s gift!  How does she react to the announcement of the coming hardship for herself?  She reacted out of the faith that God gave her through the scriptures and the hope given to her people.  She said, “May it be to me as you have said” to the One that who had always kept His word.  Then she sang a hymn of praise recounting how God had extended His mercy from generation to generation.  Instead of taking the stance of, “Oh whoa is me,” she sang joyfully!  Her words were, “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”  She sang of all the things God had done for her found in the scriptures.  She sang of the mighty deeds He has done with His arm, the rulers He has brought down, and how “He has helped His servant Israel,” all of this fulfilling His promise to Abraham and his descendants.  This is a faithful hope and the result of a gift from God.[DS11] 

We have these same scriptures.  Do we allow them to permeate our lives to the extent that we abound with hope?  In the world today there is so much to busy us.  We can get caught up in our everyday tasks and to-do-lists so easily.  We are so involved in getting life done, that we forget about the gift that has been given to us.  We forget the joy that is ours as a gift from God.  This hope is only possible because of the incredible hope of the Christmas gift that is given to us in God’s Child and the sacrifice that the Son of God made for us.  Through this gift, of a Savior, He has forgiven us any forgetfulness we might display.  He has forgiven us our oversights, or “undersights,” of this loving gift of the hope he brings to our lives.  And even now we have this faithful hope, that He has given us, to help us endure each day because of the promise of His coming again[DS12] ..

We know through the scriptures that He is the great keeper of promises[DS13] ..  This is the same keeper of promises that we saw throughout the Old Testament.  This is the same keeper of promises that promised the Gentiles, thus including all peoples, that “the root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in Him.”  This is the same keeper of promises that told Mary about her coming Son, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.”  He also told her then, that, “His kingdom will never end.”  He tells us that “He will come again” and “even though you do not see Him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

The closing verse of the text reads, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  We know that hope comes from God through Romans 5:4 which reads, “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts….”  For, if we accept that what is said in the Bible is true, then we have a notion of hope.  This hope comes from God who gives us an affirmation of life after death in the His Word.  Therefore, we have heaven, and therefore it is the eternal life of the Bible that we understand through the mercy of our Lord that we have hope in.  Martin Luther said it this way, “By faith we began our spiritual life, by hope we continue it, and by revelation we shall obtain the whole.”  God has filled us with hope!  We have the hope that Paul speaks of earlier in Romans.  We have the hope that the “whole creation” groans about, “as in the pains of childbirth.”  The hope that our closing verse talks about is one that “overflows” or “abounds.”  This means that we have a superabundance or to exceed in quantity or quality.  He has given us this hope by giving us the Holy Spirit.  We wait patiently, or endure, as He has given us the promise of His return.  We especially remember this promise during the Christmas season by remembering the gift of His Son having come as promised to us.  He lived a life on earth and then gave His life on the cross for us, even as we did not deserve this wonderful gift.

So, abound in this hope of eternal life that is given as a gift to us through our Lord and Savior.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


            You do well in this sermon to have a very clear structure for the hearers.  Your sermon flows from the text and offers us two teachings based upon cause-effect logic:  God uses endurance and the encouragement of Scriptures to give us hope.  By placing the text at each point of transition and clearly stating these transitions deductively, you have created a sermon that will be easy to remember (in terms of its outline) and easy for your hearers to follow. 

            You have also done well in your retelling of the stories in this sermon.  As you tell the stories of your wife’s birth, the history of Israel, and the pregnancy of Mary, you do well to offer us details that help us understand the main point of the story.  You are careful to lead us to the main point and to demonstrate how what you are talking about (hope through endurance or hope through encouragement of Scriptures) actually comes about.  Good work. 

            The areas that still need a bit more work in this sermon are your work with the text and your law/gospel proclamation.  In terms of the text, notice how the sermon briefly mentions the text and then moves into the larger history of Scripture to develop your point.  If you think in terms of the four threads of discourse, you are moving from textual exposition to theological confession.  That movement is good and one that you will want to know how to do in other sermons.  Often, this is precisely what we do with a text.  We identify a verse or concept and then work with the rest of Scripture to help us see the larger theological meaning, the larger matrix of that concept.  The only problem I have is that we really have no textual exposition.  That is, you don’t really help us see how this concept was being written by Paul to the Romans or what it meant to them.  A bit more work with what this meant to the Romans would strengthen your work.  We would then be able to see how God works this way throughout history:  he worked this way with Israel and then also with the Christians in Rome and now with us (in your final section of hearer application).  So a bit more work with the textual exposition and establishing the intended meaning of the text in its historical context would strengthen these parts of the sermon. 

            Second, you will want to think about how your work with your law gospel proclamation.  In this case, notice how the first movement to the proclamation of the gospel is a confusion of law and gospel.  Instead of pointing to the life of Christ as something that was done for us, you point to the life of Christ as something that we need to do in response to our sin.  That is, we have sinned by not enduring and Jesus, rather than forgiving that sin by enduring for us, gives us something we need to do – he gives us an example to follow.  The second movement to gospel proclamation with the encouragement of Scriptures is better and here you actually help us see the work of God in Christ that forgives.  Now, you will want to think about the larger picture, the larger theme that runs through the sermon.  Can you identify a way of speaking of the law/gospel dialectic that highlights a major theme for us.  For example, you do highlight the idea that God is the keeper of promises.  Notice how it would be good to use this theme as you deal with Israel and Mary and then to use it as you move to us.  In this case, you would actually proclaim the gospel by declaring the promises of Scripture to us and then affirming that God keeps his promises.  Such a thematic coherence will strengthen the gospel proclamation of the sermon. 

Grade:  B+

 [DS1]Mark, you are opening the sermon with an illustration that I am sure is very personal to you and to your wife.  Now, while you may feel comfortable sharing this and your wife may feel comfortable sharing this with others, you may also want to signal somehow that you and your wife thought it would be good to share this with your people today.  This could be done as easily as saying in the opening, “Hope . . . my wife and I learned something about hope during her second pregnancy, and we like to share this story with others – or we thought it would be good to share this story with you today.”  This way, you signal to your hearers that your wife is comfortable with you telling this and that you have asked her permission before doing so.  Otherwise, some parishioners may be wondering how your wife feels about all of this detail being shared in the sermon.  The element of trust, of the ability to respect another person’s privacy is very important to the pastoral office and you can help to reaffirm that by signaling that you have permission for stories such as this. 

 [DS2]Mark, this is a very important moment in the story – the way in which your wife’s faith was strengthened.  Notice how it happens almost magically here.  We are not sure what happened but you tell us that it did.  I would encourage you to be a little bit more explicit about what it was that strengthened her faith.  A statement of the teaching about God that comforted her would help.  This would enable us then to see that faith has an object and that in this time of trial she trusted in that truth about God. 

 [DS3]Good, here you do well to focus on the text and to help us sense both the focus of the sermon (“we will learn something about hope”) and the source of the text for the sermon (by looking at this text).  Such a clear purpose and textual contact is helpful as you close the introduction and enter into the sermon. 

 [DS4]Here, you are moving from the text to the larger theological teaching (think of moving from textual exposition to theological confession).  I would encourage you to offer us a bit more textual exposition here.  A clearer statement of what this endurance meant to the Romans will then help us move from the real concrete situation of the text to the larger salvation history in which this moment in history is located. 

 [DS5]I would encourage you to think about stating how this works.  Help us see that the endurance produces a character for these people.  Suffering and being delivered by God causes one to enter the next situation sure of God’s care.  For example, perhaps the first pregnancy of your wife caused her to enter into the second with a different character, a sense that God would also bring her through. 

 [DS6]Now, notice how you might want to help us see that God remains faithful to his people, even through the years of oppression and suffering.  Since God remains faithful, his people have hope. 

 [DS7]It seems to me that you are beginning to mix the idea that endurance produces the gift of hope and the idea that endurance itself is a gift. 

 [DS8]Eeek!  Here, notice how you are using Jesus as an example rather than as a Savior.  That is, Jesus has come and gives you the example you need to follow rather than Jesus has come and endured for you so that you may be forgiven for those times when you fail.  This is actually Thesis 5 in Walther in contemporary form.  Rather than see Jesus as a new lawgiver, we end up turning his life into a new law.  He is our example rather than our Savior.  As you deal with the movement to Christ, think about what you are doing at this point in the sermon.  You have just helped people confess their sins.  Now, you will want to forgive them.  How do you do that?  If you confessed to me that you had given up and didn’t endure and felt sorry for that, should I say to you “Look at Jesus, he is your example, now go out and do better and try to endure”?  Now, you will want me to say, “Jesus endured for you.  You are not saved by whether or not you endure.  In fact, he endured for us and by his work we are saved.” 

 [DS9]Good, here you clarify the transition for us from the first quality of the text (endurance) to the second quality of the text (encouragement of Scriptures). 

 [DS10]Ah, here you are starting to help us sense the meaning of this phrase from Paul in his letter to the Romans.  That’s good.  I would encourage you to do that a bit more.  First, give us the teaching, then what it meant in the letter, and then move to your application of its meaning today. 

 [DS11]Good work, here.  Here you do well to help us see a story of participation in Mary.  As you retell this story of her visitation by the angel and her response in song, you make sure to retell it with a focus upon the way in which Scripture informed her song and encouraged her, giving her hope.  That’s great.  We are able to see the truth (the point of the story) in action by the way in which you retell it. 

 [DS12]Good, here you do better in terms of proclaiming the gospel to us.  Now, what would be helpful here is if you could link this proclamation of the gospel to the specific Scriptures that teach it to us.  That way, we would be able to see how the Scriptures function for us as a means of offering us hope.  Your point is that the Scriptures offer us hope, you may want to find a bible passage that helps us see that even if we are faithless God remains faithful and will not desert his promise.  That way, we are forgiven and we recognize that the Scriptures do indeed give hope. 

 [DS13]This identification of God as the great keeper of promises is a rhetorical unit using serial depiction to teach a theological truth.  Your truth is that God keeps promises and you use a series of examples to demonstrate this for us.  That’s good.  Now, you will want to think about how you integrate this into the sermon.  Notice how you could remove this section and the sermon would still flow smoothly from your last point to the conclusion.  How does this section fit in?  I would encourage you to think about working with this theme of God as the keeper of promises as you talk about Mary’s magnificat and about Israel.  That way, the theme of God as a keeper of promises will already have been established for us and then in the middle of your previous paragraph you could work with this idea for us and help us see how God keeps promises for us today.  You have the technique of using serial depiction here and you have offered us a clear theological teaching.  That is good.  Now, you will want to think about how you can make that teaching a more integral part of the rest of the sermon so that this flows more smoothly into your work. 

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