Romans 8:18-30

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that 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. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and 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. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

This morning’s reading reminds me of the one about three men who went on a hunting trip in the woods one day. They gathered around the fire at dusk to eat and drink and tell stories. After awhile, the fire slowly went down and they finished their drinks. The men had no more stories to tell and boredom started to take over. “ENOUGH!” said the first man, standing up. “We should do something! I bet the two of you, I can go out in the woods and catch me a fox in less than an hour.” The other two looked at each other with disbelief, then back at the first man. “One hour? At night? To catch a fox? You’re on!” The first man grabbed his flashlight and headed into the woods. In just over forty minutes, he returned with the remains of a fox. “That’s amazing!” the second man said. “How did you manage that?” The first man replied, “It was simple, I looked for the tracks. When I found them, I followed them until I got the fox.” The second man stood up. “I can one up ya. I will go out and bring back a deer in less than two hours.” He took the flashlight from the first man and left. An hour and a half later, he came back into camp dragging a deer. “That’s impressive,” the third man said. “What’s your secret?” “Our friend here was right. I looked for the tracks. Once I found them, I followed them right to the deer.” “Well, I can’t let you two have all the glory,” the third man said. “I will go out, too, and in three hours I will be bring back a bear.” He grabbed the flashlight and left. Three hours came and went. Soon after, the third man crawled back into camp. He was missing a foot, his clothes were mangled and bloody, and all his exposed skin was torn to shreds. The first man grabbed his phone to call 911. The second man ran to his friend’s aid. “WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED!?” “I looked for the tracks, I followed them, and that’s when I saw the train.”

Ha! Didn’t see that one coming, did ya?! Apparently neither did that 3rd guy. Of course, he was more concerned with outdoing his two friends. I supposed nothing would have deterred him from seeking the most glory from the situation. Perhaps he should have sought clarification on what his friends meant by “tracks”…

But that notion of glory is an interesting thing to reflect on, a notion that is raised by Paul in today’s reading. Right from the start of our reading, we hear Paul console himself: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.” Though not expressly stated, Paul is referring specifically to the “glory of God,” an expression that is regularly used elsewhere in scripture. For example, in Exodus we hear “the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle,” (40:34); in Psalms, “the heavens declare the glory of God” (19:1); in Luke, “an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them” (2:9); in 2nd Corinthians, Paul wrote, “and we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image, from one degree of glory to another” (3:18); and finally, in the book of Hebrews, “he (Jesus) is the radiance of the glory of God, the exact imprint of his nature.” (1:3) We get the idea, the “glory of God” is a common expression used throughout both the Old and New Testaments. And yet, if we were to be honest, it’s also a pretty unclear expression. What is meant by the expression, “the glory of God?” More importantly, why should we reflect on the glory of God? Why did Paul reflect on it in his letter to the Romans? Hopefully we can answer these questions this morning.

Professor Donnie Berry’s, of Amridge University, thoughts are helpful in answering the first question, what is meant by the expression, “the glory of God?” He says, “God’s glory is the ‘shining forth’ or the ‘public display’ of God’s character and nature.” It’s the outward expression or manifestation of who God is at his core. So who is God at his core? Well, judging by his outward manifestation…his creation…God is fundamentally wise, loving, creative, beautiful, strong, and compassionate. Just behold his mighty creation! There is great wisdom, love, creativity, beauty, strength, and compassion in his creation! A God without these characteristics couldn’t have created such magnificent creation! No, our God intrinsically has these characteristics as reflected by his creation. God’s glory is simply the sum total of his amazing characteristics. It’s all that makes for goodness in this world. It’s all that makes God worthy of our honor and respect. Without God’s glory, our world would be without goodness.

So why even reflect on God’s glory? I think by reflecting on it we’re more apt to be aware of it and our experience of it. The wonder of God’s creation is there whether we are aware of it or not. But when we’re aware of it, it makes it all the more wonderful to us; so wonderful that it can transform us, change us at our very core. The world is an amazingly wonderful world to those who take the time to reflect on its wonder. It is an amazingly dismal world to those caught up in its despair and sorrow. God wants us to know the joys of this world. Paul couldn’t care less about the sufferings he encountered on his missionary journeys because he was more focused on reveling in God’s glory. We ought to take his cue and rejoice in the God’s glory as reflected in his creation.

It’s no wonder Paul offers up that powerfully familiar verse in our reading: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” If we get caught up in God’s love, then of course everything in our world works together for good. God’s love is the source of all goodness in this world! Just love him with all your heart, soul, and mind be amazed at the goodness in your life! The prophet Isaiah proclaims, “arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” (60:1) What a blessing to know and experience God’s glory in your life! Jesus told Martha at the graveside of her brother, Lazarus, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40) In belief, there is great goodness to be known. Recall John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” Eternal life is pretty good exchange for belief! God’s glory is the source of all goodness in this world. We ought to reflect on it, rejoice in it, and give thanks for it. Thanks be to God!

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.