Summary: God works out his purposes in a world beset with sin.
Last Sunday, after church, the kids mime ministry team left immediately to give a presentation at Future Church of Tomorrow on 12th Street. As we left, the adults counted all the noses to make sure we had everybody and we formed a caravan of vehicles so we could get there without getting lost.
Three of them had performed at the Episcopal Church that morning and they met us on 12th St. As we gathered outside, the kids formed lines to get their makeup on while two adults went inside to make arrangements. The worship service had already started, but they had reserved a time slot for us just before the sermon. Finally, the kids’ makeup was on, the lights were set up, and the platform was cleared. The kids filed into the lobby, waiting for the signal to enter.
It was then I asked if anyone had brought the CD with the music on it. Everyone’s face went blank. No one had it.
We had no choice but to send the kids back outside. The associate pastor began his sermon inside. I hurried back to the church to get the CD.
When I got back, disappointment was still written over the faces of the kids. I could see it even through their makeup. Some were groaning that they were hungry. Some were just unhappy at the wait. Adults tried to console the kids and keep them occupied. And the sermon inside had just begun.
Fifteen minutes went by. I checked. The man was preaching. Thirty minutes went by. I checked again. He was still preaching. Another 10 minutes. It sounded like he was getting close to the end.
The kids wondered how long it would be. Not long, I told them.
Meanwhile, one adult told the kids not to despair. “We don’t know, but God might have a purpose for the delay. Maybe your song fits better after the sermon than before. We don’t know why God allowed this to happen.”
Finally, the sermon and the prayers were finished. I called the mime group to the door. They took off their shoes and silently filed up to the stage and they performed as they had rehearsed. And afterwards a small, but appreciative, congregation gathered around to thank them.
When I spoke with the associate pastor who had preached, he told me that the message of that song fit so perfectly with his message that he sat there and bawled for the first half of the song. The adult had been right.
I want to use that experience as a kind of parable to help us understand our scripture passage from Romans 8.
When Paul wrote to the Romans he said, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Do you believe that?
Romans 8:28 is a wonderful verse. If you haven’t memorized it, put it at the top of your list. When we experience disappointments and failures and expressions of evil, we find it easy to slip into a mindset that says things just happen and we tend to forget that God is in control of our world, that the past has meaning, and the future has a destiny, and that history should be read as His story.
This week we approach the most disappointing event in all of human history in which it appears that truth is turned on its head, righteousness fails, and evil triumphs. How difficult it must have been for those people who escorted Jesus into Jerusalem with palm branches that day to see their joy turn to sorrow. It must have been hard for them to understand how God could bring something good out of the death of Jesus. But we who live on this side of the cross know that he did.
Romans 8 is a chapter I turn to sometimes to get my head screwed on straight again. For me this one short chapter provides a perspective like no other because it highlights several dominant themes of the Bible.
1. The first is that God is a God of purpose. 8:28 talks about being called according to his purpose. God is a living, active, purposeful God, one who does not engage in random activity. Everything he touches has a purpose and a destiny.
Not long ago, I was talking to a teenager and I asked him what he had planned that afternoon, and he said, “Oh, things just kind of happen.” Can you imagine God acting that way? That is not the way it is with God. His plan started long ago, before the foundation of the world, Ephesians 1:4 says. And it reaches beyond the end of time when he will make all things new.
When he created humankind, he created us in his image. Genesis 1:27 says, “God created humankind in his image.” That means you. It means me. The writer of Psalm 8 pondered the miracle of God’s creation –not just the moon and the stars and other celestial bodies- but that God has included us as a part of his creation. (Ps. 8:3,4). If you need a boost for your self-esteem, meditate on this chapter. It will lift your head out of the sand.