Summary: The shape of hope is not wishful or positive thinking, but rather action
Romans 8:12-25 “The Shape of Hope”
Some of the greatest Christian hymns are songs of hope: “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less,” “Rock of Ages,” “Oh God, Our Help in Ages Past,” and many more. Christians are a people of hope. But, we don’t hope is just anything. We hope in a specific something.
Paul switches his attention from freedom to hope in the second half of chapter eight. He reminds his readers and those of us who come later what is at the center of our hope. The hope that we have as Christians is a hope that can withstand persecutions, natural disasters, personal tragedies, and economic downturns, and a score of gloomy days. Our hope is a hope focused on a relationship.
Paul first writes that we have received the spirit of adoption. We can legitimately identify ourselves as Children of God—members of God’s family.
I remember when I was very young, perhaps only six years-old, my parents took me to a dog kennel in order to pick out a puppy. The choice was all mine. I looked across a rolling sea of puppies and one particular puppy caught my eye. I can’t tell you why I was attracted to that specific puppy, but I can tell you from the moment I spotted that puppy, that puppy was mine. I would not be satisfied with any others.
At our baptism, we celebrate that we are being adopted by our Lord. In a similar manner to Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit descends upon us and God declares, “This is my son (or daughter) in whom I am well pleased.
We don’t know why the Lord picks us. It certainly isn’t because our individual qualities and characteristics set us apart from everyone else. All humankind is on equal footing. We stand before God and each other as sinners in need of a savior, and as talented, yet broken people in need of healing. We can only say that God wills to adopt us as his own.
Paul instructs his readers to celebrate this truth—that they have been adopted into God’s family—and to allow that truth to be the seed of their hope. We may do this with a prayer of thanks at the beginning of our day. Many people make the sign of the cross on themselves in order to remind themselves that they have been baptized, that they are God’s children and that they live in hope. During our times of worship, the Lord’s Prayer, Apostles’ Creed and Holy Communion remind us and enable us to celebrate the truth that we are God’s children.
A CLOSE RELATIONSHIP
Paul goes on to write that our adoption as children of God enables us to cry, “Abba, Father.” This is a shocking statement. No other faith tradition addresses their “God” with such a term of familiarity—Daddy, or Pops.”
The truth of Paul’s statement is mind boggling. The creator of the universe, and the God of our salvation, allows us to address him as Dad. This personal, intimate relationship is something that is celebrated over and over again in the scriptures.
• In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells his followers that our Father knows the number of hairs on our heads.
• Psalm 136 celebrates the fact that God knew all about us when we were still in our mother’s womb, and that God knows our thoughts before we even think them.
• Throughout his writings Paul declares that Christians have a unique relationship with God. We are in Christ and Christ is in us. God’s Spirit speaks to our spirit. And in Romans Paul assures his readers that absolutely nothing can separate us from the singular love and unique relationship that we have with God in Christ Jesus.
Our hope becomes more secure because of the relationship that we have with God, our Father. We are more than a speck of dust in the vast universe, and we are more than simply a number. We are family, and God cares for us. We live in the reality that God holds us in the palm of his hand and is a part of our going out and our coming in.
WE KNOW THE FUTURE
Paul writes to a people in the midst of persecution. People were dying for their faith. To these people, he writes, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.” Paul writes these same words to the people who have lost their homes, their belongings and sometimes even their loved ones to wildfires, floods, tornadoes, tsunamis, and earthquakes. Paul writes these words to us who are struggling to find jobs, make ends meet, raise our kids, and live lives that honor God and bear witness to God’s love and grace.