Lectionary Year A
August 18, 2002

Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
Contemporary Address

Step VI - Contemporary Address

A. Goals

(JFC) An exposition of Paul's ideas in these lines might be able to broaden peoples' perspectives, re: including and inviting other believers to hope in and even to trust the God herein revealed, described and praised.

B. Describing the Audience

(JFC) Any congregation in any community with multi-religious adherents might benefit from the images this text espouses.

C. Address

(JFC) a sermon, entitled for this working draft, "What Hope Does God Envision?"

God looks in on our world and wonders, "Just what are those human beings doing there these days?" Do we, too, wonder what God is up to some of the time? Let's see.

I. God's "No-No's"

A. God never turns His back on us. The Old Testament knew that (I Kings 12:20, Psalm 93:14 and 94:4) as did the New Testament, as Paul declares opening today's text. Do we ever wonder about this aspect of God? Paul might have doubted God's constant care, or, at least some of his contemporaries must have or he might not have had to mention it.

B. God never takes back any gifts, never regrets giving us any of the many blessings with which we are endowed. Remember the old chorus, "Count your blessings one by one . . ."? They are expressions of divine grace. They are many in quantity and much in quality. And, God is glad to give them to us. And, God would never take any gifts back.

II. God's Gifts

A. God gives us a background/family. Paul recognized, claimed and even celebrated his ancestry in Abraham's family, the family of God's people started in the Old Testament. We frequently refer to the congregation as our Church Family and so we are. We meet together, we eat together, we have fun together, we share decision-making together and we study God's Word together. How much more ideally family-oriented can we be?

B. God shows us Mercy, by being a giving God. God gives and gives and gives. Think of our most valuable gifts God gives, like faith, hope, courage, love, and the list goes on. God's gifts go to the undeserving as well to the deserving. God gives such gifts to all people everywhere, too. Now, how shall we get that message to the developing, the warring and/or the terrorizing world? Paul hopes the ancient Israelites get the message, dare we hope today's Israelites, Palestinians (even the extremists?), Muslims, etc., do, too?

III. Why We Are Allowed To Disobey

A. God lets us sin, gives us the Ten Commandments, for example, to let us know just how sinful we can be. When we make such undeniable discoveries as our sinfulness, we are driven to our knees confessing and repenting and thereupon we realize, as Paul did, God forgives sinners. God judges humans as sinners, is disappointed in us, probably even gets put out with us, yet, still and all the while loves us and does in fact, forgive us. That's God's job. God is a forgiving God. Paul hopes Israel will discern that grace.

B. God gives us mercy, which Bultmann (in TDNT) describes in early philosophy as an "emotion roused by contact with an affliction which comes undeservedly on someone else". Then, it seems to accompany the dream for regeneration of the deceased. Plato and Aristotle use orations to kindle mercy leading to justice. Later, however, in Biblical literature, God's mercy is (d,s,x) "loving kindness" as in Psalm 13:5 and 85:7 and (~Alv) "peace, well-being" as in Jeremiah 16:5 and Psalm 85:10, etc. In the New Testament, God's grace (hvleh,qhte) "is often thought of in the original Old Testament sense of 'faithfulness', i.e., the gracious faithfulness of God, as in the canticle in Luke 1. . ." according to Bultmann in TDNT, citing also Ephesians 2:4 and I Peter 1:3.

God is such a generous God. God gives, forgives and let's us find divine grace when we need it most. God seems, according to Paul, to want everyone to benefit from such gifts, such forgiveness and such undeserved worth/grace.

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