05-20-18 “Can You Hear Me Groaning?”
New Testament: Romans 8:22-27
Gospel: John 15:26-27 & 16:4-15
Michael and Molly rented a home and they moved in three weeks ago. Sarah and Garrett just bought a new home and are moving in two weeks. When they were little kids they didn’t make a big decision without seeking Debbie or I. In fact, most of the big decisions were just made by us. As they got older we began to share more and more with them about being independent. Not independent from God, just being able to make their own decisions.
We said it over and over, there will come a day that you will be making these decisions on your own. When the time came we offered our years of experience to help them purchase their first car, chose a college, handling their own finances. Similar to how Jesus mentored the disciples and taught them and lead them by the hand for the first few years. Then there came a time to let go and pray the mentoring and sharing was enough. All of us need to let go at some point.
As you and I are experiencing these last few months there is groaning in the letting go and changes of life. At the ‘Making a Good Move’ Conference I attended this weekend, Bishop Coyner reminded us that we both need time to grieve. How often do we only think that the congregation’s grieve. We need to give each other time to grieve. I ask that you give Pastor Julie time to grieve her former congregation. She will need time to get adjusted here, and grieving is part of that adjustment period. Sometime these changes can take a long time.
For millenia the Colorado River has been grinding and groaning its way down through the Grand Canyon, on through Arizona, and on its way to the Gulf of California.
For centuries people lived and died alongside that river some starved to death others froze to death. Many just sat there and shivered in the darkness, all for lack of power. Ironic, yet there was one of the most powerful rivers in America flowing right buy them. As the river groaned so did the people because the power was unavailable — until one day some creative people built the Hoover Dam. They erected this tremendous concrete wall at great sacrifice of money and life, but for the first time the power of the river could be harnessed. The groaning changed.
That is something like what happened at Calvary. All the power of God has been here since the beginning, flowing all around, but unavailable, until the cross of Jesus Christ. The groaning changed. At the cross, at enormous sacrifice, the power of God was released to humankind, yet it was still too much.
As you drive across the Mojave Desert between Arizona and Los Angeles you see the great transmission towers which bring the power of Hoover Dam into the Los Angeles basin. Every one of them bears a warning sign: Danger, High Voltage. Energy is streaming through that wire at hundreds of thousands of volts. How can you and I use a hundred thousand volts? It is too much. So a system of transformers has been installed which breaks it down until it comes out at levels we can use, meaning 110 volts or 220 volts.
If we use the word transformer in reference to the Holy Spirit of God we hear Jesus words this way: It is better for you that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Transformer will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he, the Transformer, comes, he will make available to you all the limitless forces which lie in God. He will take what is mine, and give it to you in quantities that you can handle, just right for your situation. Within the Spirit lies all the limitless power of God.
We are not that different from those original disciples. We cannot bear the full revelation of the love and grace of Jesus Christ. We don’t have minds enough to understand it, nor hearts big enough to encompass it.
We need to have it broken down to our size. But it is there, ready for us to take, ready for us to take and use in our own situations. My kids were not ready to go out and buy or rent a home when they were 6 or 7 or 8. I am still wondering how they accomplished all this without me by their side, or at least their mother. How hard was it for Jesus to let go and leave us? Was it difficult for Jesus to allow us to continue growing without the Lord physically holding our hands? Was there groaning in Heaven?
There was a time when your kids were little and you said something about them moving out and living on their own that they got scared and held your hand even tighter. Then as they got older they began to get excited about the possibilities of living independently. The groaning changed. There are times the changes of life leave us groaning. Paul tells us the whole creation has been groaning since the beginning. At our first birth we groaned, and so too did our mothers. Then we aged and that process caused groaning in the physical and emotional growth. There was groaning when we came to know our creator, then the remainder of our aging into our senior years and finally our death. There is much groaning in our life.
In the Gospels we often find the immature disciples groaning after a Jesus teaching moment. Especially when he taught them about his upcoming death. Even before that they often left a Jesus teaching moment with their heads down, questions burning in their minds, sadness filling their hearts. At Pentecost, however, they are filled with amazement, awe, wonder and they are encouraged to begin this new life with the Spirit. The groaning changed. The groaning is no longer like childbirth but more of new life, of eternal life.
So there is a good type of groaning. Too often we connect groaning to something terrible. Obviously I cannot know the pain of childbirth. I do know, however the pain of child rearing, of letting go. First becoming my own person, then being responsible for another.There is groaning in the process we are all going through in achieving righteousness. Yes, God has already delivered us, but living within that deliverance may cause groaning.
It’s difficult to see the good in groaning during the process. Maybe this is why Jesus said it is better that I go. The disciples may have never accomplished what they did if Jesus remained at their side holding their hands. Life is a groaning process, spiritual life and physical life. God was present in the Garden of Eden and yet Adam and Eve sinned.
Even though we have the Holy Spirit of God with us we are still susceptible to sin. Hear the Good News, we don’t have to starve or freeze to death along the banks of a powerful river. That strong stream of current of life is here for us to claim.
Once we claim it, we reveal it to the world. Jesus says that when we have been fully charged with the Holy Spirit we will be convicted of what sin is; understand that there is right and wrong and we know that we cannot deny judgement, for we will be judged on how we live. This is our challenge to groan through the process of maturity. Jesus is seeking fully mature, devoted disciples.
We are to be like the parents of the whole world who are in charge of teaching and mentoring. If we are Jesus’ disciples. We should always be open to learning and growing as we share and teach. We need to be consistently bringing Jesus name before the people. Not just to tell them about the Lord, but to demonstrate what a life transformed by the transformer looks like.
We need to teach others how we respond to God’s Word. What better way to teach than to respond to God’s Word in the way we have been taught. To be guided by the truth in the here and now and to live with your eyes open to what has yet to happen. Most importantly we teach how to live according to what we hear from the Holy Spirit. To demonstrate that we survive the groaning.
I groaned when I was a young boy holding my father’s hand. I groaned even more when that responsibility fell on me. This is more to the point of Paul’s words, we are getting to heart of his letter. When weight or pressure is applied to a wooden pallet, that wood groans and creaks and it groans.
The disciples groaned when Jesus left for they knew the weight that they would be assuming. TheGood News is that God sends the Holy Spirit to shore us up to be able to handle the pressure. If God transforms the power to a voltage we can handle, so too does the Lord help us with the crosses each of us has to bear. Jesus did not carry his cross alone we are not expected to either. There is no need to sit along the banks of God’s powerful river of life and shiver or starve. Tap into that power with God’s help and be transformed. Change your groaning.
God watched as we built the Hoover Dam to harness the power of that flowing water. God also watched as we built a wooden cross. The Lord took the groans of death on that cross and transformed them into groans of life.
The power of God is available to each of us. When the world looks at us, let it not see just the groaning of sin, but the groaning that comes from the righteous conduct of God that resides within each of you. We are disciples fully empowered to continue the work of Jesus in this world.
The world needs to know that God is still in control of history, that all of history is trending toward a one great event which lies yet in the future. Let them see that in you. Not despite the cross we bear but because of it. That is what the Spirit of God is come to do. Let them see the beauty of our groaning, let them see the hope that lies within our groaning.
Leader: Go forth in peace. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all
People: And also with you.