Today, I will be preaching on Romans 8, but before we get to one of my favorite passages, St. Paul speaks of, “Sighs too deep for words.” Have you ever breathed a, “sigh too deep for words”? Well, if ever there was a time for sighs too deep for words, it’s now. Let’s think about some of what we’ve all been going through lately.
We’ve all been experiencing this unprecedented experience of a global pandemic, with a recitation of numbers and figures on our TV or internet screens that boggle the mind. The quarantine has exacerbated our fears. Face masks, social distancing. Who wears a mask. Or who refuses to wear a mask. Some of us have been getting out, but our member, Doreen, hasn’t been out of the house for months. She can’t. It would put her immune system at risk. Put yourself in Doreen’s shoes, people, and sigh. (she says she’s gone to the doctor! Hooray!)
SIGH, people. Let that sigh say everything that words cannot express.
Think of the people who you know have gotten sick. Think of the people who you know have died. You don’t need to have known them very well. On the evening news they will do short profiles of the deceased: a teacher, a doctor, and EMT. Gone. Precious, kind, loving people.
So we SIGH.
If we were black or brown people, our sighs would be on top of these other sighs. If we were black or brown people, our sighs would be collected with the sighs of our ancestors, carried here centuries ago. Centuries of sighs. Four hundred years and STILL sighing! Those sighs ask –
WHEN . . . WHEN? When will we get to the END of these sighs? Why?
Let us share our empathy with them, and let us sigh with our brothers and sisters.
Here’s my own personal sigh. There was a day in the 90s when I went to work, and I sighed a sigh that filled the room, and made my co-worker turn around and ask me, ‘What’s wrong? Why are you sighing like that?’ My sigh had alarmed her. There were no words to tell her about the conversation I’d had that morning which spelled the end of the marriage. There were no words, so I sighed from the bottom of my heart and soul. I sighed the end of the marriage. Maybe you’ve sighed like that – a sigh – for the end of things.
Or maybe you’ve sighed – the cancer is back” – and there are just no words.
Or maybe you’ve sighed along with the #METOO movement. Another and another and another and another young woman. Each generation of women thinks – THIS time! THIS time! We will eradicate these sins against women. To make our world safe for our daughters. We work and we struggle and STILL we sigh.
Let’s stop for a minute and think about what makes YOU sigh.
What are the troubles that have made you sigh either now or in the past?
You can either speak them out loud or in the silence of your heart.
St. Paul sighs. He sighs the sigh of a man confronted and crushed by the sin of the world. He asks, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
St. Paul, along with the rest of the apostles, was tackling the sin of the world, and it made him SIGH. Like Jesus, who was ‘the man of SORROWS’ in the Garden of Gethsemane “was grieved and agitated” and prayed, “My father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” Mt 26:39. Jesus prayed and SIGHED under the crushing weight of the SIN of the world. BUT! Neither our sighs nor St. Paul’s do NOT say – it’s hopeless – nothing can be done. NO! Not at all! We don’t sigh a sigh of hopelessness!
Even now, we are being remade into the image of Christ.
We sigh because we are vulnerable, suffering and weak – but the good news is that Christ, on the cross is also vulnerable, suffering and weak, and shares our deepest abyss. He is there with us. We don’t have to be successful for him to come to us. We don’t have to earn his love, and we know we don’t have to be really good, moral people. Jesus comes to us in our weakness just as we are.
St. Paul also says: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” There is our HOPE. “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” This is the mature Paul who experienced everything in his list of afflictions: “hardship . . . distress . . . persecution . . . famine . . . nakedness . . . peril, or sword.” Looking back at his life, he must have marveled: how is that he is still standing?
How is it that he is not just still alive, or surviving, but THRIVING! I wonder if Paul ever wondered why he didn’t give up – but is still proclaiming God’s love? He’s like a cork that no matter how many times you push that cork under the water, it still pops up. WE are like those corks. We may think our struggles and hardships should sink us, but they don’t. God’s grace keeps us buoyant. God grace gives us a buoyancy we cannot possess on our own. doing.
It’s the Holy Spirit. As St. Paul says today, “the Spirit intercedes for us.”
Can you think of a time when you felt a buoyancy despite being in the midst of your struggles?
The Holy Spirit gives us the victory. It may not always feel like a victory, but God is giving us the ability to not just survive, but to TRIUMPH. We are meant to TRIUMPH in the middle of and despite adversity that can crush us. Let me repeat – we are meant to do more than just survive – we are meant to TRIUMPH. Christ says, surviving isn’t good enough for God’s children. We are to TRIUMPH.
Think back to Easter and the resurrection. Jesus didn’t just walk out of the tomb – he sent that large rock sealing his tomb popping out like a champagne cork! It went POP! Jesus, the King of Kings came out like a rocket ship! Jesus’ resurrection triumph is OUR triumph. His resurrection is for US as well, as he defeats the ultimate enemy, death, for us.
Yet St. Paul or any of us who profess to be one of Christ’s disciples will NOT have an easy path. Jesus, the apostles, and Paul, bring the GOOD NEWS to a world that is turned in on itself, that is rocky and often not good soil for planting God’s Word. Soon after Jesus called St. Paul in the book of Acts, Christ says, “I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” It’s not an easy journey for Paul, but it’s the path of compassion, in a world that resists compassion, yet it is well worth the traveling.
Today’s text ends with Paul’s fiery words: “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nothing there is NOTHING that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Theologian David Lose says, “Because we have the peace of God through justification we can endure almost anything, and not just endure but grow stronger and find hope.” And because of justification through faith “God accepts you because that’s who God is and what God does – justify the ungodly in order that we might know peace, and turn in love to extend the same grace, mercy, and acceptance to those around us.”
We have received grace and mercy, and we are invited and encouraged to treat other people with the grace, mercy and acceptance that God has showered us.
Will there ever be an end to our sighs? Absolutely, one hundred percent, yes.
Will there ever be an end to God’s love and mercy? Absolutely, no.
Will we, as David Lose says, extend the same grace, mercy and acceptance to those around us?
I hope so.
Loving God, thank you for the grace that makes us buoyant like corks. Though we sigh through our struggles, your love keeps us upright.
We pray this in the name of Jesus, our Lord.
 David Lose. https://www.davidlose.net/2016/05/trinity-c-shh-dont-mention-the-trinity/