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Sermon Madness 2022, Vol II: Romans 8:28

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  • Week 2! Romans 8:28.
  • To have to go through a sermon on one verse is a challenge
    • We have to look deep, without forgetting wide - context still matters, but more than a lot of other times, we need to look at the words and what they speak.
    • Romans 8:28 is one that gets taken out of context and used as a banner verse for lots of folks. So let's dig in deeply so that we know what it is:
  • "We know"
    • Paul is relating this a kind of learned knowledge. This isn't the same as a gut-sense intuition. The knowledge we have in Rom 8:28 is one that has been fostered by experience and through teaching.
    • And there's something valuable that Paul seems to take this wisdom as for granted - we already are aware of this.
  • "all things"
    • this word, "panta," is really meant to cover the gamut of experiences. So we've learned these truth from all things that happened in our lives, including the good and the bad. And let's not be caught too much by time, or space, or any of that - panta is all of it.
    • Rom 8:18: the "sufferings of the present time" included. And keep in mind where Paul's mind was at when he wrote - he was convinced that Jesus was going to be coming in the near future. There was hope for the children and grandchildren of the people he was writing to that they'd greet Jesus.
  • "work together"
    • This is where I think our modern interpretation can slide away from what Paul is saying here and our relationship to God and the world:
      • This is a passage often used when we have to take a passive position - we're watching a series of puzzle pieces drop divinely onto a screen and we're hoping to eventually discern a picture.
      • The root of the word is "synergeo," which ought to sound familiar - synergy, which means that the combined efforts of a group a greater than what could happen on their own.
        • So instead of a passive dropping of puzzle pieces, it's an active collaboration that's greater than its sum (which might seem strange given being in partnership with the infinite).
        • This should call back a little of last week!
          • When we sit in the audience, it is not the same as in the community - we pay extra money for "interactive experiences" as audience members.
          • Here, Paul is telling us that there is something collaborative, and it involves more than God pulling some strings in the background.
  • "for good"
    • This good is the good of Creation - it is "desirable or positive qualities, especially those suitable for a thing specified"
      • It's creating the best of what can be - it's shalom... it's justice
  • "for those who love God, called according to his purpose"
    • The first part seems pretty easy, but the second part is a little harder
    • The "called" here, is somewhere between an invitation and a summons, but it's something irresistible according to Paul - he often uses the word when he talks about his own calling.
    • What that might be?
    • The store tomato vs. the garden tomato. It is the allure of things that are the way they should be. The way they can be. The highest and best - Paul is steeped in Greek philosophy, so you can hear the idea of forms here as well.
  • So what might we take from all of this analysis?
    • Let me offer a new translation:
    • ...and our experiences already demonstrate to us that everything that ever has been, is, and will be, works with Good towards the very good, and those who love Good and can't help but be drawn to Good join in the work.
    • This reminds us again of last week - we are active, not passive.
    • It reminds us of a Jesus that was active member of the community as well.
    • But what good news is that! What a world that takes everything and directs it to the best - the harvest best fruits, the best of our relationships.

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