Sermon: “Groanings Too Deep For Words”             

LSB Series A; Proper 11

The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost; July 19, 2020

Epistle Reading: Romans 8:18-27

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. 

It’s hard to wait. It’s hard to wait in line at the grocery store. It’s hard to wait for our name to be called at the clinic. It’s hard to wait to open Christmas presents. It’s hard to wait for dessert to be served. It’s hard to wait for someone to stop talking so that we can finally talk. It’s hard to wait.

It is especially hard to wait when we suffer. It’s hard to wait when we are told the results will be coming in a few days. It’s hard to wait when we are receiving a treatment. It’s hard to wait when we feel sick to our stomach. It’s hard to wait when we endure chronic pain. It’s hard to wait when the depression sets in again. It’s hard to wait for a pandemic to end. It’s just hard to wait.

It’s also hard to wait for the Last Day to come. Our text says: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18).

Here we are living in a world of sin and brokenness, holding on to a promise that Jesus will return, and it’s just not easy. It’s especially hard because it seems like we’ve waited long enough and suffered long enough. It has been two thousand years. And I know that God says in His Word that a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. Well, in God’s time, isn’t two days long enough? It’s just so hard to wait.

I have yet to find anyone who really appreciates waiting. I have yet to find someone who says, yeah, I am a really patient person. I often joked that when God was passing out patience, He skipped me. I am guessing many of us feel the same way. 

When we have to wait, and especially when we are suffering in the process, what is our response more often than not? We groan.

Any of you familiar with groaning? Ever heard someone else groan before? It’s that deeply embedded feeling in the body that comes out in the form of a sound. It kind of goes like this (give example).

Parents are probably pretty familiar with groaning sounds that come from their children when they don’t get their way. “Awww, do I have to?” “Why do they always get to do what they want, and I never do?” “Why do I always have to do the harder jobs?” Sound familiar?

Before all the kids here think I am only picking on them, adults groan too, a lot. And the lines that the kids use are the same ones adults use: “Awww, do I have to?” “Why do they always get to do what they want, and I never do?” “Why do I always have to do the harder jobs?” Sound familiar?

Groaning just has this negative connotation that it is something we do when things are just not going our way. But is that the only form of groaning that goes on?

In our text, we hear that creation groans. We groan. The Spirit groans. There is a lot of groaning that is going on. But, there is a different ‘tone’ to the ‘groan’ that is going on here that St. Paul highlights for us.

First, we hear that creation groans. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now (Romans 8:19-22).

Long before we were born, in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve fell into sin. We are all familiar with the story. The serpent came and deceived them and they ate of the forbidden fruit. Then, the serpent was cursed, then came the promise of a Savior from the offspring of Eve who would crush the head of the serpent, then came the pain in childbirth, and lastly came the curse of the ground. Ever since that day, creation has been groaning.

But it is not a groaning like we often groan. It is a longing. It is a hoping with excited anticipation. It is likened to the pains of childbirth, where the mother endures great pain and looks forward to the joy of holding her child once the intense labor has drawn to a close. It is looking forward to finally being set free from bondage and corruption. That kind of a groan.

As we look around and we see the world in decay; hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, these are but the groanings of a creation that just can’t wait for the Last Day to come. They are reminders to us as we wait, as much as we hate waiting, that the time of Christ’s return is drawing closer with each moment that passes.

Our text also says that ‘we’ groan. It says, And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience (Romans 8:23-25).

I am reminded of my Dad who talked once of the time that he was adopted. He was four years old and his younger brother was three. His biological father was working in a gravel pit. There were three men that had fallen into the pit, and his dad tried to save them. Unfortunately, he was also pulled in, and all four of them suffocated to death. So, there my grandmother was widowed at a very young age with two young boys to raise on her own. She then remarried, and as my dad tells it, that man adopted us, and in doing so “chose” us as his own sons. He didn’t have to, but he chose to anyway, and he raised us as his own. Oh, what comfort there must have been for my dad and his brother as their eager wait to be adopted as sons was fulfilled by the man they grew up calling their dad.

That is the groaning we are invited into this world filled with its suffering and hardships. We long to be chosen, to be adopted into the family of God, and not left as orphans to fend for ourselves. We long to be fed at the table of a Father who loves us beyond measure. We long to have someone who will hear and answer the groans that we let out as we wait in this world that hurts so much to endure from day to day.

And we can all attest that it does hurt. Some of us are grieving right now as loved ones have gone to be with the Lord. Some are filled with loneliness, especially in this pandemic time filled with isolation and separation. Some are suffering physically. Some, spiritually. Some, mentally. We just can’t wait for the day when the redemption of our bodies will be here. We just can’t wait to look up into the clouds and see Jesus descending, to hear the voice of that archangel and the sound of the trumpet of God, and to always be with our Lord.

This is our hope in this world of sin and suffering. But it is not a vain hope. This hope was secured for us in the water and Word of our Baptism. The book of Hebrews describes the hope that we groan for with great anticipation, to be a sure and certain hope. It is an accomplished hope. 

It was accomplished by Jesus who groaned on our behalf on the cross. Think of how he must have groaned with longing and eager anticipation as He bled and died on that tree. Think of how He must have groaned as He willingly subjected Himself to the wrath of God against sin. Your sin and mine. Think of how He must have groaned as He let out His last breath, and in doing so, swallowed up death, once and for all. 

But His groaning was not in vain. His Father in heaven accepted His perfect sacrifice, and after three days in the grave, He was raised back to life. Raised to bring hope to our hurting hearts…to bring healing to our suffering selves…to declare that our death does not get the final say. Jesus does. And now we await the day of our resurrection with great and eager groaning, both for creation and for us.

And we do not wait alone. Our text says: Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27).

How many of us have ever been at a loss for words when we go to pray? I think we have all been there a time or two. Well, the Spirit is here to help as we endure the trials and tribulations, hardships and heartaches of this life. We are not left to our own devices. 

The same Spirit that we have embedded within our hearts through the water and Word of Baptism is the One who is interceding for us before the Father Himself with groanings too deep for words. And where our prayers are so often prayed in the vein of “’my’ will be done,” the Spirit is always faithful to pray in those groanings too deep for words: “Thy will be done.”

That’s the beauty, among many, of praying the Lord’s Prayer. It has this way of reorienting all of our groans in this life back to our Father who is in heaven. He knows how hard this world is to go through. He has been here before in the person of His Son. But in the power of His Spirit, he constantly redirects our groans back to Him so that we might patiently await Jesus’ return.

On that glorious day, our waiting will come to an end. Creation will be restored and it will be everything we had hoped for. Our groanings will be replaced with great shouts of joy as we will behold a new heaven and earth, all tears will be wiped away, death will be no more, nor will there be mourning, or crying, or pain anymore. And there before us will be our God, and we will dwell with Him forever (Revelation 21). It will definitely be worth the wait. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.