First Lesson: Genesis 28: 10-19a
Responsive Reading: Psalm 139: 1-12, 23-24
Second Lesson: Romans 8: 12-25
Gospel Lesson: Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.”- Corrie Ten Boom.
“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”- Romans 8:22
Let me begin with a story. The year was 2001. I was senior at Concordia College. I had a friend named Nate. The thing that you need to know about Nate is every dollar he gave up was a source of pain. It doesn’t matter if Nate has $1 or $1 Million dollars to his name. Nate also liked to go out as much on other people’s dimes as possible. So Nate, a group of friends, and I went out one night to Buffalo Wild Wings in North Fargo. Nate and I ordered some chicken wings, but I picked the sauce since I agreed to help him pay. Being a good Swede, I picked a mild sauce to Nate’s disappointment. Nate being a brash 22 years old started running his mouth how he had an “iron stomach” and he could handle any chicken wings they could serve. Neither my friends or I believed this. So we decided to challenge Nate by ordering a half-dozen “blazing” wings, which were the hottest of 12 sauces on the menu. If Nate ate these wings, we’d pay for them and give him an extra $5 to boot. Nate was never going to turn down an opportunity to win money. So we place the order. Nate takes his first bite. It becomes quickly obvious that Nate had no idea into what he was getting himself. Nate started sweating! Tears were running down Nate’s face. Nate required milk or water after every bite. After seeing Nate eat two of the six wings, we figured there was no way he would ever finish. Nate was not going to surrender $5 after going through so much pain to collect. Nate took bite after bite as his face turned redder and redder. By the fourth wing, we were starting to worry about Nate’s health. Nate kept going and going; he ate every last drop. Nate got up ran to the nearest facility and the rest of Nate’s night or even the day after wasn’t all that pretty for him. Nate collected his $5 long after most people would have deemed the cost to be too great.
Nate had a belief that temporary pain (no matter how brutal), would eventually work itself out in his life. Now many of us can relate to Nate’s physical pain, yet this isn’t the only pain that affects us. Perhaps you’ve had emotional pain or spiritual pain that you can’t quite make sense.
Joseph Parker was one of the most famous preachers in England at the end of the 19th Century. Preachers of all faith backgrounds would gather to hear Parker give noon Bible lessons. Contemporaries describe Parker as having a gift with words like few Christian preachers ever. If anyone was thought to have an unshakable faith, it would be Joseph Parker. Joseph Parker at the age of 58 became a widow. Joseph Parker described himself as never having a religious doubt in life before this point, only to see his faith collapse, and nearly become an atheist. Parker felt his prayers had been going unanswered, Parker described his emotions as like “a dog in misery” and feeling “spat upon by God.” Joseph Parker never really bounced back fully from the loss of his wife. Joseph Parker kept preaching Sunday after Sunday, until his death three years later. He struggled with the pain of his faith even as he kept on proclaiming it.
Parker’s story brings us to our lesson Today from Romans 8, as I’ve been preaching on the Book of Romans this Summer. Paul’s conversion to Christianity had certainly brought him all sorts of hardship from being shipwrecked, imprisoned, and living in constant fear on account of his faith. Paul like Joseph Parker needed to make sense of these events wrote the Book of Romans to express everything he believed.
Our lesson for Today has Paul comparing living as a Christian to the experience of going through the pain of child birth.
Israel Kamudzandu describes this passage well when he says:
“It is a blessing to be pregnant, but we all know that before giving birth to new life; a mother always goes through pain, lost appetite, sleeplessness, high blood pressure, and struggles with mobility; and yet at the end there is a celebration.”
There must be pain before Redemption; there must be death before Resurrection. As Christian people, we must continually be turning our heads towards what is coming at the finish line.
Derek Redmond was a British sprinter born in 1965. Derek Redmond ran the 400 meters faster than any other person in the country’s history. In 1991, Redmond’s 4 x 400 Relay team won the World Championship against heavily favored the United States. Britain posted the second fastest 4 x 400 time ever. Derek Redmond qualified for the Olympics in Barcelona in 1992 in the 400 meters. Redmond posted the fastest time of all competitors in the initial round. Redmond won his heat in the quarterfinals. In the Semis, Redmond started quite well seemingly on his way to the finals and being an Olympic medalist. 250 meters from the finish line Derek Redmond’s life would change forever. Derek Redmond felt a pop in his hamstring and collapsed to the ground. Redmond would seem to have been unable to go any further. Red Cross medics upon seeing Redmond get the stretcher ready. Redmond though manages to get up. Redmond starts limping; every step was painful. Redmond regardless of how injured he was, believed crossing the finish line would be the payoff for his years of training. It didn’t matter that every step of Redmond’s run would bring more and more tears streaming down his face. Redmond was only able to complete the race with the assistance of his father. Very few people will be able to tell you who won the Gold Medal in the 400-meter dash at the Barcelona Olympics, but people will forever remember Derek Redmond’s determination in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Derek Redmond today is a prominent motivational speaker in the United Kingdom.
The Apostle Paul in many ways could empathize with Derek Redmond. Paul would later be attributed as saying: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”
Within Paul’s day, the belief existed that it was the pain of the present, would bring about God’s final redemption. For Christians, this pain was most officially revealed upon on a cross. No matter how it appeared Christ’s pain ultimately did not bring death, this pain instead brought a new hope and life. What Paul is saying Today is that our current pain mirrors Jesus in that its final meaning will not be made known only on our Good Fridays, but rather the Easters that lies ahead.
C.S. Lewis once described this passage well when he said: “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Paul’s message for Today is this life will at times bring you not only chicken wings that bring tears to your face, but labor pains, torn hamstrings, and even loss of loved ones from which we seemingly can’t recover. Our God can use all these things for his eventual glory. Lastly, our God can even use fleas.
Corrie ten Boom was born in the Netherlands in 1892. Ten Boom worked as a watchmaker. In 1940, the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. The Nazis immediately began to restrict Ten Boom’s Christian faith. Ten Boom though didn’t back down seeking to invite Jewish neighbors into their home. Ten Boom’s family efforts became known to Jews far and wide. In 1944, ten Boom’s actions became known to the Nazis. Her and much of her family were arrested. She was sent to solitary confinement. Corrie and her sister Betsie eventually end up at Ravensbruck concentration camp. Ravensbruck was brutal. One could barely step into the bunk room without being swarmed by fleas. Corrie and Betsie though had managed to sneak in a Bible to their bunker. The following was a bold move as if the ten Boom sisters were caught; they would be executed. They started passing around their Bible in as secretive a fashion as possible not to be discovered. They soon realized the guards never came to check their bunker. One day, Betsie over heard the guards explain why they never did a bunker inspection because the guards didn’t want to deal with all those fleas. Corrie ten Boom because of those fleas became one of the best-known authors of the 20th Century with her book The Hiding Place.
Paul’s message for Today is to think of pain just like Corrie ten Boom or my friend Nate. Pain within a Christian’s life is more than a mere reality of the present; pain instead points to the day when the words from the end of Revelation shall become a reality:
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”-Revelation 21:4.
 “Joseph Parker.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 28.Dec.2016 Web. July.18.2017.
 Graves, Dan. “Joseph Parker’s Special Noon Service.” Christianity.com. July 2007. Web. July.18.2017.
 Eisberg, Clarence. “Where Is God When I'm Hurting.” Sermon Central.com. 20.Mar.2007. Web. July.18.2017.
 Eisberg, Clarence. “Where Is God When I'm Hurting.”
 Eisberg, Clarence. “Where Is God When I'm Hurting.”
 Kamudzandu, Israel. “Commentary on Romans 8:12-25.” Working Preacher. Luther Seminary. St.Paul. 17.July.2017. Web. July.18.2017.
 “Derek Redmond.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation.20.June.2017. Web. July.18.2017.
 Brunton, Simon. “50 stunning Olympic moments No3: Derek Redmond and dad finish 400m.” The Guardian (US Edition). 30.Nov.2011. Web. July.18.2017.
 2 Timothy 4:7-8.
 Kirk, J.R. Daniel. “Commentary on Romans 8:12-25.” Working Preacher. Luther Seminary. St.Paul. 20.July.2014. Web. July.18.2017.
 Kirk, J.R. Daniel. “Commentary on Romans 8:12-25.”
 The following Lewis quote is from The Problem of Pain. The following reference was cited by Daniel Ritchie on Desiring God website on Jan, 16, 2017. The article was reposted by Pastor Leon Stier on Email Mediatations on Jan.18.2017.
 “Corrie ten Boom.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 22.June.2017. Web. July.18.2017.
 Calhoun. Dr.George. “No Pain, No Gain.” Sermon Central.com. 25. Oct.2007. Web. July.18.2017.
 Calhoun. Dr.George. “No Pain, No Gain.”
 Calhoun. Dr.George. “No Pain, No Gain.”