Exceeds Expectations

Romans 8:15-25
June 3, 2012
Steve Hammond

Do you remember that story at the beginning of the Book of Acts, when Jesus is still hanging out with the disciples in his post resurrection days, and the disciples ask Jesus if he is fixing to restore the kingdom to Israel? Unlike what many people do with all this end times stuff today, Jesus told them that’s really not what they need to spend there time thinking about. He tole them They won’t get that kind of information from God. But what they will get is the Holy Spirit.

And he was right. We didn’t really talk about Pentecost last week with it being Commencement Weekend. But you know the story. That little band of Jesus followers was in their hide out when the Spirit did show up with the wind and the tongues of fire. Suddenly they lost their fear of the authorities and went running out into the streets, proclaiming the Word of God and talking about Jesus. And much to their surprise, everybody understood what they were saying. Even all those foreigners whose spoke different languages like the folk from Cappodicia, Asia and Egypt and Lybia, Rome, and even the Cretans and Arabs. These people understood what the Jesus followers were saying and it began to dawn on Peter and the rest that the kingdom was being restored, all right, but not just to Israel, but to the whole world.

What did we just read from Romans 8? “The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.”

The coming of the Spirit is about the whole world being set loose, being set free. It’s like the Exodus story. The Spirit, the cloud of presence, like she did with the children of Israel, is leading us to a new land. But this is not a piece of geography where we are going. Rather we are headed toward a new creation, something the Spirit calls us to help create along the way.

And everybody is called, everybody gets to help. Peter stood there that Pentecost morning and realized what was going on was right out of the book of Joel.

“In the Last Days,” God says,
“I will pour out my Spirit
on every kind of people:
Your sons will prophesy,
also your daughters;
Your young men will see visions,
your old men dream dreams.
When the time comes,
I’ll pour out my Spirit
On those who serve me, men and women both,
and they’ll prophesy.
I’ll set wonders in the sky above
and signs on the earth below… “

The people were stunned by the wonder of what was happening in the streets of Jerusalem that morning. God was, by far, exceeding expectations, going far beyond what anyone was imaging God might do. And further than many of them even wanted God to go.

The whole Bible, though, is about God going over the top. God speaks this world into existence and look at it. It’s beautiful. It’s magnificent. God not only tells Abraham that he is going to have a child in his old age, but that he is going to become the father of many nations. This is a God, the Psalmist tells us, who not only walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death, but prepares a feast for us in the presence of our enemies. Mary, the Mother of Jesus, sings about a God who brings down the mighty and lifts up the lowly. Jesus welcome prostitutes, and tax collectors, and drunks into his company. He tells us not to forgive somebody just once, or even 7 times, but 7 times 70 times. Why? Because God’s forgiveness is so extravagant, so over the top. Remember that woman who got in so much trouble because she learned something about God’s extravagance from Jesus, and poured that expensive perfume all over him?

Think about how over the top the Sermon on the Mount is. Loving your enemies. The meek inheriting the earth. Peacemakers being called the children of God. Doing to others just like you would have them do to or for you. Looking to the lilies of the field rather than our bank accounts for wealth.

And then in this passage we read from Romans 8, Paul talks about the extravagance of God that leads to resurrection. And not just for Jesus, but for all of us. It wasn’t enough for God to raise Jesus from the dead, but God raised us all with Jesus. That’s over the top in a big way, so we can help God, we can follow where the Spirit is leading to bring life to this world.

It turns out that it’s not enough for God to call a whole universe into being, or even raise Jesus from the dead, and the rest of us with him. God wants a family.

Do you remember how Jesus not only called God Father, but even Papa? That was totally radical stuff when people first heard Jesus talk about God that way. No one ever thought of thinking of God as Father, much less Papa until Jesus came along. But I don’t imagine Jesus expects it to stop there. It makes sense that the over the top God would want to be Mama, too. The stars, the moon, the mountains, the oceans. It’s not enough for God. God wants sons and daughters who will pass along the family legacy. And what have we inherited? Not the 411 about the end of the world, but the Spirit. Your sons will prophesy,
also your daughters;
Your young men will see visions,
your old men dream dreams.

Pentecost itself is way over the top. New courage found, expectations shattered, and a new world to create. Barriers are broken down between Jew and Gentile, men and women, slave and free. We discover that not just some of us are one in Christ, but all of us are. We don’t need to be setting limits on God, when it turns out that God is not very good with boundaries. That’s surely what Peter and the others learned on Pentecost that morning.

I think this passage from Romans begs us to think about what happens in our lives, and in our world, when the Spirit grabs hold of us. What’s it mean to live in the family of God? To come alive with Christ? What is the creation expecting from us? Where is that cloud of presence leading us? And who are we going with?

All of creation is waiting for God’s daughters and sons to claim their places in the family of God and exceed expectations. What’s God going to give us? The Spirit. And where is she going to take us? Way beyond expectations.

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