Sunday, August 27, 2023

Romans 11:33-36; The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost; August 27, 2023;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33–36, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord, Jesus Christ.

You have seen the wonder of a child. When they see or experience something wonderful for the first time. The joy of opening a surprise Christmas present or seeing something in nature that is full of wonder. There is something pure about that wonder.

That’s what Paul is trying to convey here. He starts with the interjection “Oh!”. In Greek it’s the same. It’s a one letter word, Greek letter Omega (pronounced “Oh!”). It’s an emotional outburst something that can’t be contained, in other words in this case, “The wonder of God”. The English translation tries to show this with exclamation points. There are none in Greek. It has to be expressed with the words, and he does. Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!

It’s a song, or psalm in Greek. Maybe even an early hymn. The editors of the Greek text recognize this and put in poetic form. Then as now the mysteries of God are often well expressed by the church in song.

And, of course, it is more than an emotional response. We tend to turn the text to ourselves. But Paul is talking about God’s riches, God’s wisdom, and God’s knowledge. It’s not our knowledge of him. That little word “of” is important, it means “belonging to”. The Apostle is speaking of things that belong to God. I have often said, when we speak of God’s attributes, he is the most if any of them. God’s riches are more than we can imagine. God’s wisdom is more that we can image. God’s knowledge is more than we can imagine. It’s the most riches, the most wisdom, and the most knowledge. Today we are going to talk about God’s riches. God’s riches are, of course, not money. God’s wealth is found mainly in his giving nature (but it is more than that!). In fact, even though money is one of the most mentioned things in scripture, God himself doesn’t need it, he already has more than everything. I dare say, God doesn’t care about money. It is a human invention. It causes all kinds of trouble. Many people love money above everything else. Pastor Paul addresses this in his first letter to Timothy.
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:10, ESV)
It is just like sinful human people to love their own creation above the Creator. And look at what it causes; wondering from the faith and many pangs. (It is noteworthy to show that these sufferings due to money are self-inflicted! A literal translation says, “impaled themselves with much suffering”). What God cares about regarding money is how you use what you’ve been given.

God values his creation but what he values above all in his creation, is people. He shows it clearly. He is, above all, a giving God, giving his riches freely. He provides all that we need to support this body and life. Martin Luther said in the catechism. Physical life would be impossible without God giving. The world would not function without him giving his daily attention. God cares deeply about creation, and he gives it to people for their use. His creation is one of his most wonderful gifts. The gift of creation gives us life itself. It gives us recreation. It gives us beauty. There is no way to fully comprehend wealth of God’s gift.

But, most relevant to us,
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” (Ephesians 2:4–6, ESV)
God is rich in mercy. He has saved us in the most incomprehensible way. By giving his only son into death on the cross. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. We don’t deserve his mercy.
we were dead in our trespasses
Trespasses is a word that means crossing over the line. Specifically, God’s. We often cross over the line when we break his commandments in thought, word, and deed. Because of that we deserve God’s punishment. But God, in his rich mercy, sent Jesus to take our punishment.

Contemplate for one moment God’s richness in mercy. He sent his most valuable son, of more value than all money, or even creation itself. Jesus was made man. That in and of itself is a remarkable thing. And yet, not as remarkable as Jesus, the creator, becoming a man to serve us. It is backwards. God is so rich in mercy, that he serves people. He becomes a human person to save sinful, trespassing, people. He humbles himself to suffer the effects of sin. He suffers every day as a person would; we often see him groaning (i.e. Mark 7:34) over diseases, death and pain. But more so on the cross.
Hymn 437, Alas! And did my Savior Bleed. Was it for crimes that I had done He groaned upon the tree? Amazing pity, grace unknown, And love beyond degree! (LSB 746f )
Amazing pity, is another way to say mercy.

On the cross Jesus groaned for us for us. He suffered the human pain of death, and he suffered the eternal punishment of hell. And, in great mercy, he did it for you and me to save us from it. And, in fact, he took our punishment for sin on himself. There is no greater show of mercy, and there never will be. We do not get the punishment we deserve because Our Savior took it instead. That is God, rich in mercy.

It is a sad fact that most of the world rejects God’s mercy in Jesus. And you and would do the same if it weren’t for the Holy Spirit at work in the Word. He shows us our sin, our need, and then shows us our Savior, the solution. He implants faith to believe in all that Jesus did into our hearts. The fact that you and I are not destined for hell is all the work of God in mercy.

We cannot repay what God has so richly done for us in Jesus. Payment would negate mercy. What we can do is show gratitude. It may seem like a small difference. But it isn’t. Gratitude is a selfless measure that glorifies the giver. Repayment puts the glory on the payer.

So, how does gratitude look in our lives? How do we show God glory for what he, and he alone, has done for us? By living a life of service. We serve others because God served us. We show mercy to others because God showed mercy to us. We give people what they don’t deserve. Unconditional forgiveness, unconditional mercy. That is without requiring anything in return, even acknowledgement of what we give; even without seeing any response of their doing things differently. It isn’t our responsibility to change hearts, that belongs to God alone. It is ours, to simply speak forgiveness offered in Christ, and point to the cross. Pointing to our God who is rich in mercy.

Oh! The depth of the riches God. It inspires wonder, he is above all things wonder-full beyond our comprehension. He gives endlessly from his riches things that we don’t deserve and can’t fully comprehend. Amen.

The peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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