Romans and the Reformation
A Series of Sermons Commemorating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation
9 July – Proper 9 – Romans 7:14-25a
Paul finds peace of mind through Christ’s deliverance
“What the Hell’s Wrong with Me?”
“Wretched man that I am!” This is how Paul put it. Today the expression is found in the title of this morning’s homily.1 Each person experiences this despair within himself. What.Is. Wrong. With me?
Each of us has a civil war within. We have a duel nature. We are torn. Between our higher and lower selves. Like St. Paul, we often do not understand why we do certain things. And when we vow. To ourselves. To our spouse. To our children. To our teachers. Not to practice certain things. That is precisely and exactly what we do.
Paul explains this conflict with these words, “I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” v. 25
How do you make sense of this conflict? How do you understand yourself?
How do you understand yourself? – It is good and comforting to know Paul was human as we are. He confessed he did not understand why he did certain things the very thing he did not want to do.
We can say, ‘Paul, join the crowd!’ This reminds us of the doctrine that as Christians we are both saints and sinners alike. At the very same time. And the two are ever in conflict until death.
The Christian life is one of inner conflict. It is a struggle between the lower and the higher selves. It is a battle between the old and the new Adam. It is a clash between the law of the body and the law of the mind.
What is so wrong?
1. We do what we don’t want to do – “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want.” V. 15
The reason for such behavior is simple: It is the power of sin. “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” v. 18 It is sin what makes us do the wrong thing. Especially when all we want to do is the right thing. “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” It is the law of sin. It is the power of evil that possesses the flesh. It is the unregenerate part of us that desires evil.
Paul continues, “But I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members…it is sin that dwells within me.” V. 20
While the Law in itself is good. The Law shows us the wrong we do. This calls for a continual battle against temptation and the evil force that still lives in a Christian.
The Solution: Deny the lower self. Repent. Realize there is nothing good in you. Try as you might you cannot overcome the power of sin. Will power does not work. Paul will admit, “I have the desire to do what is right.” But he has to admit, “I don’t have the ability to carry it out!”
2. We don’t do what we want to do – but I do the very thing I hate. V.15
The reason for all this: Our better self wants to do right – “I have this desire to do what is right.” Each of us wants to do the right thing. Not only do we know what is right. We know we should fulfill it. The victim of this civil war cries out in despair, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” v. 24 This conflict that persists, can only lead to despair of self.
Is there no end? No way out? Paul found the solution in Christ for whom he gives thanks for this deliverance. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! V. 25
The Solution: Affirm the higher self? Better yet, rejoice in Christ’s deliverance. St. Paul says, “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being.” v. 22
Christ is your peace. Who brings together the two warring selves into one integrated, harmonious person. He has redeemed you. And when we come to Him daily in contrition and faith He forgives our sins.
But He does us even better. He gives you His Holy Spirit. So that you can be the hands, the feet, the fingers, and the toes of Jesus in your world.
This year we commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The Reformers taught that a farmer may worship God by being a good farmer. The Reformation proclaimed that a parent, changing diapers, could be as near to Jesus as the Pope. This was scandal. But it was also revolutionary.
"We can't be holy in the abstract. Instead we become a holy blacksmith. Or a holy mother. Or a holy physician. Or a holy systems analyst. We seek God in and through our particular vocation and place in life…Our task is not to somehow inject God into our work. But to join God in the work He is already doing in and through our vocational lives."2 In short, you become a sermon in shoes.
"In the daily rhythms for everyone everywhere, we live our lives in the marketplaces of this world. In homes and neighborhoods. In schools and on farms. In hospitals and businesses. And our vocations are bound up with the ordinary work that ordinary people do. We are not great shots across the bow of history. Rather, by simple grace. We are hints of hope."3________
Passive Sentences –2%
Reading Level – 3.4
Luther’s Seal © Ed Riojas, Higher Things
1. Offence was not intended in the title of this homily although it is a common idiom
2.Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life.- Tish Harrison Warren © 2016 Intervarsity Press pg. 94
3. Ibid pg. 189