“Truth + Dare” Romans 8:28-39

“Truth + Dare” Romans 8:28-39

Sermon Audio   Romans 8:28-39

Married couples tend to accumulate inside jokes.
Bri and I are no different.
We have created plenty in our 13 years together.
Today I am going to let you all in on one of them
and it is simply this:
I have been in the relationship
a lot longer than she has.

We discovered this relatively quickly
after we moved to our first home together
in Northern Michigan.

We would get together with other couples
or church members and,
since we were newlyweds,
one of the obvious questions that came up
was about how we wound up together.

And to our mutual surprise
the story we each told about how we became “We”
started in a different place.

Bri began our story
with the female vocalist in my band
being away on a mission trip
when we had a big show to play
and me asking her if she could fill in for her.

My story of how we became WE
started about 4 months before that.

It started with Bri’s step dad, Phil,
hiring me to unload her moving truck.

The second I saw her, little, long forgotten neurons,
began to fire in my mind.
I had had a crush on this girl back in high school.
And here she was.
Moving back to where I live now,
and single to boot.

That was at the very beginning
of the summer of 2005.

She was intelligent and beautiful and funny
and way, way, way, out of my league.

ENone the less I wanted to get to know her more
and as I was a good friend of Phil, her step dad,
I had plenty of excuses to be around.

But my good friend, Phil,
assumed that when I came over to his house
that I wanted to spend time with him.
So Bri wasn’t necessarily around
and even if she was
Phil usually occupied my time.

I really wanted to get to know her though
and so I started scheming,
as you do during such situations,
I started scheming of ways to spend time with her
not at her parents’ house.
The best opportunity for that,
and the one that I thought
would paint me in the best possible light
was a Sunday night worship service
that I lead and my band played at.

And so, every week that summer,
I made sure to invite Phil to come
and subtly suggested that he bring his wife Laurie,
and Bri too, you know, if he wanted to.

About half the time
it was only Phil that came.
But the other half Bri would be there.

It was our young adult tradition after that service
to go out for coffee and pie and a local restaurant. And so I made a point,
every time Bri was there,
to invite her to come with “THE GROUP”.
And every time
she said she couldn’t go
either having a head ache or no money
or some other reason.

I just couldn’t figure it out.
Who doesn’t want pie and coffee?
But I persisted.
To the point of bringing it up
at the men’s prayer group I attended,
which was lead, of course, by my good friend,
her step dad, Phil.

Not using any names, being totally obscure,
I explained that I really liked this woman
and couldn’t figure out how or even if
I really wanted to get to know her.

After all my heart had been broken pretty severely
a couple of years before
and I wasn’t sure I was ready to expose myself
to potential heart ache again so soon.

But Phil, not knowing I was talking about Bri,
– I kind of think his advice
would have been different if he knew,-
Phil’s advice,
was to risk the hurt and let God protect my heart. And he pulled out another favorite
Pauline scripture of mine Philippians 4:6-7

“Do not worry about anything,
but in everything by prayer and supplication
with thanksgiving let your requests
be made known to God.
And the peace of God,
which surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts
and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

And so I prayed and divine inspiration struck.
It was a sure fire way to determine
if I needed to pursue Bri or not
and it had the added benefit
of helping protecting my heart.

At the end of the next Sunday evening worship,
from the microphone,
I invited EVERYONE to come to pie and coffee,
adding that it would be MY TREAT. I would pay.
For, potentially, 35 people, to get coffee and pie.

At that point, that was nearly my entire pay check.
And at that offer no one could refuse.
And Bri didn’t. She came.
And she sat by me. But so did everyone else.

It hadn’t worked exactly the way I wanted it to.
I wanted people to eat their pie and leave
so I could talk to Bri.
But they ate, and talked, and drank coffee,
and stayed, and stayed and stayed.
Until there were only three of us left.
Bri, and me, and another guy
who appeared to also be angling for time with Bri,
even asking her for a ride home.

It was frustrating to say the least,
but it had worked at least in part,
so the very next week, I did the same thing.
I invited everyone and offered to pay again.

And they all came again, Bri too,
but this time they all got the hint.
They ate their pie, drank some coffee, and left.

And Bri and I talked for a long time
and a friendship started to kindle.
About two weeks after that
I asked her about filling in as female vocalist.
And a week after that
my drummer gave me the final push,
the kick in the pants, the proverbial dare,
to call and actually ask her out on a date.
And as they say, the rest is history.

Well, that is a long, if not lovely story preacher,
what on earth does it have to do with Romans 8? I’m glad you asked.

I would guess that for most people
who are not churched,
not particularly well versed in the bible,
there are a few passages of scripture
that they would have at least heard before.
John 3:16, I Corinthians 13, and Romans 8:31-39.

They would have heard or seen John 3:16
at sporting events.
If they ever attended a Christian wedding
they would have most likely heard
I Corinthians 13,
and at a lot of funerals you hear
that all important question and its answer
from Romans 8:

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ?
Will hardship, or distress, or persecution,
or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
No, in all these things
we are more than conquerors
through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death,
nor life, nor angels, nor rulers,
nor things present, nor things to come,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation
will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

What can separate us
from the greatest love in the universe?
The greatest love we will ever know?
The love that heals and sustains us?
The love that binds up our wounds
and wipes away our tears?

The love whose mind-surpassing peace
will guard our hearts and minds?
What can separate us? Nothing!
Not one thing. In all creation.
That which we can see and that which we can’t. None of it. None of it can separate us
from the love of Christ.

So that fear…
that fear to risk because we might lose.
The fear that paralyzes us
from moving forward in relationships,
in ministry, in faith,
is not a factor
because even if we aren’t successful in those areas
we have already won
by having connected with our creator,
connected in such a way that nothing,
nothing but our own will, can separate us.
And even then God still loves us,
we just choose not to receive it.

Paul has spent a lot of time, 7 chapters,
building to this crescendo, to chapter 8.
He has laid the foundation for us to know
that we are all sinners, and we are all guilty,
and that keeping the law
would never be the thing to set us free.

All to lead to this place
where we are told with the first sentence
of the chapter that there is no condemnation
for us.

That though we are guilty
we are not condemned because we are in Christ. We are now the children of God,
joint heirs of the kingdom of God with Christ.
And nothing can change that.
God loves us and there is nothing
we can do about it.
There is no power in the universe
that can separate us from that love.

It was that knowledge,
the knowledge that even if everyone around me
abandoned me, broke my heart,
threw me away like so much trash,
that God would still love me,
that reality, made it possible for me to dare.

To dare to spend not one,
but two whole paychecks,
on the chance that Bri could have been
the love of my life
(by the way she was, and still is,
and the only thing close
to competition that she has are my kids).

It was that knowledge
that lead me to scrap engineering scholarships
and go to bible college and become a pastor.
The knowledge that no matter what happens,
no matter how many times
I attempt to do something and fail,
God is still going to love me.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries
there was a missionary named William Carey.
He is called, still today,
the father of modern missions.

William Carey was a missionary in India
and as missionaries often do,
had a great impact on the culture
in which he served.
And also like other missionaries
that impact could be both positive and negative.

What sticks out in my mind about his story
is that while trying to raise money
to be able to go to India
he was asked some version
of the question “Why?”

And his answer was that
“if we expect great things from God,
we must attempt great things for God.”

For a lot of people,
and this includes many church goers,
God, and our relationship with God,
is not always at the forefront of our thoughts.

Often its not even on the back burner.
It’s still waiting for us to just clear some space
on the counter.

When trouble hits though,
when we are faced with illness, or tragedy,
we turn to prayer pretty quickly
expecting God to do great things.

Even here in this place.
We want God to do great things.
We expect great things.
We want God to sustain the structure,
we want God to help us grow spiritually
and numerically.
We want God to do great things with us.

But William Carey knew,
and now hopefully we know,
that in order for God to bless us
with those great things
we first have to attempt great things,
trusting in God for the result,
and trusting in God’s continued love and care
even in failure.

In order for me to get to know Bri,
the love of my life,
I had to attempt something great,
something I would not have done normally. Something that took sacrifice
and risked heart ache.
Had I not made that attempt, twice,
my life may look very different today.

If we want greatness from God
we have to attempt greatness for God.

So what does that look like?
Am I asking you to all go to seminary
and become pastors and theologians? No.
Do I think the great thing you should try
is to single handedly end world hunger or war? No.

Great things,
aren’t necessarily the big flashy things.
A great thing you could do
is invite your neighbor or a friend or a stranger
to come and worship with you.
To come and be a part of your life
and your faith community.
A great thing you could do
is volunteer to help teach Sunday school.
To make an investment of time and energy
in the next generation.
To demonstrate to all who walk through these doors
that children are important to you
and to us, the church.

Great things often take us out of our comfort zone.
For William Carey that was India.
For you it might be signing up
to be a worship assistant
or starting a new bible study
or attending the next one the pastor offers.
Great things take sacrifice.

But when we attempt those great things
it gives God the room to bless us
with even greater things.

And because we are free of the law of sin and death,
because there is no condemnation
for those who are in Christ Jesus,
because we walk after the spirit
and not after the flesh,
because nothing, not one thing,
in all creation can separate us
from the love of God,
we can be bold as we attempt great things
knowing that if we fail,
if we are wounded or make fools of ourselves,
we are still loved.
We are still connected.
We are still the children of God
who can cry “Abba!” Daddy,
and know that God is there
ready to comfort and heal and protect.

If we want to be great,
if we want the church to be relevant,
if we want to see these pews full,
if we want to grow in our faith,
in our knowledge and understanding of God,
we have to dare to do great things,
new things, things that challenge us,
things that scare us,
things that pull us out of our comfortable lives
and thrust us out into the messy world
where God is at work,
just waiting to bless the greatness
we attempt for God.

God loves us,
and there is nothing we can do about it.
This is the truth.
And this truth allows us to dare,
to be bold, to risk,
knowing that even if we lose all we own,
if our own bodies are held to the flame,
God loves us,
and nothing will ever separate us from that love. So be bold, attempt something great.
And trust in that unconditional love of God.
Amen? Amen.

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