Rev. Dr. Ronald E. Braxton,
Sunday, May 27, 2012
Metropolitan AME Church
1518 M Street NW, Washington, DC
Scripture Message: Romans 8: 22-27 (The Message Bible).22-25All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy. 26-28Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. 28 That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.
During the days of apartheid, Methodist Church bishop Peter Storey serving in South African was led by the Holy Spirit as he wrestled with and lived through another instance of our inhumane treatment of one another. In his homiletically inspired perspective, Clayton Schmit writes of Storey’s experience, “Even while surrounded by the strong-armed agents of repression, Storey knew that the Holy Spirit was active in his nation. The government had all the power; nevertheless, God was with the poor in South Africa. The South African regime did not hesitate to use force in order to stop rebellion; nevertheless, Storey, along with Desmond Tutu and others, led the black South Africans in peaceful revolution. The odds were heavily against the peaceful revolution; nevertheless, with God on their side, they were victorious. In the end, there was strong temptation to retaliate; nevertheless, God gave them a means of forgiving enemies and forming a reconciled nation.”
Schmit’s poignant assertion struck a chord for my preaching on this Pentecost Sunday. He says: “No matter what the odds, if God is in something, no obstacle can block the great nevertheless of God.”
This morning I want to talk about“The Great Nevertheless.”
In the scripture, the disciples had witnessed Jesus performing major and miraculous accomplishments in the lives of so many. They were witnesses to the impossible becoming possible. They saw that, with Jesus, the nevertheless took on new scope and new meaning—blind eyes nevertheless began to see; lame limbs nevertheless were strengthened to stand and walk; leprosy nevertheless was cleansed; bleeding disorders nevertheless were cured. This list was endless. Even with Jesus, they killed him, but nevertheless God raised him and gave him new life.
Now at Pentecost, the band of believers themselves become major participants in the unfolding drama of God’s great nevertheless. Against great odds, God is anointing them with His Spirit and sending them out into the vast world to preach the good news, baptize and make new disciples.
Much like Peter Storey’s South African apartheid environment, the newly anointed Apostles will face a hostile world. The Roman government was in control. The Apostles are about to embark on a non-violent peaceful revolution. We mentioned that today is the 54th anniversary of Steward Ernie Green’s graduation from Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Jesus’ Apostles were engaged in the same type of non-violent, peaceful movement that Ernie was engaged with as a member of the Little Rock Nine.
In Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians, there is the sense that the Apostles felt the pain of what those who have claimed Christ were experiencing. And not just those under the rule and reign of the Roman Empire, but he talks about the whole of creation groaning in labor pains. Clearly the times were grave and those living in that era found themselves living in a broken world. It became the fate, mission and ministry of the Apostles, inclusive of Paul, to carry a message to the downcast, to carry the word of God to the broken, the disenfranchised the strong message: Don’t count to ten yet; don’t give in yet; there is yet hope in Peter Storey’s “great nevertheless. ”
Let me give you something to hold on to from the scripture and from the great nevertheless.
1. When you feel yourself overwhelmed by the world around you, don’t let them count to ten on you; cling to the great nevertheless. I’m a news junkie; I listen to everything – CNN, MSNBC, PBS, our own J.J. Green at WTOP. And when we contemplate all the happenings around us, we can become overwhelmed. We live in our own broken world, overwhelmed by news of natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes. On the broader scene, we are overwhelmed by news of global terrorism, wars and rumors of wars around the world, modern-day slavery of all sorts including the American penal system, oppressive governments with very little heart or concern for the basic welfare of its people. That is on the broader scene; closer to home we can find ourselves overwhelmed by so much in our homes, families and neighborhoods—gangs, crime, illegal drugs, alcoholism, family and marital distress, incurable diseases, pandemics, job losses, financial crises — the list goes on and on.
This morning, I come to say that sometimes it takes all of your energy just to STAND–just to get up in the morning. Standing under the pressures of life can be a major challenge, but with the Spirit of God and the assurance that God is on our side to carry us through each event and every day, we can stand.
Somebody in here today can testify that I was overwhelmed, and they had me on the floor, down for the count – 1…2…3…4…5…6…7…8…9…they almost counted to 10, and then the great nevertheless stepped in and revived my spirit and changed the course of direction of things in my life. I may be leaning on the outside, but nevertheless I’m going to get up this morning. I don’t have everything I need, but nevertheless I am going to get up before they count to 10 on me.
2. The great nevertheless is our historical grounding for our today’s and tomorrow’s living. I was… nevertheless…I was down… nevertheless God picked me up…I was sick, bad off sick YESTERDAY, nevertheless God healed my body…I was flat out broke without a pot or a window… nevertheless God kept food on my table, and a place to lay my head…when they told me I couldn’t or wouldn’t, nevertheless God assured me that I could and I would. My today and my tomorrow is grounded in my nevertheless yesterdays.
Jesus helps us here. They almost counted to 10 on Jesus; they said: “We got you now, crucified, nailed to the cross and buried in the tomb.” But in his weakest hour, when all seemed lost, nevertheless God raised him with, what I want to call, God Power. Ten days before Pentecost Jesus takes the disciples to Bethany and, while ascending to God, he tells them to go back to Jerusalem and just wait for “God Power.” He says: “You are not ready yet, you are not able yet to do all things, and nevertheless in your weakness, the Spirit of God will give you ‘God Power.’” At Pentecost they could look back and declare, “I couldn’t, but with God Power, nevertheless now I can do all things through Christ who is my strength…I wouldn’t, but with God Power, nevertheless now I will go; I will offer myself, I will make the sacrifice I will witness, I will testify, I will live for him who died for me…I didn’t; nevertheless now I do believe, I do know that all thing are possible…I wasn’t, but with God Power, nevertheless I am, I am on the battle field…You might beat me down almost to the grave but with God on my side, nevertheless, I will stand and be a witness.
3. When all the physical evidence and “common sense thinking” suggest to you that it is foolish, the great nevertheless of God will help you to risk trusting in what you cannot see or explain. Has there ever been a time in your life when common sense thinking says – Oh, don’t be a fool; oh, there they go; they are over there talking about tithing – you know you can’t afford to tithe; why do you go to that church every day anyway – you’ve been slaving all week – just stay at home, stay in bed a little while longer; go out and wash the car; go cut the grass; go get yourself ready for Monday morning. Our common sense says it makes no sense, but the great nevertheless keeps you trusting in something you cannot see or touch.
Our enlightened, high tech, super-sonic, instant gratification world often maligns and smirks at the notion of HOPE. They say: “Oh shucks, here he comes again with that ‘hope’ stuff. You lay out how destitute you are, and they come back and say, ‘Son, Daughter, just wait patiently and nevertheless hope in Lord.’”
Brothers and Sisters, I know it’s hard right now; nevertheless hope in God. I know you can’t see it yet; I know you don’t have it yet; but nevertheless hope in God.
But you might say, why hope, when you can go to the screen and click here. Why wait on hope when you can push the button and get almost anything instantly. Why wait on hope when you can go press the button and transfer funds from this bank account to that bank account. Recently, the bank sent me two statements; one said “we are going to increase your credit line.” Then another they just sent me three checks and said “sign here.” I didn’t even have the money in the bank, but they were saying here, you can have the money with just a click, with just a signature.
Well, I come this morning to tell you that if you live long enough, there are some things you can’t “click” on; there are some buttons you can’t just press.
WAIT A MINUTE, I may be wrong there. There is a button you can press – the great nevertheless button. When I get up in the morning and I pray to God — Thank you Lord for last night; thank you Lord for letting me sleep sound. That’s when I click on the great nevertheless button.
In the Spirit, I click on that great nevertheless button, and instantly I have hope for a good day. When things seem impossible, I push the great nevertheless button of hope and I trust in God’s power to make possible the impossible. When burdens get me down, I click the great nevertheless button of hope, and God Power lifts me from the sinking sands. When I become worn and weak in the Spirit, I click on the nevertheless button and God Power becomes my strength. In battle, I can push the great nevertheless button, and the power of God becomes my armor and shield.
- Sermon Notes: When You and God Come to a Turning Point
- Sermon Notes: Great Living Every Day
- Sermon Notes: Keep Your Eyes on the One Whose Eye is on You
- Sermon Notes: Setting Your Sights on Higher Places
- Sermon Notes: Dare to Be Great
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