Therefore, Come Home

The Voyage Home  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  29:25
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Now that we have come to understand that our home is not found in the halls of the empire, come home to where you belong. Come home to your body, liberated by the Creator. Come home to your mind, renewed by Christ. Come home to the Spirit, indwelling you. Come home.


Life in the Spirit

8 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9 But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

This Summer, we are looking at the letter to the Roman church, sent by the Apostle Paul. It is a letter of great encouragement, where the love and faithfulness of Christ is juxtaposed against the power structures of the empire. This letter speaks a better word of grace and welcome amidst a culture that held tightly to law and order and emperor worship.
In the weeks past, we’ve examined how life in Christ invites the ones who feel untethered to find a home. We find a crucified God, a dying God whose power comes through relinquishing power and rising in resurrection, undoing the powers of death. We find a letter that busts open the whole system of sin and guilt and instead, invites all people to repentance and immense grace that undos the false choices of sin and death that we are otherwise presented with.
And as we dive in deeper today, I have to chuckle. Because Romans chapter 8 is a turning point. And I chuckle, because I find Romans 8 to be a resounding invitation to come home.
“Come home!”, you say? Thanks very much, but I am sick and tired of being home. Stay home, stay safe, stay healthy — ugh. Can’t we be done with being home. Can’t we leave? I love my family and my house, but goodness gracious I don’t want God to also welcome me to stay home too! Just when I thought the call to shelter in place and wait out the pandemic couldn’t get any deeper, I hear God calling me to come home too!
Chuckle with me, if you will. Or weep from the despair and absurdity of our world right now. All is welcome.
And when we’ve had a chance to breathe, hear it this way: Come home, to the deepest part of yourselves, to the truest, most sacred part of the image of God you bear. Come home in the truest sense, so that you may be at home in forgiven grace wherever you are. Come home, to rest in the loving arms of God as you are, no more no less. That is the home we are invited to. A home in the Spirit.
As we’ll see in this text, the home of the flesh is the one that is driving all of us a little bonkers in this season of pandemic. The home we find in the law, in the worship of the powers of the world, the home we find in sin and second best — that is not the journey we are invited to take. Rather, the home we are invited to, by Christ, is the one of fulfillment and release from the second best, the temporary structures, the four walls we are bound in.
Thankfully, and not to undermine the beauty of our homes and the places we lay our head to rest, we find that the home we have in Christ, in the Spirit, is mapped upon our daily life, it is within and without and above and below and all through the mundane, the quotidian, these four walls. The law requires us to be fulfilled in the home of earth alone. The Spirit opens the grace that there is a much deeper home we all are invited to belong to.


Alright — the opening words of our text give us a big clue that a shift is taking place in this particular text. Paul has outlined the law, the systems of power, juxtaposing Christ with Caesar and the Roman empire with the story of God. We’ve heard the prologue.
When reading the letters in the New Testament, if you get to a “therefore”, you know it is a pivot moment. Therefore.
So we pivot. Now, what is going on here with the law, sin, the flesh, and the Spirit?
We know that flesh, or the body, breaks down. I’ve been running and riding my bike a bit the last couple of weeks, and even as a 37 year old, I know that the body wears out. My hip hurts. I’ve been limping. My muscles are sore. My back aches a little more each day. I’ve got a healthy portion of gray hair coming in, at least on the parts of my head that are still growing hair and not receding...
Our pandemic world has made this abundantly clear — the flesh, the body, for all its resiliency and beauty, is also fraught with decline and bends toward ailment. Sorry for the bummer, but we know this, right?
There is a vein of spirituality, even in the Christian tradition, that discounts the body, that treats fleshiness as a throw away, a temporary vessel and instead points to all things spiritual. We call this Gnosticism — “so heavenly minded, you’re no earthly good.” And this isn’t what I’m getting at here. Rather, I’m simply pointing out that the body tends to get weak — I think we can agree on this.
And what Paul is doing is he’s likening our commitment to systems of law or power structures to the decline and frailty of the body. Because, like we worked through last week, the law of sin presents us with a false choice — there is death or sin and with this bind, we have no way out…right? We witness this every day — laws and systems of power, while on the surface they protect order, underneath and over time, they instead tend to perpetuate violence, racism, and oppression. Again, like with the body, I’m not saying law and order is bad, just that it has a tendency towards breaking down. Even God’s people set up laws to guide how they operated together, but the law was never the fulfillment — it is a stopgap, a temporary solution, missing something vital: the presence of the Spirit which informs and enlivens the law.
So — Paul argues that God has gotten acquainted with the flesh through Christ being with us, Emmanuel, Christ the human who knows that frailty. Thanks be to God, God does not stay perfect and incorruptible, but instead God is nailed to the cross and experiences the fullness of corruptibility — death.
Follow me so far? The flesh leads to death and if we make commitments to the flesh alone, we perpetuate systems of sin and death. It’s the inevitable cycle of our struggle as humans.
But, and, therefore: We are no longer simply living in the flesh. We are being invited home into life in the Spirit.
Before moving on, here this: Just as Christ was fully human and experienced the breadth of our condition, so we never are never divorced from our bodies. Our bodies are so very important. Our flesh, our breath, our pain and our magnificence — the body is beautiful and created by God and is good. Do not forget this.
But what is happening here is we are being invited into a more full understanding of what it means to actually live in the life of God, in the body and in the Spirit.
Paul’s logic gets a little bit black and white, and he’s using flesh versus Spirit to make an argument. Flesh equals law. Spirit equals resurrection.
The resounding beat of this passage comes through in verses 10 and 11.

10 But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

A body, the flesh, without resurrection, is dead. The body, with the resurrection, with the participation in Christ’s loving home and life that is in the Spirit — this is a body alive. This is life in the Spirit, a whole body and whole resurrected soul — that is life in Christ and what we are invited into.
I was commenting to my father in law about his new shoes this week. He got a pair of ASICS trainers and I was explaining where the name ASICS comes from:
Anima Sana In Corpore Sano.
Which is Latin for: A healthy soul in a healthy body.
Hear verse 11 again:

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

When we live in Christ’s way, we are animated with a new self, a restored body, a resurrected body. We are no longer wasting away, but given newness of life.
Do you hear this good news?
Let’s pull back out to consider this good news of a restored body as it sits in the context of finding home and resisting the powers of the Empire, which would seek to enslave the body and stifle the Spirit.

The Spirit is Our Home

The Empire wants you and me to be untethered. Caesar wants us to need him. To need his power. To need his rules. To need the systems that will order our lives and make sure that our mail is delivered on time and that our roads are maintained and the power stays on and that we pay our taxes. Right? The Empire wants us to have a dependent relationship with it, with the stability it provides.
And in relying on that stability, we are willing to compromise. We compromise by not speaking ill against the Emperor — certainly we can ignore the injustices of a colonial band of Roman troops sent to occupy and subdue a foreign power. We compromise by watching those who have less struggle to get by — certainly if they just played by the rules, they would get ahead like us. We compromise by pledging our allegiance to the Emperor — certainly a little bow and hand on our heart isn’t going to hurt, because aren’t the benefits amazing?
And all the while, we are slowly slipping away. Our bodies are fading, our hopes are diminished. We become comfortable with the numbness, because at least we’re comfortable. This is life in the empire. Roman or otherwise.
But, therefore: We are called home. Come home, Christ says. You are not without a home, without a belonging. You are not a wandering soul, a motherless child. You, me, we: we are beloved children of God who belong in the life of the Spirit (and the body) that is lived in God’s house.
And here’s where we go all the way back to chapter 8, verses 1 and 2:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

The emperor would enslave us to a system of patronage, sin and death.
It felt good, for a while, didn’t it? But we are weary.
Come home.
And just like the prodigal son, there is no condemnation when you come home to Christ Jesus. When you accept the loving welcome of living in the Spirit — no condemnation. So come home.
Come home to your body. Come home to your self. Come home to the Spirit which dwells in you and loves you and receives you.

Come Home

To the refugees, come home.
To the sinners, come home.
To the estranged, come home.
To the poor widow, come home.
To the rich man, come home.
To the lonely, the forgotten, the depressed, come home.
To the trans woman, come home.
To the black man, come home.
To the privileged daughter, come home.
To the prodigal son, come home.
In Christ, therefore, you are welcomed home. Not for anything you’ve done to live according to the law. But simply because you are in Christ, received by the faithfulness and fidelity of Christ — this is your welcome. This is your entry, your passcode, your clearance. In Christ, not the law, not your privilege, not what you’ve done or left undone, but in Christ, you are received and forgiven and welcomed home.
This letter to the Roman Christians is so saturated with grace. To a people who were trying to find a home in an Empire that expected their fidelity to Caesar, that expected their participation in the cults and rites and power structures, to a people bound up in a program of complicit participation in the atrocities that only a superpower can commit and get away with — this letter charts a new course, opens a new freedom, speaks a new word of hope. This is a letter of grace and reception — welcome home.
Realistically, we are a wandering people. We are looking for home, still. Do you know that sinking, longing feeling? I do, sometimes.
And I also know the grace, the welcome, the certain assurance that I am a member of the household of God and I can come home.
Friends, this is our simple calling as a church: to welcome people home. To be, as ambassadors of Christ, a people who say, “you are welcome.” Let down your burdens, and come home.
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you are: Come home here. It is not far off. The Spirit is alive and around and available and close. So come home. Release what the empire wants you to hold, the rules and the pain. You do not need it any longer. Come home to Christ.
How, you ask? It’s quite simple and profound: You say yes to that grace. Yes to the love. Yes to the truth that what you’ve been carrying is no longer needed. Lay down your burdens, you are welcomed home.
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