August 23, 2020 [Pentecost 12]  Romans 9:1-5  J.D.Roekle

 

I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying—my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit 2that I have great sorrow and continuous pain in my heart. 3For I almost wish that I myself could be cursed and separated from Christ in place of my brothers, my relatives according to the flesh, 4those who are Israelites. Theirs are the adoption as sons, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, came the Christ, who is God over all, eternally blessed. Amen.

 

Cherish Your Spiritual Roots

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

          It is an interesting endeavor to study your ancestry.  I haven’t done a lot of work on it myself, but other family members have.  Someone along the way has been able to trace my Roekle roots to about 1590.  Some of you may be able to trace yours even further back.  As I was reviewing some of my ancestry recently, I came across this note: 

I am Margaret Roekle, born March 13, 1854 in Eltingen, Germay.  I came to Adrian (Michigan) September 3, 1881 and was married February 26, 1882 in the Stephan’s church to Adam Roekle who also was from Eltingen.  Had a happy marriage, only too short.  My husband died after 25 years of married life.  He left me with 6 children.  Soon God will call me to him.  I hope God will forgive me all my sins.  This I have written February 23, 1944.  I bless here all my children, grandchildren and all acquaintances and my hearty thanks for all.   The Lord will watch over you all.  Amen.  God bless you again.  Do not forget what I have all gone through in so many many years.  God be merciful to me. 

          That was written by my great grandma.  She died in 1947, 18 years before I was born.  She writes words that are not unusual at all.  In fact, very typical.  Where she came from…her marriage…her children.  One thing that strikes me about that letter is her statement that she hopes God will forgive all her sins.  Where does the fact that God forgives sins come from?  It probably was passed on to her through by her parents.  And these spiritual roots actually are much deeper since they are anchored in the Old Testament church. 

That is the same for you as a Christian.  Even if you are only a first generation Christian, you have some very deep spiritual roots.  Today, we want to take some time to cherish those roots

          Your spiritual roots and mine can be traced back to the Old Testament Israelites.  They were chosen by God to be his standard bearer.  God’s church came through them.  He called them his children and treated them as his children.  Even when they rebelled against him, God worked patiently to restore them. 

          In order to assure them that they were his people, the glory of the Lord went with them wherever they went.  In the form of a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  That glory would rest on the Tabernacle, the temporary church building of the children of Israel, and it would fill the Temple, the permanent worship structure of the Israelites. 

          And God made several covenants with Israel.  Special promises to bless them and to save them.  To Abraham he promised him many descendants and that the would possess the land of Canaan.  To Moses he said that if they obey the law they he gave to them on Mt. Sinai, they would be his treasured possession, his kingdom of priests and a holy nation.  To King David, he promised the Temple and that his throne would last forever.  As if that wasn’t enough, God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah to make a new covenant since the Israelites had broken the old one.  His promise was that they would continue to be with his people.  It was a covenant of forgiveness.  And finally, there was a covenant through Ezekiel where the Lord promised them peace in which he would provide them with various blessings. 

          And if that all was not enough to make them feel special and set apart, God taught them how to worship.  He instructed them on the entire system of sacrifices.  He even designed the very buildings they were to worship in, both the Tabernacle and the Temple.  He provided them with blueprints complete with measurements and layouts of what would be put where. 

          From the children of Israel come the names of men billions of people know: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  But even greater than having any of those as a part of their heritage, they have one who sticks out.  Paul says: “from them, according to the flesh, came the Christ, who is God over all, eternally blessed.” 

          The whole reason for the Old Testament Israelites to be set apart as a nation was to carry the human ancestry of Jesus Christ.  Jesus’ roots can be traced back all the way to Adam through Abraham and the Israelites. 

          Wow!  What roots!  And what makes it so special is the fact that Jesus was not only human.  Someone who is only human will surely disappoint in the end.  He was and is God too!  And as both God and man, look at what Jesus accomplished during his short 33 years on this earth.  He won salvation for us!  His life, his ministry, his death, his resurrection, and his ascension were all about keeping us permanently in his family. 

Those are your spiritual roots.  Don’t you just want to burst with pride?!  Perhaps there is a famous person in your lineage.  Maybe there is a well-known historical figure that is in your line of descent.  A previous president, a war hero, or inventor.  Nothing can compare to having your spiritual roots squarely in the Old Testament church – the Israelites – because this these spiritual roots are anchored in Christ Jesus. 

So, what do you do with this?  What do you do, knowing that this is your spiritual heritage?  Well, what did the Jewish people of Paul’s day do with it?  They ended up rejecting their roots.  No, not all of it.  They still clung to their culture.  They clung to the way they had worshipped.  They clung to the patriarchs.  But they rejected Jesus Christ.  In so doing, they were really rejecting their roots, because all of their past was rooted in the promise of the Savior who had now come. 

          Knowing that his people had rejected Jesus, how did that make Paul feel?  “I have great sorrow and continuous pain in my heart.”  It hurt Paul deeply.  In fact, it hurt him so much that his fellow Jews rejected Jesus that he wished he could trade places: that he would be condemned in place of them. 

          Who do you know that is rejecting this spiritual heritage grounded in Christ Jesus?  Doesn’t your heart ache for loved ones who have rejected Jesus?  As long as they are alive, it is not too late to remind them of their spiritual roots.  To remind them of Jesus’ love and forgiveness in order to welcome them back into the family of God. 

          And remember that your spiritual roots aren’t exclusive.  They aren’t just for you and your family members, and for your church family.  They are for everyone.  Why wouldn’t you want everyone you know – or don’t know for that matter –  to have the confidence of being anchored in Christ Jesus our Savior?! 

          When my great grandma wrote back in 1944 that she hoped God forgives all her sins, that was a reflection of her spiritual roots.  She knew where alone she could turn for forgiveness: Jesus.  That’s true for you too.  All blessings – physical and spiritual – rest and reside in Jesus.  What spiritual roots you have!  Sometimes, there may be something in our ancestry that we’re ashamed of.  Someone back there that was a bad character.  There’s nothing to be ashamed of with your spiritual roots.  Read about them often on the pages of the Old Testament again and again.  Treasure them, because they are anchored in Jesus Christ!  Amen.