To hear the entire sermon preached for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity at Trinity, Layton, "The Pains of Childbirth"--beginning with the Gradual Hymn and concluding with the Prayer of the Church. click on the following MP3 audio link. "The Pains of Childbirth"
If you would rather just read the sermon, or read along as you listen, the preaching outline/manuscript follows below. However, please understand some transitions are filled in and bullet points fleshed out from the pulpit that are not included in the ms.
"The Pains of Childbirth"
Dear children of God,
The Lord God, having found the man and his wife hiding themselves from His presence among the trees of the garden, said to the woman, "I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children." Genesis 3:8, 16
And so it has been to this very day…
Certainly so in the bearing of children into this world--not just in the delivery room, but in the whole rearing and nurturing of children.
That said, The Pains of Childbirth are even more acute and true of our birth as sons of God into the kingdom of heaven. This is what the apostle, Paul, is preaching to the children of God being born in the church at Rome then in our Epistle reading for today--as well as to all the children of God who were yet to be born, and yes to the children of God being born into the kingdom of heaven in His church called Trinity here at Layton, UT.
Here, in Paul's little sermon for us this day, lies the answer to the age old question, "Why do bad things happen to good people." Or, more accurately, why do baptized, believing Christians suffer after they have come to faith?
To better understand, let us go back to the preceding verses, where Paul preaches:
".. if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, 'Abba! Father!' The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him." Romans 8:13-17
Our suffering is the Spirit of God putting our sinful flesh to death, and eventually burying it on our last day in this world to raise us in that incorruptible and imperishable flesh of which Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 15. It is the suffering of The Pains of Childbirth.
Recall from four weeks ago Nicodemus' question to Jesus in the dark of night: "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" John 3:4
Here in out text today, Paul is preaching about Jesus' answer to Nicodemus.
"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' John 3:5-7
Amidst all the blessings of this life, as we receive our daily bread we also suffer the pains of childbirth as we are born into the kingdom of heaven, which birth will not be complete until the day of Resurrection.
So with this in mind let us consider the inspired preaching of St. Paul, the apostle of our Lord, and martyr for the faith who knew better than anyone the pains of childbirth—both the pains in his own body, and the pains he bore for those to whom he preached as a mother and father feel for their children when they suffer and even die.
18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.
20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it,
in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
22For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
23And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
Dear Children of God, as we groan and wait eagerly for the completion of our adoption and the redemption of our bodies, we live in the womb of Christ's holy bride, the church, where each one of us sings those words of our Hymn of the Day:
Baptismal waters cover me.
As we approach on bended knee; not only do we our Father in heaven's mercy plead, but the Holy Spirit delivers His mercy to us. By His Baptismal waters the Holy Spirit covers us, bathing us with and immersing us in the Word of God by the wounded hand of Christ that sets us free--absolving and delivering us from all of our sins, and even giving us His very body and blood to eat and drink and nourish us in His body, the Church, which was taken out of His side on Calvary and formed out of the water and blood that poured forth as He was pierced by the Roman sword.
In these Baptismal waters, which continue to cover you in the holy Christian Church, you are indeed held in our Father in heaven's strong embrace that shields you and delivers you from The Pains of Childbirth now and even until the redemption of you flesh on the Last Day as you are born in your own resurrected flesh into the kingdom of heaven--in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen