More Than Skin Deep sermon: Romans 8:12-25

There are multiple sermons in this text — and they can’t all be preached at once, so tonight I will focus on the parts that have been speaking to me. We will leave the rest for another time.

So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh — for 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.

WHAT THIS IS NOT ABOUT — this is not about hating our bodies. That is not what’s going on here. Back in the time of the early church, there was a thing called Gnosticism. Now Gnosticism separated out the soul and the body and said the body was evil. It made this dual way of looking at things where one was good and one was bad This is not about rejecting our bodies.

If God intended for us just to be spirits or souls, what’s the point of even having a body? No, our bodies are our home for fully engaging the world.  We are here to literally embody God’s love.

There’s a whole lot more to talk about on that topic, but it’s not really quite the point here. But it’s so important that I didn’t want to not take on the topic just for a minute.

So what is it saying, this part about the flesh?

Well, what is flesh? We think skin, right? This is our flesh.

You know the expression skin-deep? shallow, skimming the surface. Below the flesh, we have muscles for movement, bones for support..

That’s what we are supposed to avoid — living skin-deep. Just touching the world in the most shallow way, where in a good rain or a shower it’ll just all wash away. We don’t want to just live skin-deep. We’re looking deep, into muscle and bone. It’s how our spirit moves. That’s what muscles do, right? It how we support our spirit, right? That’s what bones do.

having skin in the game

To live according to the flesh is to live a superficial life, a life of of rebelling against God’s call to go deeper. It’s reveling ONLY in the human condition. That is not enough. We have to go deep into God’s spirit and into our own.

Okay, so let’s keep going . . .

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God and joint heirs with Christ — if, in fact we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

A SPIRIT OF ADOPTION — that sounds pretty cool. God CHOOSES us to be GOD’s children. CHOSEN. I am chosen. You are chosen. You are chosen. Every one of us — every one of God’s precious children. Not enslavement, but being born into the family of God. Being born into the body of God.

So, in this spirit of adoption → we are heirs of the divine. ALL of us. We are ALL heirs of the divine. All of us. That means we are all (ALL) brothers and sisters. ALL of us.  Doesn’t matter your

skin color
national origin
sexual orientation
ability status
economic status
or even your religion

Heirs of the divine.
Fellow children of God.

So when we keep Central American children in cages on the border, we are caging our brothers and sisters. The 50 children or teenagers die or are injured in gun violence in this country EVERY DAY are our brothers and sisters.

We are all heirs. Everyone of us. Now we are not all exactly the same. You noticed that, right? Some folks are taller than others. Some are blacker or browner. Some are better at math. We speak different languages, have different cultures. It’s beautiful. I’m an only child, but all I have to do is look around to know that brothers and sisters are not all identical twins. We’re different, but we have all received the same spirit of adoption.

You know, Paul doesn’t even know the people he’s writing too for the most part. He’s never been to Rome. These folks are strangers to him. He is preaching a grace that transcends our immediate circles, that transcends our man-made borders. Romans preaches an impartial God, a God of all. A God who values all. And calls us to live our lives deep in the body of Christ. In the muscle. In the bone. Not just skin deep. We’re talking deep down.

Okay, what else we got?

I consider that the sufferings of all of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that while the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

Creation is in a state of eager longing — in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay. We see that bondage all the time – in the earth. And we see here the connection between us and all of creation.


Even when we don’t have words:  groaning.

For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Hope and patience.

In a week where 268 Palestinians and 2 Israelis were killed as Israel and Hamas pounded each other, where 298 died in violent flames when the Malaysian airliner was shot down, where anti-immigration rallies wanted to ‘Make Them Listen’, where whatever difficulties arose in your own lives — because there isn’t a soul in this room that doesn’t have some troubles of their own – and they can range from minuscule to mountainous. This is what we see around us.

The professor and prophet Cornell West reminds us that there is a difference between hope and optimism. There are many, many reasons that we may not feel optimistic about the state of the world – or even about our own lives.

But that must not rob us of hope. That hope is what we have all been called to live into. We let it sit deep inside of us. We have to know the hope of the path of Jesus in our blood and in our marrow. Because if we just let it sit on the surface of our skin, all that mess of the world will wash it away.

And when we pattern our lives after Jesus, we have access to that hope. We can have it our bones – our bones that hold us up. We can have it in our muscles – in what moves us. We can have it in the blood that flows all through our bodies. We can embody hope for a world that so desperately needs it.

That kind of hope is holy.