We now move from the world of the gospels and the book of Acts to the letters of the Apostle Paul. Without question, Paul's letter to the Romans is one of the most significant documents of the early Christian movement and provides one of the fullest expressions of Paul's theology. In today's reading, Paul is looking forward to the time when the promise of God's salvation will be fully realized, a time that the whole world is waiting for.
Here is the translation of verses 19-21 from "The Message" version of the bible:
The created world itself can hardly wait for what's coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creature are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.
Paul is describing the "in between" times in which we live. We live between the resurrection of Jesus (which inaugurated the Reign of God), and the future promise of God's new creation. During this "in between" time, even the created order is groaning and longing for the fullness of God's new creation to become a reality. The whole world is waiting!
So, how are we to live during this "in between time?
First, we are called to be a people of hope. In our culture, we often think of hope as a last resort; we say things like "all we can do is hope." In other words, hope is often what we fall back on when all our other options have been exhausted. But in the New Testament, hope is the very foundation who we are as God's people - we are a people of hope. And, as Paul reminds us, we do not hope for what we see, but we hope for what we do not see, and we wait for it with patience!
Secondly, we are called to peope of the Spirit. In the midst of this "in between" time, this time of waiting, the Spirit knows our needs and helps us in our weakness. Even when we don't know how to pray, the Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. This is an extremely comforting promise! How often do simply not know what or how to pray? In those moment when we find ourselves at a loss for words, the Spirit intercedes on our behalf. We are called to be a people of hope and a people of the Spirit.