Lenten Creed Series Part 1

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The Pas                        Lent 1

Year A March 9, 2014

Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7

Romans 5:12-19

Matthew 4:1-11

 

Lord God, our strength, the struggle between good and evil rages within and around us, and the devil and all the forces that defy you tempt us with empty promises.  keep us steadfast in your word, and when we fall, raise us again and restore us through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

_________________________________________

 

When we begin to talk of faith, especially our own faith, we begin with the words “I believe.”

 

But belief has to start somewhere, and it has to start somehow. 

 

For many of us, we being our journey of faith in the words of our baptismal promises, it begins with our being baptized.  And in that event, we open the doors of faith learning our creeds, or statements of faith and hearing the words of the bible, the words of faith by our spiritual forebearers to instruct, inspire, and to deepen our fledgling faith. 

 

And for many, we begin at the beginning of the book of our faith, the bible, and it begins with the words: “In the beginning, [we believe that] God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen 1:1) 

 

But for others, faith is born before baptism, and for these brave souls, we are so glad their fledgling faith brings them among us, encourages them to join us, again with the baptismal promises, again with conscious steps to learn the statements that sum up our faith, always beginning with the words “I believe.”

 

And so in such a way, we learn of God, we learn of God’s role in our lives, not just at that one time, at that one moment, but throughout the length and the breadth of our lives, always wrapped in the statement “I believe” but never ever stopping there. 

 

But faith doesn’t go just one way, rather in the pages of the bible, we discover that faith goes both ways, as does a knowledge of God.  Jeremiah tells us: “the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” (Jer1:4-5a)

 

God knows and believes in us before we were formed in our mothers’ wombs.

 

In our faiths, in our journeys to know ourselves and our faith better, we learn what we can of God and of God’s ongoing love and creating power.

 

 

 

But to be able to articulate or to state the faith that we find in our hearts, in the pages of the bible, the lives of faith that we adhere to as Christians, we are blessed to have inherited from the early church fathers statements of faith. 

 

Statements encompassing the accounts of faith in succinct statements, and they always begin with the words “I believe.” Even and especially when we’re proclaiming our faith, our belief using the words of our creeds. 

 

In Christianity, we have 3 creeds.  Two we are familiar with, and use often. 

 

These are the Apostles’ Creed, used weekly, and especially at baptisms because it is the heart of the baptismal promises we make, and renew often.  The second is the Nicene Creed which is to be said on major festivals. 

 

So, when we proclaim the Apostles’ Creed, we begin with the words “I believe,” when we say, “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.” (BAS pg. 189)

 

We can see that the Apostles’ Creed is an individual statement of faith, meanwhile the Nicene Creed is more collective, more corporate in nature when in its words we declare: “We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.” (BAS pg. 188)

 

And I did say we have a third creed, a third statement of faith called the Athanasian Creed.  Written at the time of the compilation of the Nicene Creed in the 4th century, by Athanasius of Alexandria in order to express “that we worship one God in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity” (BCP pg. 695)

 

“Christians through the ages have recognized that what we believe shapes how we worship and also that how we worship shapes what we believe.”[1] And our creeds are a part of this, both stating what we believe, and contributing to how we worship.

 

The creed is made up of three articles, and these articles are brief summaries of our faith and our belief in God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and in those articles, we describe one God. 

 

In those three parts we acknowledge the creator of the universe, of the world in which we live, and of everything in the world, including you, and me.

 

The first article of the Apostles Creed, we learn, we state our belief in God the Father, and the role that God the father has played and continues to play in our lives.

 

Luther’s Small Catechism tells us that the first article is all about Creation.  “That God has created [us] together with all that exists.  God has given [us] and still preserves [our] body and soul. … In addition, God daily and abundantly provides [all that we need.]  God protects [us] against all danger and shields and preserves [us] from all evil.  And all this is done out of pure, fatherly and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness of [ours] at all!  For all of this [we] owe it God to thank and praise, serve and obey him.” (Book of Concorde, Small Catechism paragraph 2 pg 354)

 

The Anglican Catechism tells us: “I learn to have faith in the one true God: in God the Father, who made me and all the world.” (BCP pg 545)

 

In this first article of the creed, we proclaim our knowledge and belief in the person of God the Father. 

 

In its words we state what we understand God to have accomplished, what is now being accomplished, and what will be accomplished in the future. 

 

“Ours is no absentee god who creates the world and then leaves it to fend for itself.  In the Apostles’ Creed, when we confess our faith in God as the ‘creator of heaven and earth,’ we are not talking only about what God did ‘in the beginning.’  We are also describing the present relationship between God and God’s created world.  We never say ‘God was the Creator,’ but always, ‘God is the Creator.’  God continues to speak to the creation, and through the Word, God continues to give life to the creation, today and every day.”[2]

 

At the same time, we are the recipients of this gift of faith, of belief of trust in the God who creates sustains and supports us throughout our lives.   In truth, we describe the aspects of God we know and acknowledge, and yet it’s these aspects are what inspires awe in us, and in our belief, our faith and our lives. 

 

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.  And God said…” (Gen 1:1-3a)

 

Right here, we see God, and we meet the Trinity.  We meet the three different aspects of God who loves this world so much that it was created in all of its magnificence. 

 

It was given light, and substance, and it was populated with plants, animals, birds, and fish.  And to care for it God created humanity.  God created each one of us and placed us in creation so that we can be the people we are so that we can fulfill the potential that God sees in each one of us, and where we can go, when we trust and believe that God will lead us there. 

 

And I know you’re counting on your fingers and finding out that in the account of creation in Genesis, we easily see described two persons of the Trinity in which we profess our faith, the Father and the Spirit.  But if we look to the gospel of John, we can find the Son in the moment of creation, as well. 

 

John tells us: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (Jn 1:1-3)

 

And so we meet the Son, hiding in the Father’s shadow, but to whom did you think God was speaking when in Genesis we’re told “God said…”

 

And so we return to the phrase “I believe.”  We return to the idea that God is three separate and distinct persons in one entity.  We return to the words of Genesis, and the creation of the world when our journey of faith, as well as the journey of our historic forbearers began.   It is a journey with many ups and downs, it has times when we the people of faith have turned to God, as well as turned away. 

 

It is a journey we follow from Adam and Eve leaving the Garden of Eden, to Abram choosing to leave the comfortable life in Ur with Sarai, to become the forefather of the Israelite people, to become Abraham and Sarah.  All the while with God’s guidance and God’s participation.

 

It follows the Israelite people as they cry out from Egyptian bondages and God chooses Moses to lead them from bondage to freedom, from Egypt to the Promised Land. 

 

It follows the settling of the lands given to Abraham by his descendants, their triumphs with God’s aid, their failures when they decide to ‘go it alone’.

 

And for each one of us, still today, some days it may be difficult to identify where our own journey of faith began.  But looking back at our baptismal promises, at the acknowledged moment where we mark the birth of our life of faith, we can identify when was the first time we either proclaimed a statement of faith with any conviction, or when that statement was proclaimed on our behalf as we napped, or cooed in the arms of our parents, pastors, and sponsors. 

 

And that statement of faith begins with acknowledging that God the Father is the first person of the Trinity in which we profess faith.

 

Paul Tillich tells us: “Since the divine life is essentially creative, all three modes of time must be used in symbolizing it.  God has created the world, he is creative in the present moment, and he will creatively fulfill his telos [goal or purpose]”[3]

 

So, what does this mean for each of us?  How do we, God’s creation, live and respond in this ever changing, ever evolving creation? 

 

We begin by saying I believe.  I believe that God creates and that we are an integral part of that creation.  We believe in God the creator of heavens and the earth, in the Son who was with the Father in the moment of creation, and in the Holy Spirit who moves over the waters, and who carries out the creative commands of God and who lives in our hearts, as the spirit of God lives in all of God’s creation.

 

And so, we continue our exploration of the creed, we can hold firm to the Father and his ongoing creative action in and for our lives, and we can reach for the Son in the next article of the creed, always with the statement “I believe” firmly on our lips and in our hearts.

 

Amen

[1] Kleinhans, Kathryn A. Book of Faith Lenten Journey: Seven Wonders of the Word, (Minneapolis MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2010)Pg. 11

[2] Kleinhans. Pg. 23

[3] Kleinhans. Pg. 24

About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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