I believe…

Kenora             All Saints Sunday

1 November 2020

Revelation 9:9-17

Psalm 34:1-10

1 John 3:1-3

Matthew 5:1-12

Almighty God, you have knit your people together in one communion in the mystical body of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Grant us grace to follow your blessed saints in lives of faith and commitment, and to know the inexpressible joys you have prepared for those who love you, through Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord, who live and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.    Amen.

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Today, today we celebrate one of the more mysterious festivals of the church.  A festival that renews our hope in the resurrection of the dead, in the life to come, the Festival of All Saints. 

And to do this, we need to examine our most basic of tools, our most succinct of statements of faith that helps us to root ourselves as Christians, that helps us to face the doubters of the world, when we can stand up and say with conviction “I believe.”  And I’m talking about our Creed. 

So, in trying to understand the festival of All Saints, our belief that there is life after this one, albeit in the presence of God, as we were reminded in the reading from Revelation, today, let us look at the words of our baptismal promises, the Apostles Creed.  Words that we are able to stand by.  Words that inform the depth of our belief in God and all of creation.

We begin with the words “I believe,” when we say, I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

The creeds are made up of three ‘articles’ and in those articles, we describe one God.  In those three parts we acknowledge the creator of the universe, of the world, and of everything in the world including you and me.

Luther’s small catechism tells us that the first article is about Creation.  “That God has created me together with all that exists.  God has given me and still preserves my body and soul. … In addition, God daily and abundantly provides [all that I need.]  God protects me against all danger and shields and preserves me from all evil.  And all this is done out of pure, fatherly and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness of mine at all!  For all of this I owe it to 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)

So, in the first article of the creed, then, we proclaim our knowledge and belief in the person of God.  In it we state what we understand God to have accomplished, what is now being accomplished, and what will be accomplished in the future.

Accomplished not by us, but by God in us, through us, and all around us.  But 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 with which we know, and yet these aspects and so much more 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, we see 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 are able to 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, not 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 can 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 bondage 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 and 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 are able to 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, and belief.

The second article of the creed tells us: I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.  He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.  He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended to the dead.  On the third day he rose again.  He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father.  He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

And here we discover that we have a greatest portion of our faith focused on the person of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son.  His life, his teachings, his legacy are what we build our lives of faith upon, knowing that our statement, here, of “I believe” is only the beginning, and will end when he comes “again to judge the living and the dead.” 

Luther explains this second article of the creed when he tells us: “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father in eternity, and also a true human being, born of the Virgin Mary, is my LORD.  He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned human being.  He has purchased and freed me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death.  He has done all this in order that I may belong to him, live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in eternal righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as he is risen from the dead and lives and rules eternally.” (Book of Concord para 4, pg 355)

While the Anglican Catechism states: “I learn to have faith in the one true God: in God the Father, who made me and all the world, in God the Son, who redeemed me and all mankind.” (BCP pg 545)

We acknowledge Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, the Son of God, and the actions of his life that opened to us the way to have a direct and loving relationship with God, and to have the hope or rather the belief that there is eternal life. 

The son of God and the son of humanity was born into this world to experience all that the world has to offer, and yet, he remained sinless, being the only acceptable sacrifice that would remove the world’s burden of sin and allow us to have the relationship with God that is only possible because Jesus died on the cross and rose again from the dead.

I believe in God the Father…. I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord. … I believe in the Holy Spirit.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (Jn 3:16-17)

“Jesus says to [Martha], ‘Your brother will rise again.’  Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’  Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever live and believes in me will never die.’  Do you believe this?” (Jn 11:23-26)

In another place, “While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler.  ‘Your daughter is dead,’ he said.  ‘Why bother the teacher anymore.’  Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’ … When they came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly.  He went in and said to them, ‘Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead, but asleep.’  But they laughed at him.  After he put them all out, he took the child’s [parents] and the disciples who were with him and went in where the child was.  He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Little girl, I say to you get up!’  Immediately the girl got up and walked around.” (Mk 6:35-42a)

I believe: These are the strongest words we have when we are talking about the expectations that our lives don’t end here; that our journey is never alone.  These are the firmest words we can present to any of the challenges that lie before us. 

We know what it is we believe in, and better than that, we know who. 

“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’  After this he said this he showed them his hands and side.  The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.”  (Jn 20:19-20)

“Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.  So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’  [But he didn’t believe them.]  A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. … Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’  Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands.  Reach out your hand and put it into my side.  Stop doubting and believe.’  Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’  Then Jesus said to him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” (Jn 20:24-29)

And there are the disciples on the road to Emmaus, who asked each other as they rushed back to Jerusalem, “were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us? … ‘It is true!  The Lord has risen!” (Lk 23:32b, 33b-34a)

I believe. 

These are the words we say as we proclaim our faith, with our brothers and sisters around the world and throughout time.  This is the hope we proclaim at the end of our earthly existence, when we proclaim with faith, “In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our lord Jesus Christ…”

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

And, so, we acknowledge the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, also known as the quiet member of the Trinity. 

“While [Jesus] was eating with them, [after the resurrection,] he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’”(Acts 1:4-6)

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.  Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.  They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:1-4)

It is at this point, this shy member of the Trinity, the part of God that is the most active in the world around us, this is when she comes to the fore.  She comes into the world because Jesus has had to return to the Father.  

The Anglican catechism says: “I learn to have faith in the one true God: in God the Father, who made me and all the world, in God the Son, who redeemed me and all mankind; and in God the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies me and all the people of God.” (BCP pg. 545)

Luther’s explanation of the 3rd article of the creed says: “I believe by my own understanding or strength that I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my LORD or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one common, true faith.  Daily in the Christian church the Holy Spirit abundantly forgives all sins – mine and those of all believers.  On the Last Day the Holy Spirit will raise me and all the dead and will give to me and all believers in Christ eternal life.  This is most certainly true.” (Book of Concorde, Small Catechism, paragraph 6, pg. 355-6)

And this is the member of the Trinity who is still the most active amongst us, today, leading us through our decisions, standing with us in the trials that we face, and rejoicing with us in those times of joy. 

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” (Rom 8:26-27) 

It is here we remember that Jesus is our advocate before the Father, but it is the Holy Spirit who stands in our hearts, and is the action of God in our lives. 

And when we can accept the words of the creed, not just in our minds, but in our hearts as well, it is then that our hope is rekindled, it is at that time that we know that in all of the parts of our lives we find God, not just represented, but active, every day. 

It is each part of ourselves that we realize that we are a created being by a loving God who has given us all of the tools and gifts, who guides us daily to aid us to work and live with those gifts not just for our benefit but for the benefit of all mankind.

And in that realization, then, as we ponder the mystery of All Saints Day, we remember that it is through the actions of Jesus, born of God and of humanity, who gave us even his own death and resurrection so that we might have the gift of eternal life, and it is the guidance of the Holy Spirit that is with us every day.

And it all begins with the words “I believe.”

Amen.

About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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