Sunday, May 01, 2016

The Creed Sermon

         It’s interesting, you know you’ve preached a law based sermon when people squirm around in their seats as you preach and spouses give one another knowing looks from the pews, and then as you interact with congregants throughout the week and they wonder aloud at the fact that they are sinners.
         And this is as it should be. We’ve been chastened by the Ten Commandments.
We’ve recognized that our thoughts, words, and deeds are not innocent. That, in fact, all is not well with the world or with our soul.
         But, neither the Small Catechism nor I is going to leave you stranded there. We’ve seen that our actions are for not… and now we get to see what God’s actions are.
We get to hear what God does for us, and gives to us!
Upon that empty space the Commandments have cleared, we can place the works of the Triune God.

         At the most basic level, if for example, your child asked you “who is this God of ours”, or “what does our God do?” You would respond:
God the Father is my Creator. God the Son is my Redeemer. God the Holy Spirit is making me Holy.


         When we talk about God the Father as Creator, it is so easy to give ourselves whiplash. To look back, into the past, to some idealized moment of creation…
in fact, that’s one of those fruitless fights Christians have waged ostensibly against science, for hundreds of years and for no particularly good reason.
In fact, in so doing we’re answering the wrong question and looking in the wrong place.
We’re answering the wrong question
—God’s creative nature is not bound up in the question of how. How God acted
not wedded to a pre-modern flat plate shaped earth with windows that let in water and pillars upon which this plate sits… that’s a pre-modern science, a common ancient answer to the question how, not particularly unique to the bible, but unique to the time when the bible was written!
         Instead, the proper questions for us to ask about God the creator are who and why?        Who has created us
and why, for what reason are we created?
When you compare the accounts of creation in Genesis to those of its contemporaries while asking the who and why questions the point of this bit of poetry becomes poignant!
Who? This Creator is one who creates with the powerful, yet gentle, word, not through volatile acts of violence.
Why? This Creator creates for companionship and for good, not to enslave for service or to enmesh us in an icky and innately evil - creation.
         We also look in the wrong place for God the Creator—we look over our shoulder or in our rear-view mirror for the miracle of creation.
Yet, here we are
—God’s creation is here and is ongoing! Our atmosphere doesn’t spontaneously light on fire, gravity continues to work, solids don’t suddenly turn into a gaseous state. Tomorrow will follow today, and yesterday won’t sneak up on us and show up next week!

         For that matter, just as God’s creation is declared good it is worth remembering that all good things in creation
—this soup of life in which we live and move and have our being
are from God.
All good things in creation are from God.
Luther, being Luther, goes to his most basic thing—shoes.
Every time our
a sole
instead of
the ground
should be a reminder to us that God has provided generously for us!

         Both the possibilities
 Of: being deprived of shoes, or the world winking out of existence
—and any reality between these two,
should remind us on a basic level that we’re limited. That we’re critters and God is Creator.
         Yet, I’d imagine no one here,
myself included,
really believes this, at least not consistently.
After all,
would not this reality terrify us to the point of humility?
Would not this reality astonish us so greatly that we would constantly be thankful!

         When we talk about God the Son as Redeemer it is important to recognize that one of the great gifts that the Early Church gave us was their choice to not define too dogmatically the Atonement.
Atonement, being an English word created purely to describe how God makes us At-One with Him through Jesus Christ.
There are different descriptions that often fit different experiences of Christians at different eras.
We’re slaves to Satan / God pays that debt with Jesus.
We’re occupied by Sin, Death, and the Devil / Jesus defeats them and liberates us.
We’ve insulted God, the King of the Universe / Jesus’ death is a perfect sacrifice that repairs that insult.
We don’t know what a good human life would look like / Jesus lives such a life that we may do the same.
The punishment for sin is death / Jesus substitutes himself for us.

         In Luther’s case, he reminds us that Jesus is our redeemer. We’ve lost our way and been condemned for it. More than that we’ve been captured as if in a battle, by sin, death, and the devil.
         Jesus crosses into enemy territory and buys us out of that captivity at the price of his precious life.
What he has done for us frees us from the deathly Kingdom and joins us to the Kingdom of God. We are now citizens of the Kingdom of God; adopted into the family of Jesus Christ.
Living in that family,
living in that Kingdom.
         While we were yet sinners, God chose to redeem us through Christ. We are saved by this gracious act.

         As for the Spirit, who makes us Holy,
She does it to us through faith.       We’ve already been redeemed/
the Spirit makes us believe it! God is already for us/
The Spirit let’s us trust it to be true!
The Spirit creates faith.
         The Spirit uses particular things to create belief and make us Holy.
         The Spirit uses the Word of God: scripture and preaching.
         The Spirit uses the Sacraments: Baptism and Holy Communion.
         The Spirit uses forgiveness: Declared in the service and experienced in our life together.
         The Spirit gathers all these Holy Making things together in communities of grace—by that I mean “The Church.”
But let’s be clear, the Spirit doesn’t use a building
—the Spirit uses a people!!!
A people cultivating graciousness with Word, Sacrament, and Forgiveness.
The Spirit working to make plain the grace of God.
Community struggling to make this real in each other’s lives. Living into this already offered redemption by Jesus Christ!
         Here me well though, I purposely use the word struggling!
         ‘Cause we ain’t saints yet!
We’ll never be rid of the tension of becoming holy, as long as our flesh hangs upon us
—never Holy this side of the Jordon.
         Individually, we’re Justified by Christ’s works, yet still Sinners.
         Collectively, in these Communities of Grace, we’re a mixed body, saints and sinners stumbling forward, held aloft, and together, by the Spirit alone!
         That’s why the work of the Spirit found in God’s community, the Church, is ongoing.
         Daily renewal of our minds, bodies, and hearts by the Spirit, is found among us.
         Daily receiving of that Grace already freely given.
         Daily remembering full redemption through:
and Word.

         You will find on the back of the yellow prayer cards Luther’s morning prayer. As we wake each morning this week, let’s pray it, marking ourselves with a sign of our God
 Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit.

God the Father is my Creator. God the Son is my Redeemer. God the Holy Spirit is making me Holy.