Date: 12th Sunday after Pentecost ~ August 7, 2016 ~ Apostle’s Creed, Second Article
Texts: Job 19:23-27; Psalm 130; Galatians 3:10-14; John 1:1-5
Context: ** We continue in our alternate text selections for the remainder of the liturgical year in order to preach through Luther’s Small Catechism. **
The Ten Commandments guide the Christian in how to live their life, but begin with commands to love God above all things and honor his name. But who is this God that is above all other gods, and whose name is holy? The Apostles’ Creed answers this question based on God’s self-disclosure in Scripture. Each of the three articles of the Apostle’s Creed deals with one person or aspect of the three-in-one God described in the Bible.
Job 19:23-27 – Job is considered to be one of the oldest books in the Bible, or at the very least, one of the oldest experiences/time frames described in the Bible, roughly on par with the time of Abraham and the Patriarchs. It presumes a time when there is no priesthood and when fathers as heads of households offered sacrifices on behalf of their family, which puts Job well before Exodus (circa 1400-100 BC), and therefore before the migration to Egypt at the end of Jacob’s life, roughly 400 years earlier.
Job suffers greatly. He is presented with various suggestions on how to cope with his suffering. His wife suggests that he curse God and die (Job 2:9). His friends suggest that Job has somehow failed to live as God expects and is being punished for it. They urge him to make restitution to God so that God will be nice to him. Job refuses all of these options, instead insisting that it is only God who can explain his suffering. Halfway through this amazing book, Job cries out for a redeemer, for one who will stand with him to vindicate him. So sure is Job that this redeemer does exist and will come for him, that he wishes his petition to this redeemer were written indelibly for the generations to follow and see. His hope is confident, and not even death itself will put an end to that hope. Job’s hope is that even after he is dead, he will see this redeemer with his own eyes. It’s a stunning message of hope and confidence in the Good News of Jesus, God’s redeemer for creation, and in the resurrection we are promised through Christ.
If we wish to settle for Jesus the Moral Example or Jesus the Kindly Teacher, we miss greatly the mark. In the midst of our darkest moments and deepest despair, we need Jesus the Redeemer, the one who rescues us, and from whom not even death can separate us.
Psalm 130 – A beautiful expression of hope and faith in our redeemer God! The speaker cries out in despair and woe. Only the Lord can hear her pleas for help. She does not claim righteousness as her leverage for God’s attention – she is just as sinful as everyone else. Yet she also knows that the Lord is forgiving. It may sound strange that forgiveness should be a reason to fear God, but consider the implications. If we need God’s forgiveness, it means a) we are not righteous on our own, b) we cannot make ourselves righteous or adequately atone for our sinfulness, c)there are repercussions to our sinfulness, therefore d) God must either forgive or we must all bear the consequences of our sin. God is not to be feared because of his mercy and forgiveness, but rather because the need for mercy and forgiveness from him clearly show us our broken and hopeless situation, left to our own devices.
So the speaker waits for the Lord to answer, most immediately in the situation or adversity in which the speaker finds herself, but most importantly with forgiveness. He is her only source of hope. She ends with an exhortation to the congregation around her to likewise place their faith in God alone.
Galatians 3:10-14 – What a beautiful extrapolation and summation of the core issues for Job and the psalmist! Under the Law we can only be condemned, as we are unable (and unwilling!) to keep it perfectly. Jesus comes to fulfill the Law on our behalf, delivering us from the condemnation (curse) of the Law, and freeing us to live according to the Law without fear. Our sin is forgiven. When we fail to keep the Law we have forgiveness rather than condemnation. While the Law remains valid and binding (mercy and forgiveness do not invalidate the Law, but rather by definition acknowledge and uphold it!), it no longer serves as a source of fear to the person in Christ. Rather, through Christ the blessings of God are made available not just to a limited chosen people, but to anyone and everyone who will receive them.
John 1:1-5 – John begins his story of the Good News of Jesus Christ not with Mary or Joseph but rather with the creation of the universe. Jesus is eternal, one aspect of the God through whom creation came into existence. Genesis describes God the Father speaking creation into existence. John describes Jesus as the Word of God through whom creation comes into existence. Jesus begins to be good news at the beginning of all things, as the means by which all things come into existence. So his salvific work in his incarnation is a reasonably continuation of that Good News. The Good News of creation continues with the Good News of recreation, a restoration of creation to the perfection it possessed at the beginning. Is there any part or aspect of creation that this Good News does not apply to? Of course not – just as every single aspect of creation has it’s genesis in the Word of God, so every aspect of creation has access to the hope in the Word made flesh.
The defining role of Jesus is the Redeemer. The one who rescues you and I from our sinfulness. If He isn’t this, then He isn’t anything ultimately very helpful. I remain in my sin and I have no hope. Don’t sell him short. Don’t cry out for anything less than all He offers you! Don’t presume that you only need a hand up or a bit of a push or a few useful tips to making your life happier and less stressful. He offers you life in the midst of death, hope in the midst of turmoil, restoration, peace, joy.