Reading Ramblings – July 31, 2016

Reading Ramblings

Date: Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost ~ July 31, 2016 ~ Apostle’s Creed Article One

Texts: Genesis 1&2; Psalm 19; Romans 8:18-25; 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. **

We begin treatment of the Apostle’s Creed. Some scholars doubt that the apostles actually composed this creed, though what might considered the Creed dates back in one form or another to the middle of the second century. Places in the New Testament make reference to a confession of faith, and as far back as we have record, candidates for baptism needed to make a confession of the faith they were entering into. Regardless of the exact nature of the origin of this Creed, for well over a thousand years it has been a standard confession of faith which summarizes the core doctrines of Christianity as derived from Scripture. It is fascinating this confession does not address most of the issues which divide Christians today – views on the Sacraments and the precise nature of saving faith.

The First Article deals with God the Father in his role as Creator of heaven and earth.

Genesis 2 – Having provided an overview of the seven days of creation, the second chapter of Genesis provides more specific detail about the creation of humanity as man and woman. God is intimately involved in this process, shaping the soil, breathing life into the form of man, giving Adam work to do in naming the animals – and in the process allowing Adam to discover that he was incomplete. God completes humanity in the creation of woman, and gives them the only warning necessary – to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The first three chapters of Genesis are foundational to a Biblical, Christian understanding of the world. God creates everything good, but the capacity for that goodness to be ruined is already in place.

A consideration of God the Father should raise the question – why did God put that tree there in the garden, knowing that Adam and Eve would eat of it? Scripture doesn’t answer this question directly, but theologians typically respond that the capacity for disobedience is a prerequisite for free will. If Adam and Eve are to be truly free – free to return love to their Creator, they must have the option and ability to not return that love, to not be obedient. If Scripture is the story of a good God pursuing creation and redeeming it for recreation, and if the end of that story is the glorification of God as truly good and wonderful and merciful, then we must assume that capacity for sin – and all the suffering that has resulted from the Fall – are necessary.

Psalm 19 – God as the creator of all things is inescapably pointed to by creation. It boggles my mind that people can look at the beauty and grace and grandeur of the natural world and assume it’s simply the result of a cosmic accident! The psalmist assures us that the testimony of creation as to the Creator should lead us to revere God’s revelation of himself to us as perfect and beautiful. The God capable of creating such beauty, and providing such hope in the midst of our sinfulness is a God whose Word can be trusted for our own good, so that we should seek to conform to it and strive to avoid contradicting it.

Romans 8:18-25 – God created all things good, but Adam and Eve disobeyed the directive of God, plunging all humanity and all creation into sin and brokenness. But God continues his plan, and that plan includes creation being reborn, once again perfect and new, no longer shackled by sin. We tend to think of this anthropocentrically, but it affects all of creation, and creation longs just as we do for the perfect timing of God to come, and for all things to be brought to glorious conclusion and renewal. Creation did not ask to be plunged into sinfulness, but it has been – by God himself, who alone would possess the hope (not in a wishful, uncertain sense but in a firm anticipation sense) that creation would one day be freed from this broken condition.

John 5:19-24 – The work of the Father is not limited to creation, but to the plan of salvation that includes the Son of God coming into creation to redeem it. Jesus attests to the unity of will and purpose that He shares with God the Father. Jesus is not ad-libbing. He is not making things up as He goes along. Rather, He follows the Father’s script, copying what the Father does as the Father instructs him to. The relationship between Father and Son is one of love and obedience. This does not mean that Jesus as the Son of God is inferior to God the Father – though we are hard pressed to conceive of another image. They are united in will and purpose, so that Jesus willingly obeys the Father’s plan, despite the great pain and suffering it has caused in the Incarnation itself and will soon cause him in his suffering and death.

God the Father is the Creator. He continues his work of creation every moment of every day. The laws and processes by which the universe seems to function autonomously are at His will and command. He created them and is not bound by them. And He remains committed to his plan of reuniting his creation with himself. So it can’t be that we separate Jesus from the Father. It can’t be that Jesus eclipse the Father, because the Jesus we see is the perfect expression of obedience to the Father.

It is easy and natural to want one or the other – the more abstract God the Father or the more human God the Son. But they cannot be had or understood apart from one another, or apart from God the Holy Spirit. The main emphasis of the Apostles’ Creed is the unity of the Godhead – three distinct persons or aspects, yet still the one God of the Old Testament. Each article highlights what we can know and say about these persons of the Trinity, based on what God himself has revealed about himself to us in his Word.

God the Father’s love for the Son is also God the Father’s love for us. God the Son’s love for the Father is expressed also in his love for us. The love of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is directed not only internally between these three divine persons, but towards creation – all of creation – towards you and I. It is the good and perfect will of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that each person should come to faith, should receive the Good News of God’s rescue from sin, Satan and death, and so hearing, believe, and receive the benefits of God’s victory on our behalf. Not all will accept this Good News, it seems painfully obvious. But that does not make the news any less good, or the necessity of sharing it any less important.

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