Genesis 17:1-14; Acts 2:37-41
by Interim Pastor Doug Marshall
Thought for Meditation:
Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s.
The Shorter Catechism, Question 94
The Scots Confession – Baptism
We have been looking at the and Confessions of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the banners that go with them. Today we are focusing on the Scots Confession. Our New Testament passage points to one of the issues that is raised by the Scots Confession. It is the story of what happens immediately after Pentecost. The Holy Spirit came on the Apostles. Peter got up and preached. And then this is how people responded to his sermon. “Acts 2:37-41.”
Johnny was four years-old when his parents had him baptized. After the service, as his family walked to their car to drive home, Johnny started sobbing. His dad asked him what was wrong. At first Johnny couldn’t get it out through his tears. Finally he said, “The pastor said he wanted me to be brought up in a Christian home, but I want to stay with you guys.”
Baptism has caused problems in the church for years, though not usually like the one Johnny had. As we recite a portion of the Scots Confession in a few moments that will become very obvious. The confession says that we “condemn the error of the Anabaptists.” Harsh words. Before we talk about baptism let me share with you a bit about the Scots Confession. To do that I need to remind you a little bit about the Reformation.
There were four types of churches that came out of the Reformation. There were Lutheran churches, mostly in Germany and the Scandinavian countries. In England there was the Anglican Church. In the United States we call it the Episcopal church. The Anabaptists were scattered in small pockets all over Europe. The Reformed churches, which includes Presbyterians, were in Switzerland, where John Calvin was a pastor, along with Holland and parts of France.
A Scottish pastor named John Knox went to Geneva, Switzerland to study under Calvin. Then he took Calvin’s ideas back to Scotland. Most of the churches in Scotland became Reformed. In 1560 the Scottish nobility was able to get England to recognize Scotland as a separate country. The Scottish parliament declared itself a Protestant nation. They asked six pastors, including John Knox, to write a statement of faith – the Scots Confession. All six pastors had the first name John, so this confession is sometimes called “John’s Confession.”
If you read the Scots Confession two things are likely to stand out. First, it is longer than the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed, though it is shorter than most of our other confessions. The Scots Confession is only 14 pages. The Westminster Confession is 53 pages. Second, you might notice that it is harsh in its attacks of both the Roman Catholic Church and the Anabaptists. Historically, Presbyterians have tried to be in the middle, between two extremes. The culture of Europe during much of the Reformation was very tense with political and religious debates. Most of the confessions from that era don’t have the tolerance for different ideas that is part of our culture.
The Scots Confession starts with five chapters about the Triune God, who created the world. They talk about how humans have sinned against God. The next six chapters are about Jesus – his incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension, and how through Jesus we are forgiven. There are several chapters about the Holy Spirit and several more about the Kirk. That is the Scottish word for the Church. Then there are three chapters about the Sacraments, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
Before we talk about Baptism let’s look at the banner for the Scots Confession. The blue shield is the color of the seal of the Church of Scotland. On the shield there are two crosses. The tartan, X-shaped cross is called a St. Andrew’s Cross. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland. The tartan is from the Hamilton clan, in honor of Patrick Hamilton, who was the first martyr of the Scottish Reformation.
The Celtic Cross is the white cross with the circle. It is a common cross in Presbyterian churches. The circle is probably a halo, symbolizing the divinity of Christ.
The ship is a symbol for the church. This confession has a strong doctrine of the church. Notice that there is water underneath the ship, which suggests that to get on to the ship, to enter the church, we go through the waters of baptism.
The Bible and sword are symbols of the Scriptures. The confession has a strong affirmation of the authority of the Scriptures over the church. It is not the pope who has ultimate authority, but God’s Word.
At the bottom is the burning bush that Moses saw on Mt. Sinai. To be honest, I have no idea what the connection is with the Scots Confession. The notes on the banners say something about this being a sign of God’s presence and the call to go into the world.
Presbyterians have a different understanding of baptism than either Roman Catholics or Anabaptists. We don’t believe that baptism is a magical act that automatically gives salvation, whether a person wants it or not. At the same time we believe baptism is more than just what we do to show our faith in Jesus. God actually does something in the sacrament. We are called to respond to God’s grace, but our salvation is God’s work in our lives.
When I first started thinking about becoming a pastor, one of the topics I had to wrestle with was infant baptism. I was baptized as a baby and raised as a Presbyterian. Many of my friends were from a more Anabaptist background that did not believe in infant baptism. I had to decide what I believed – should infants be baptized? The Scots Confession helped me with this.
When we read the Scots Confession in a few minutes you will notice that it connects baptism with circumcision. Both are rites of initiation into God’s people. Circumcision is usually done when a Jewish boy is 8 days old. Our passage from Acts tells us that the promise of God’s love includes children, so we baptize children. They are part of God’s family.
Michael Lindvall tells the story of two infant baptisms that happened in his church, only a few months after he started there as pastor. Angus MacDowell was one of the elders in his church. Angus had a son named Larry who lived in another part of the state. On the Sunday before Thanksgiving Angus told Pastor Lindvall that Larry and his wife would be visiting the next Sunday, bringing with them their new baby. Angus wanted the pastor to “do the baby” while they were there. Doing the baby meant baptism.
Pastor Lindvall talked with Angus about the integrity of the sacrament of Baptism, the need for parents to be growing in their faith and the importance of a child being baptized in its own church family. He talked about the need for Larry and his wife to join a church and have their child baptized there. Angus listened politely, thanked Pastor Lindvall, then walked out. He went and talked to all the other members of the session. They called Pastor Lindvall over to their meeting and said that they had voted 9-0 to approve the baptism for the following Sunday.
The following Sunday Pastor Lindvall baptized Angus’s grandson. In that church they have a tradition that is similar to having Godparents. They ask a question, “Who stands with this child?” Then the extended family stands up and stays standing for the rest of the ceremony. When the question was asked, “Who stands with this child?” Angus and his wife, Minnie, stood up. So did several other family members. Then Pastor Lindvall continued with the baptism.
After worship that day, when most of the people had left, Mildred Cory came and talked to Pastor Lindvall. Mildred came to the church at times but wasn’t very involved. She usually came in late, sat in the back and left early. She was very nervous as she went up to Pastor Lindvall. Finally, she said that her daughter, Tina, had just had a baby and thought that it should be baptized.
Pastor Lindvall told Mildred to have Tina and her husband contact him and they could talk about a baptism. Mildred hesitated, and then said, “Tina’s got no husband; She’s just eighteen and was confirmed in this church four years ago. She used to come out for the Senior High Fellowship, but then she started to see this older boy out of high school. Then she got pregnant and decided to keep the baby and wants to have it baptized here in her own church, but she’s nervous to come talk to you, Reverend.” Pastor Lindvall said that he would talk to the session.
At the session meeting he started to explain what everyone already knew. Tina was a member of the church and an unwed mother. He didn’t know who the father was. All of the session members knew who it was, Jimmy Hawthorne who just left town to join the army. Tina’s family was not active in the church, so Pastor Lindvall expected some opposition to the baptism but no one said anything and they approved it for the Sunday before Christmas. The question every wondered, but didn’t ask, was who would stand up with Tina when the congregation was asked “Who stands with this child?”
The day of the baptism came and the church was full, as it usually is the Sunday before Christmas. The clerk of session read the words of presentation: “Tina Cory presents her son for baptism.” He wouldn’t even look at Tina as she walked down the aisle, carrying little Jimmy. Everyone was uncomfortable, knowing that Tina was all by herself. Pastor Lindvall asked the congregation, “Who stands with this child?” Mildred, Tina’s mom, normally sat in the back of the church. Today she was sitting in the front pew. Pastor Lindvall had to motion for her to stand up. Slowly, she rose to her feet. Pastor Lindvall looked back to his notes and was about to ask Tina the questions of the parents’, when he heard a movement in the pews. Angus MacDowell stood up. So did Minnie. Then a couple of other elders stood up, along with the sixth-grade Sunday school teacher, a new young couple in the church. Soon the whole church was standing.
Today we baptized three children. Brenna might have some understanding of what it is all about, but the other two have no idea. Parenting has never been an easy job, and in this day and age it is harder than ever. Parents have the primary responsibility to pass on the faith to their children. But they need help; help with teaching Sunday school or staying in the nursery, help with words of encouragement, help with resources to learn how to be a better parent, help with babysitting so that they can have time together as a couple.
We’ve had a number of young families come to this church recently and several babies born in the last year. If we want this church to be a place with lots of young families, a place that is known as a good place to bring your family, a place where children learn about Jesus, we must all work together to support our families. Who will stand with these children?
I invite all of you to stand, and affirm our support of these children and their parents, and affirm our faith in Jesus Christ, by reciting together this portion of the Scots Confession
The Scots Confession
The Book of Confessions; G – 3.21, 23
As the fathers under the Law, besides the reality of the sacrifices, had two chief sacraments, that is, circumcision and the Passover; so do we acknowledge and confess that now in the time of the gospel we have two chief sacraments, which alone were instituted by the Lord Jesus and commanded to be used by all who will be counted members of his body, that is, Baptism and the Supper or Table of the Lord Jesus, also called the Communion of His Body and Blood.
These sacraments were instituted by God not only to make a visible distinction between his people and those who were without the Covenant, but also to exercise the faith of his children and, by participation of these sacraments, to seal in their hearts the assurance of his promise, and of that most blessed conjunction, union, and society, which the chosen have with their Head, Christ Jesus. We assuredly believe that by Baptism we are engrafted into Christ Jesus, to be made partakers of his righteousness, by which our sins are covered and remitted.
We hold that baptism applies as much to the children of the faithful as to those who are of age and discretion, and so we condemn the error of the Anabaptists, who deny that children should be baptized before they have faith and understanding.
Genesis 1:1-31 (The Message); Romans 8:19-25
by Interim Pastor Doug Marshall
Thought for Meditation:
When we pray we do not rise above the common places of the material, but embrace them, and in embracing them find intimacy with the one who made them.
Eugene Peterson, Answering God, p76
The Apostles’ Creed – God as Creator
After a difficult week in kindergarten Bobby spent the weekend with his grandmother. She decided to take him to the park on Saturday morning. It was a beautiful morning. The sun was shining. The leaves were a spectacular array of autumn colors and the dew make everything sparkle.
Grandma remarked..."Isn’t this beautiful. It looks like an artist painted a picture. Did you know God painted this just for you?"
Bobby said, "I know, and God painted it with just his left hand."
Grandma wasn’t sure what he meant by that so she asked him. “What do you mean that God painted it with his left hand?”
Bobby answered, "Well last week in Sunday school we learned that Jesus sits on the right hand of God!"
Bobby’s Sunday school class was studying the Apostles’ Creed, the topic of today’s sermon. As with last week, when we looked at the Nicene Creed, I’d like to share with you a bit of the history behind the creed and then talk about the banner that represents it. Then we will look at how this creed connects with our lives.
The development of the Apostles’ Creed is not as clear as the Nicene Creed. The tradition is that just after Pentecost the apostles met to talk about their plan to spread the gospel to the world. They recognized the need for a common faith that they would preach. The Spirit came upon them and each one was given a statement that was part of the Creed. Peter said, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” The other eleven apostles each received a phrase and they put them together. That is the tradition, but scholars don’t believe it happened that way. The Creed can find its roots in statements from the Bible, including the Apostles, but it was probably not written by the Apostles. If they had written a statement of faith it would probably have been included in the book of Acts.
Exactly how the Creed developed isn’t clear. However, there are two ideas that are known. First, the Apostles’ Creed traces its roots to Rome. As the church spread throughout the world there were differences between the western part of the church, centered in Rome, and the eastern part of the church, in Greece, Turkey, Syria and Egypt. The Apostles’ Creed comes out of the west, which is why we tend to know the Apostles’ Creed. Most of the eastern church uses the Nicene Creed. I’m not sure if they even accept the Apostles’ Creed as an authoritative statement of faith.
There are other written creeds that come out of Rome that were probably precursors to the Apostles’ Creed, very similar but not quite the same. The earliest ones were written as early as 150 AD. I’m not going to go into details about those, but I want to share with you the name of one of them – The Interrogatory Creed of Hippolytus. I’m not sure what it said but it’s fun to say. The first written record of the Apostles’ Creed as we know it today is from about 700 AD. It’s from the southwestern part of France and was probably written under the orders of Charlemagne for the Holy Roman Empire.
The other idea worth mentioning is that the Apostles’ Creed, and its precursors, were used primarily for instruction. It was a baptismal creed. Before people were baptized they would have to memorize and understand the creed. That is probably why the Apostles’ Creed says “I believe in God, the Father…” and the Nicene Creed says “We believe…”
Let’s look at the banner. The background for the banner is brown. That is a reminder of how hard it was to be a Christian in the early church. It was illegal to be a Christian. Proclaiming your faith in Jesus could get you thrown in prison, or all your possessions taken away. Many of the early Christians were persecuted and even killed.
The arches point to the caves and catacombs, where the early Christians met in secret. They also are similar in shape to the windows in many sanctuaries, including our own. Inside the arches there are four symbols.
The anchor cross in the top left corner was a common symbol in the early church. The cross reminds us of Jesus, who died for our sins. The anchor points to the safety we have in Christ. In him our salvation is secure. It also points to the apostles, many of whom were fishermen.
The fish in the top right corner is one of the oldest symbols of the Christian faith. The Greek word for fish is ichthus. The letters are an acronym - Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior. The fish was used by early Christians to identify themselves as followers of Christ. If two strangers met one would draw part of the fish. If the other person was also a Christian s/he would draw the other side and they would recognize each other as Christians.
The chalice in the bottom left is a symbol of the Lord’s Supper, which is a sign of the fellowship we have with each other and with Christ.
The upside-down cross stands for Peter, who was the leader of the apostles. Tradition suggests that Peter was crucified upside down because he did not consider himself worthy of dying in the same way as Jesus.
From the Apostles’ Creed we could look at a variety of topics. Each phrase has a message for us. This morning I am going to focus on the second phrase. “I believe in God the Father, Creator of heaven and earth.” Let me share with you four thoughts about the creation and God as the Creator.
First, the Apostles’ Creed is a message that the creation is good. This idea is also found in the passage Melissa read, Genesis 1. That passage is a poem about God as the Creator. In the poem there is a refrain that is repeated seven times. “It is good. It is good. It is good. It is good. It is good. It is good. It is very good.”
Now, I admit, there are some parts of creation that make me question that statement. Are mosquitoes really good? Or poison ivy? Or the virus that causes a cold? Would the creation be any worse if they didn’t exist? The reality is that they are part of creation so I have to accept by faith that they are good for something.
The statement that the creation is good probably doesn’t sound profound. We live in a world that appreciates creation, at least in theory. However, for the early church this was a radical statement. The primary religion that competed with Christianity for the first several centuries was Gnosticism. One of the basic ideas of Gnosticism was that the creation was evil. Salvation meant escaping the world, because it isn’t good. God couldn’t be the creator because God wouldn’t make something evil.
The early Christian church, following our Jewish heritage, rejected that idea. They claimed that God created the world. And because God created it, the creation is good. It is good in its abundance. It is good in its beauty. It is good in its variety, its vastness and its complexity. The creation is good.
There is a second message. God not only created the world. God loves the creation. God cherishes it. Tony Campolo tells the story of how God made daisies. He talks about his grandson, Roman. Campolo loved playing with Roman. He would throw him up in the air, catch him and then put him down. Roman would laugh and shout, “Do it again, Pop-pop.” Tony would pick him up and throw him again. Each time Roman’s joy and enthusiasm got bigger. “Do it again! Do it again! Do it again!” Tony got tired of the game long before Roman ever did.
Then Tony asks the question. How did God create the daisies? Did God just say “Daisies be!” and all of them bloomed? Or, did God create one daisy and then look at it with delight, and cry out “Do it again! Do it again!” And after 50 billion daisies God still was jumping up and down with joy. “Do it again!” God did that with daisies, and columbine, asters and every other plant and flower. God did that for the mountains and rivers and valleys, and for very animal, including you and me. “This is great! Do it again!” God cherishes the creation.
Third, God is the creator, which means that God is separate from creation. If Gnosticism was the primary religion that competed with early Christianity, today one of the religions that competes with Christianity is an idea called pantheism. Gnosticism claimed that the creation is evil. Pantheism claims that the creation is good, so good, in fact, that it is divine. There is a divine nature inside every part of creation, rocks and trees, eagles and whales and in you and me. Salvation, then, becomes realizing your divine nature and living out of that divinity.
The Bible and the Apostles’ Creed reject that idea. God is the creator who is separate from the creation. We can experience God in the creation. God sometimes reveals himself in a beautiful sunset, or in a majestic, snow-covered mountain, or in the vastness and complexity of the oceans or the stars. But the creation is not divine.
Our passage in Romans tells us that the creation has fallen. Because of sin the creation is broken and waits for its renewal and salvation just like we do. If the creation is broken, and I believe it is, then creation is not divine, because God can’t be broken. Our salvation and our hope are not found through our efforts in realizing our divinity and living out of that divineness. Our salvation is found in God, who is outside of creation, choosing to enter the creation in the person of Jesus Christ.
And finally, as human beings we are part of the creation, but we have a special role in the creation. We are called to be stewards of the creation, to care for the creation following God’s desire. This is essentially a call to be environmentalists.
I’m going to make a generalization, but I think it is fairly accurate. As a whole the environmental movement has tended to be the focus of liberal activists. Conservatives, including conservative Christians, have not focused much time or energy on the issue. But if conservative Christians are going to claim to be guided by the Scriptures, we must be involved in caring for the creation. As Genesis says, God has given us dominion over the creation. We are responsible for taking care of the creation, following God’s desires. We need to be environmentalists.
Having said that, I’m not going to get into specifics of what that might look like. Part of the reason for that is that I don’t understand the issues well enough. I’m not smart enough to understand all the questions, much less have the answers. I would think that being an environmentalist would include recycling as much as we can, not throwing trash out your car window and trying to conserve the resources that we use. How we actually live it out is a topic we may disagree on, but claiming that God is the creator and that we have the task of caring for this creation, means that we are called to be environmentalists.
Morris West is one of my favorite authors. In his book, “The Shoes of the Fisherman” he has a line that I want to use to close this sermon. “If Creation and Redemption mean anything at all, they mean an affair of love between the Creator and His creatures.”
Let us stand and affirm our faith in God as Creator, using the Apostles’ Creed.
The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
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.
Matthew 16:13-17; John 1:1-14
by Interim Pastor Doug Marshall
Thought for Meditation:
September 11 has changed me. I'm going to preach as never before about Christ crucified as the answer to the question of what's wrong with the world. I have also resolved to relentlessly reiterate from the pulpit that the worst day in history was not a Tuesday in New York, but a Friday in Jerusalem when a consortium of clergy and politicians colluded to run the world on our own terms by crucifying God's own Son. Will Willimon
Nicene Creed: Who Is Jesus?
Today we are starting a sermon series on the Confessions of the Presbyterian Church (USA). As Presbyterians, we have twelve different confessions, statements of faith, that describe what we believe. Two of them are from the early church. Six of them are from the time of the Reformation and four are contemporary.
We have nine banners in our sanctuary, one for each of our confessions. I know that doesn’t add up. One of the confessions, Belhar, was just approved and adopted this summer, so there isn’t a banner for it yet. Three of the confessions were written at the same time and are related to each other – The Westminster Confession and Catechisms. That leaves nine banners and ten confessions.
Each Sunday for the next ten weeks we are going to look at a different confession and its banner. Today we are starting with the first confession – The Nicene Creed. Let me give you a little bit of the historical background about the creed. Then I’ll explain the banner and show where this creed connects with our life today.
In the New Testament we hear the story of Jesus and the early church. After the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the Apostles spread the good news and led the church. Since they had been with Jesus during his life and ministry, and had seen him after the resurrection, they were the ultimate authority on Jesus.
By 100 AD all the Apostles had died and people began to have different ideas about who Jesus was and what he did. Some of them were accurate and some were distortions of the Good News. That led to a number of conflicts and arguments. If you think church fights in our day are ugly you should read about how early Christians fought with each other!
In 306 AD Constantine became emperor of the Roman Empire. In the process of trying to unite his empire, and gain control of it, he recognized that it would help to have a common religion, a faith that everyone believed. There is some question as to whether or not Constantine actually became a Christian, but he declared Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire. This was the beginning of Christendom, in which the government, the culture, and the church worked together to lead society. One of the problems at that point was that the Christians didn’t agree with each other, primarily about Jesus.
In 325 AD Constantine called a meeting of church leaders, called the Council of Nicaea. Nicaea was a town in what is today Turkey. Christian leaders met there to come up with a statement of what Christians believe. It was a long and complicated process, but what we call the Nicene Creed came out of the Council of Nicaea. It was the first accepted statement of what Christians believe, and even today is the most commonly accepted statement of faith in the world.
This banner is the one that represents the Nicene Creed. The cross is the central symbol of the banner because Jesus and his death are central to our faith. When you look at the creed you will see that the paragraph about Jesus is the longest. However, notice that the cross is also a sword. The sword represents the power of the emperor. It is the connection of the church and the government.
Behind the cross is a triangle, which points to the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity was formally stated for the first time in the Nicene Creed. The creed has three paragraphs; we believe in God the Father, we believe in Jesus Christ, and we believe in the Holy Spirit. At the top left of the triangle is a hand reaching down. That represents God the Father. At the bottom of the triangle are the Greek letters “chi” and “rho.” Those are the first two letters of Christ. The dove is the symbol for the Holy Spirit, remembering the story of the dove coming on Jesus at his baptism. Finally, the banner is surrounded with crowns which point to the rule and glory of God.
So, we have our creed and we have our banner. What does this say for us today? Let me suggest one thought: Jesus is the center of the Christian life and faith. Everything we believe and say and do revolves around that center.
To help us think about that idea I want to read to you a portion of The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. The book is a series of 31 letters from Screwtape, who is a senior devil, to Wormwood, who is Screwtape’s nephew. Wormwood is a junior devil and Screwtape is training him. One of the things that makes this book challenging is that it is written from the perspective of Satan, who wants to keep us from believing in Jesus and draw us away from God. You have to take Screwtape’s advice and reverse it. That is how we grow closer to Christ.
In the 25th letter Screwtape says this to Wormwood.
The real trouble about the set your patient is living in is that it is merely Christian. They all have individual interests, of course, but the bond remains mere Christianity. What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call ‘Christianity And’. You know – Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. If they must be Christians let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian colouring. Work on the horror of the Same Old Thing.
Exactly what issues Lewis was referring to isn’t clear to us, yet every era and every culture has issues that it focuses on. These issues aren’t necessarily bad, but when they become central to our faith and life we have problems. God gives us the food we need and gives us taste buds to enjoy our food. But when food becomes central to our lives we get gluttony and obesity. Sex is God’s good gift to us, but when we argue about sex and focus on what is acceptable and not acceptable to God we miss the joy of the gospel. Jesus is concerned about the social issues of our day; racism, the environment, justice and poverty, to name a few. But when those issues become the center of what it means to be faithful to Christ we end up missing what God is doing in other areas. When we allow ourselves to be defined by these peripheral issues we miss the center of the gospel, which is God’s love for us in Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately, this happens all the time. We take our eyes off Jesus and get distracted from what is really important and we miss God’s love and mercy. It is so easy to get distracted like that. A young couple got pregnant and spent 9 months preparing their nursery. They painted the room and decorated it. They bought a new crib and a changing table, and did everything to get the room ready to go for their first child. The baby was born and they brought her home. A week later Dad came home from work, put his stuff down and went in to the nursery. He stood by the crib and watched his daughter sleep. Mom poked her head in and saw Dad looking at the crib, talking to himself a little bit. “This is just amazing! I can’t believe it. What a miracle.” She walked up next to him and they stood there for several moments, reveling with him. She whispered “A penny for your thoughts.” He said, “I’m overwhelmed. This is unbelievable. I can’t figure out how they could have made this crib for only $65.”
It is so easy to turn our attention to turn our attention away from Jesus and have something else at the center. The leaders at the Council of Nicaea knew that Jesus was the center. The Nicene Creed proclaims the mystery of the incarnation – Jesus is fully God and fully human. One of the Scriptures that they would have read was our passage from John. Jesus was and is God who became flesh, a human being. In him we have life and light. In him we find our salvation.
In the passage that Sara read from Matthew Jesus gives us the question that all of us need to ask, not just one time but again and again. He starts by asking the disciples theological questions, “Who do people say that I am?” What do theologians say about Jesus? What does our culture say about Jesus? What does your pastor say about Jesus? Then he shifts and makes the question personal. “Who do YOU say that I am?”
The Nicene Creed answers the question about Jesus who Jesus is. The creed is theologically correct but not easily understood. If this were a Sunday school class I could take an hour or so to try to explain it. But since this is a sermon and I don’t want to be here for another hour, let me share with you my own answer to that question.
Jesus is God, who loves me so much that he became a human being. Through Jesus’ life and death, his resurrection and ascension, I am saved. Jesus is my Lord and my Savior. He is the one who is helping me become the person that I was created to be. Jesus is my friend who loves me like no one else. He is the one in whom I know and live in God’s grace.
Who do you say that Jesus is?
I invite you now to open your hymnal to page 15, or look at the screens, and stand as we together proclaim our faith, using the Nicene Creed.
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven:
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became truly human. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated on the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. Who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.