Download or listen to Advent Midweek I, “We All Believe In One True God, pt. 1” (The Creeds)
“We all believe in one true God, who created earth and heaven, the Father who to us in love has the right of children given. He in soul and body feeds us; all we need His hand provides us; through all snares and perils leads us, watching that no harm betide us. He cares for us by day and night; all things are governed by His might” (LSB 954:1). The Lord seems to like threes. Three men meet Abraham in Genesis 18. Three days of darkness in Egypt. Three festivals every year when every male in Israel was supposed to appear before Yahweh. Three areas within the tabernacle and the temple. Three days and nights Jonah was in the fish. Three days Jesus’ parents spent looking for Him while He was in the temple. Three days in the tomb. And three Persons in the one God. So the division of the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds into three parts for the Trinity fits well with our three midweek Advent services.
The Creed has the same problem and the same benefit that anything familiar has: it either becomes too familiar, so that we recite words without understanding; or it becomes so familiar that it actually forms the fabric of our lives and the Faith that sustains us. But the familiarity that forms us requires something from us: work, thought, repentance. More often, we are as Luther describes Christians at his time: “We all pass over it; we hear it and recite it, but we neither see nor think about what the words command us to do. For if we believed it with our whole heart, we would also act accordingly, and not swagger about and boast and brag as if we had life, riches, power, honor, and such things of ourselves, as if we ourselves were to be feared and served” (LC, Creed, First Article [Kolb/Wengert 433:20-21]).
We could take an abstract look at the Creeds, describing how God created the world, looking at creation from the outside, so to speak. We could evaluate the evidence in Genesis 1 and 2 scientifically, trying to prove or disprove, according to our current knowledge, what may or may not have happened in the distant past. I don’t know what you think, or if you think anything, when you hear the First Article of the Creed: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth,” “and of all things, visible and invisible.” But the mouth of faith speaks of these things not in abstract terms; not about creation as if it happened only in the distant past, as if we are related to “creation” only by virtue of being born thousands of years down the timeline. The mouth of faith says, “God has made me and all creatures; given me my eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.” And so on. Not because it’s all about you and me in a self-centered way, but because creation means that this God, the only one who could create the heavens and the earth, has something to do with you. You are not random, you are not a product of chance, you are not floating purposelessly through space on a big rock. God has created you, which means you are His and are accountable to Him. It means that what you owe your Creator is to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. “[H]ere we see how the Father has given to us himself with all creation and has abundantly provided for us in this life, apart from the fact that he has also showered us with inexpressible eternal blessings through his Son and the Holy Spirit, as we shall hear” (K/W 433:24). He has given all of this to us purely out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in us.
But He also gives all these things, these physical, material things, to all people, regardless of whether they acknowledge Him or not. He gives rain and sun to all farmers; He gives food and clothing and shelter to all people; He uses His creatures to provide for His creatures; He watches over His creation; every single thing that we call ours is nothing other than pure gift. That sounds good to us on paper, as pious words from our mouths, but we are still in the realm of the Law, of duty and obedience. We hear of a God who has created us, and to whom we owe everything we are and have, but sometimes—most of the time—we don’t want to give Him what we owe Him. We hear of a God who is a good father to His children, but sometimes we have trouble believing it. Some people still go hungry. There are still droughts. People freeze to death, and are murdered; people steal and lie and cheat each other; they take what they have for granted and still they want more, more, always more.
If God is the Creator of this creation, then it seems He’s got a lot of stuff to answer for. And here come all the questions of why God does or doesn’t do this or that. And those are valid questions, not only because we believe God is stronger than sin and death but, even more, because He Himself takes it on Himself to answer for all of these things, even the garbage you and I have shoveled into this world. God the Son takes the blame. He comes into this world, with all its fragile beauty and all its heavy ugliness; all its life and all its death. He enters a world poisoned by the freedom that He Himself gave to His creatures. He takes on flesh and blood and bone, body and soul. But that’s for next week.
–Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 11/29/12