Download or listen to Advent Midweek II, “We All Believe in One True God, pt. 2” (The Creeds)
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“We all believe in Jesus Christ, His own Son, our Lord, possessing an equal God-head, throne, and might, source of every grace and blessing; born of Mary, virgin mother, by the power of the Spirit, Word made flesh, our elder brother; that the lost might life inherit, was crucified for all our sin and raise by God to life again” (LSB 954:2).
If you have ever thought that the Creed is merely some theological words strung together like lights on a tree, made to be memorized for purely rote recitation, I suggest you may not have looked closely enough. As we heard last week, the First Article on the Father and the Creation is all about how God has made me and given me everything I have, and that I have nothing that is not gift. It’s all about me, in the sense that the Father is my Father and my Creator, and that He has made me part of the story of this Creation. Which means that I owe Him my thanks and praise, my service and obedience. The flesh does this unwillingly, but faith does it with all the willingness of God’s own righteous Son. Last week, we wondered (in the voice of the flesh) how God would answer for all of the evil and destruction in His supposedly good creation. If He is powerful enough to have the whole world in His hands, why does it seem to have gotten so out of hand? We could say “sin,” and that would be true in a wide sense; true but completely meaningless when it comes to the actual facts on the ground. A cause is not an answer, and we still believe God is good, don’t we? What now, then? The Creed, because it is a summary of the Scriptures, does not leave us to wonder. It took me a long time to take notice of the voice of faith in the Nicene Creed. I had indeed been saying words without recognizing their breath-taking significance. Hear them out of their mouth-worn context: The Lord, whose name is Jesus, who was always with His Father from eternity, has been “born of Mary, virgin mother.” And it is this Jesus “who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven.” This Jesus, “made man,” “was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.” For us. For me. For you. If this Jesus is not for you, then there is no Gospel. Without those words, the Creed tells about historical events, even miraculous historical events—even future historical events—but they remain in the realm of those things the devils know and at which they tremble. We can imagine how it might or must have been, or how it will be, but the events themselves are separated from us by a canyon we cannot cross.
But those simple, holy words “for you.” Now those historical events confront you! Now they are delivered. Now they are not only things in the history of this creation: they are your history. Or, rather, you are in His history. This Son’s history is now yours. It is for you and for your salvation. You don’t believe these things because you somehow were able to conjure up enough faith to believe the impossible. You believe these things because they have been done to you. Poured over your head with water; fed to you with bread and wine; put in your formerly deaf ears with words. God was speaking to no one else at that font; He is speaking to no one else at the altar and in the absolution. For you and for your salvation I did these things. My Name is salvation for you. My Body and Blood are for you to eat and drink. For you and for your salvation. Crucified also for you. For you.
What has He done to answer for all the crimes of creation? What has He done to answer for this system He set up, where we must but we cannot; where we are held accountable for something we can’t not do. He became our greatest crime. Murdered on a cross, His holy, precious blood making the dirt itself holy. His innocent suffering and death for every guilty person who has ever lived. Our greatest crime, killing our God. The perfect crime, because He is the perfect Son. And we get away with it. Free to go wherever we want to go. Go to hell if you want. Heaven has no extradition treaties. But the Victim is also the Priest. The sacrificial Lamb cannot stay dead. And this blood and this suffering and this death and this resurrection. They are yours. They paid for you. He has bought you and you are His own, so that you don’t have to run anymore, always looking over your shoulder, waiting for the Law to catch up with you. The Law has already caught the culprit, a case of intentionally mistaken Identity. All for you. Come home to His Kingdom, where He lives and reigns for all eternity. Because you are joined to Him, you also live in His Kingdom, which has no end. You are innocent. You are free. You are home.
–Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 12/4/12