Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sermon for 2/20/13--Midweek 1 (Catechism Series)

This Is Most Certainly True (Apostles' Creed)

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

The Lord was on His way to Calvary.  He traveled to Jerusalem where He was to suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes.  He went to Jerusalem to suffer and be killed, and on the third day be raised again to life.  On their way to Jerusalem, the Lord and His disciples stopped at Caesarea Philippi.  There our Lord put the rather general question to His disciples: “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”  He guts a flurry of the latest religious opinions.  Some say John the Baptist.  Others say Elijah or Jeremiah or another of the prophets.  Then the Lord’s question becomes more specific as He quizzes the disciples.  “But who do you say that I am?”  Peter is quick to answer, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Peter confesses.  That is, he says back to the Lord what the Lord had first said to him.  We might even say that Peter’s confession there at Caesarea Philippi was the first Apostles’ Creed.  The Lord says of Peter’s creed that this was not revealed to him by flesh and blood, but by the Father in heaven.  Faith is not a product of human reason.  It is not the result of our flesh and blood, our intellect, will, or emotions.  Faith is created by the Word of God.  Paul says in Romans, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”  God’s Word alone is sure and certain.  You say back to the Lord only that which the Lord says to you in His Word.  That is why the explanation of each article of the Apostles’ Creed ends with the words, “This is most certainly true.”

The fact that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, was not an intellectual conclusion that Peter came eventually to embrace.  It was revealed to him by the Father in heaven.  And it was a public revelation, as at our Lord’s Baptism in the Jordan River the Spirit descends on Jesus, and the voice of the Father declares, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  Peter confesses that same Lord, that only-begotten Son of the Father.  We do the same we every time we confess the Creed.

Even as the First Commandment kills your false gods, the Creed proclaims and extols the true God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Luther writes, “Since the Ten Commandments have explained that we are to have no more than one God, it may be asked: ‘What kind of being is God?  What does He do?  How can we praise or portray or describe him in such a way as to make him known?’  This is taught here and in the following articles.  Thus the Creed is nothing else than a response and confession of Christians based on the First Commandment.”  You are called to proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.  The Apostles’ Creed keeps your talk about God straight and clear as it repeats what God has said to you in His Word.

We live in a day and age when talk about faith is vague.  A popular song from a recent time tells us, “You gotta have faith.”  And boy, do we have faith.  It’s for sale everywhere you look.  If you aren’t living “Your Best Life Now,” you can still live “Forty Days of Purpose.”  If that isn’t enough to fill your need for faith, you can read the Koran or the writings of the Dalai Lama.  After all, don’t all roads lead to heaven?  But Christian faith is not generic belief.  Christian faith is trust in God the Father Almighty, in Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit.  Faith has substance, and this substance is the true and living God.

We might paraphrase the Lord’s question to Peter: “Who do you say that this God is?”  The Apostles’ Creed answers on the basis of God’s revelation, repeating all that the Lord has given you in His name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The Creed directs you to the Father Almighty who created and still sustains His universe “purely out of fatherly divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.”  The Creed directs you to the only-begotten Son of the Father, the Son of Mary: Jesus Christ. This takes you to the beating heart of His work of redemption whereby He “has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own, and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns through all eternity.”  The Creed directs you to the Holy Spirit, who has done for you what you yourself could not do: calling you to faith in Christ by the Gospel, sustaining you as a member of His Church, guarding and keeping you for the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting.

Confessing this holy faith is serious business.  Listen to the sobering words of our Lord: “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.  But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”  The Apostles’ Creed anchors you to the only name given under heaven by which you must be saved.  You were given that name in your Baptism, and in that name you have life and salvation.  This is most certainly true. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

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