Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Sermon - Lent Midweek - 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

“This Is… For You”
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
March 28, 2007

So we come now to the final section, or chief part of Luther’s Small Catechism. We’ve covered the Commandments, the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, Confession and now The Lord’s Supper.

Let’s admit right off the bat that it’s a little strange to be speaking of Holy Communion during a midweek Lenten service in which we are not receiving the Lord’s Supper. It would seem natural that we should not only talk about it, but also receive it. However we still have many opportunities to receive this gift. Every Sunday, on the Lord’s Day, we receive the body and blood of the Lord. In fact, a week from tomorrow is Maundy Thursday, on which we remember Christ’s institution of this sacrament. A solemn and holy day indeed.

So let’s take our time today to meditate on it carefully. We consider the Sacrament of the Altar today in light of our Catechism questions, and especially in view of Christ’s own words of institution – which are the main thing in this holy meal.

First, what is it? We Lutherans take Christ at his word. “This IS my body. This IS my blood.” And as simple as that sounds, it has tripped up many Christians for hundreds of years. Christ says it is, and so we believe it is His body and His blood. We don’t know how. We don’t try to explain how. But because our understanding is limited doesn’t mean Christ’s power or his word is. As he says, so it is. It’s always been that way.

He says, “let there be light”, and there is. He says, “Lazarus, come out” and he does. He says, “The Son of Man will rise on the third day” and he did, “just as he told you”. Jesus speaks the truth, and his word creates reality. So when he says, “This is my Body… This is my blood” these are no insignificant words. Those words mean something and those words DO something.

Do we believe his words? We should. But we don’t always. We put our own ideas before them. We try to make his word fit into our framework, rather than submitting our framework to his Word. We want our word to be the final word, rather than his. We take his words lightly – we take them for granted.

Ever since Adam and Eve took his first words of Law lightly – perhaps not believing, “in the day that you eat of it you shall die”. And thus by eating and not listening sin came into the world. But now by both hearing and eating and drinking do we receive the antidote to such sin. For God’s word creates a new reality in this Sacrament of the Altar.

The bread and wine are what he says they are, by the power of his word that says it. We are what he says we are – according to His law – we are sinners who stand condemned by our actions. But according to His gospel, we are forgiven, clean and new. We are righteous and holy. We are alive and will live forever. Because his words have said so.

This is all understood by Luther when he asks the question, “Where is this written?” He then quotes those words of Jesus as drawn from Matthew, Mark, Luke and St. Paul.

But this sacrament is not just Christ’s body and blood. It’s Christ’s body and blood given and shed FOR YOU.

It’s not his body and blood to be put in a box for safekeeping. It’s not his body and blood given for God’s benefit and pleasure. It’s not his body and blood given as a testimony against us or to accuse us by his perfect example of love which we will never live up to. It’s his body and blood given FOR YOU – for the forgiveness of your sins. There’s the benefit.

Holy Communion is so misunderstood by so many. Some Christians think of it as a sacrifice we offer to God, when it is a sacrament Christ offers to us. It’s not a good work that earns you a thing, but it is a good gift that gives you all good things (for where there is forgiveness of sins there is also life and salvation).

Some Christians think of the Supper as a memorial meal or some sort of symbol. But it is not simply a reminder of inner spiritual truth. This holy meal actually does something – it is given for a purpose – and that purpose is for the forgiveness of your sins. So that, “whoever believes these words has exactly what they say, forgiveness of sins”.

A Christian once told me, “Pastor, I won’t be going to communion this week. I’ve been particularly naughty all week and I just don’t think I deserve it”. What? For this very reason you SHOULD be at the rail, receiving the forgiveness Christ won at the cross. None of us deserve such a gift, but all of us need it. Those of us who feel and know our sin acutely need it all the more. Otherwise, it’s like saying, “I’m too sick to take my medicine – the only medicine that will heal my disease”.

And so Luther suggests we should be “worthy” and “prepared”. I’ve often said that the worthiness here mentioned is not one of righteousness but of appropriateness. Perhaps worthy isn’t even the best English word. The point is that for some the sacrament is a great benefit and gain, and for others, it can actually be a harm.

There are those who should not partake. Those who don’t believe what Jesus says, “This is my body. This is my blood” should not receive it. Those who don’t believe it does what he says, “for the forgiveness of your sins”, should not receive it. For if they treat this precious gift as anything less than it is, they sin against the very body and blood of Christ, and trample a precious jewel. In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul warns sternly against inappropriate reception of Christ’s body and blood, and says some can even “drink judgment on themselves” by communing unworthily, May this never be us, O Lord!

For those who believe in the Words of Christ – those who recognize his body and blood, seeing this holy meal for what it truly is – and who know that his body and blood are for us and are for the forgiveness of our sins – those are truly the ones who should be receiving and benefiting from this gift. May this always be us, O Lord!

What a blessing it is that God makes his word of promise available to us, not only in spoken and written, but also visible form. Just as Baptism attaches that word to simple water, so does Holy Communion see the Word along with simple bread and wine – and these humble, earthly vessels – everyday things – become vehicles for the grace of God. So we hear his word and read it, but we can also feel the water, and even taste the bread and wine. “O taste and see that the Lord is Good”. God’s miraculous blessings, won by Christ, given to us in such common forms.

It’s like Christ himself – who though he was Almighty God from eternity – humbled himself to become a man, in order to procure God’s blessings for mankind. He took on common, everyday, human flesh. He came not as a king, but a poor man, with no room at the inn and nowhere to lay his head. He had no great beauty that we should regard him. He was arrested as a common criminal, and hung to die a shameful death between two thieves. He didn’t even have his own grave. But in all this humility, shrouded by it and hidden behind it, was the very God of very God himself, working out our salvation.

Isn’t it just like Christ, then, to give himself, his body and blood, to us also in simple form? To take humble bread and wine, and through them offer rich, eternal, heavenly blessings untold? Communion with God himself and our fellow man. Forgiveness of ALL our sins. Eternal life. Power over sin for daily living. Assurance and peace. All these are ours when we receive the bread and wine, that is his body and blood. All this is ours when we believe and trust in his words of promise, “This is my body… This is my blood…. Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Sermon - 2 Samuel 2:1-10, 13 - Lent Midweek 5

“The 2 Parts of Confession”
2 Samuel 12:1-10,13
March 21, 2007

So far on these Wednesdays we have covered the 10 commandments, the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer and Holy Baptism. Today, perhaps the least known of the 6 chief parts of the Catechism: Confession.

As we said when we came to the Apostles' Creed, the word “confession” really means “same-saying”. That is, when we confess the Creed we are same-saying what God has already said about himself.

But mostly, when we think about the word “confession”, we think about confessing sin. As in, admitting or honing up to some deep dark secret. “I have a confession to make” is usually a warning to brace yourself before someone bears his soul. “True confessions” implies people divulging little-known and often embarrassing facts about themselves.

In the Church, we speak of the confession of sin, mostly as that part of the public worship service in which we recite a liturgical paragraph outlining our sin and guilt. And this is a very good thing. We need to say, and say publicly, that we are sinful and unclean. We need to confess that we are sinful in thought, word and deed. That we sin by what we do, and what we leave undone. That we sin against God and against our neighbor. Sin, sin, sin, and more sin.

When we make such a confession, we are also same-saying. But instead of same-saying about God what he says of himself, when we confess sins, we are same-saying about ourselves what God has said about us. “Yes, God, I am a sinner, as your word clearly shows”.

Confession of this type is no small matter. Some people are quite offended by the idea that the Church asks them to say they are “poor miserable sinners”. Perhaps others chafe at the temporal (or present) and eternal punishment such confession admits we deserve. It's never easy to admit you are a sinner. Take David, for example.

King David was a man's man. A veteran of many battles, who had ascended to the throne of Israel at last. But David was also a ladies' man, and when he fell into sin with Bathsheba she turned up pregnant by him. David had her husband Uriah put to death in a cover-up attempt. But you can't cover-up your sins from God. The Lord sent the prophet Nathan to call David out for this sin.

Nathan craftily told David a parable about a man who stole another man's beloved lamb. David, the king and final court of appeal in that land, thinking the story was for real, prescribed in his righteous anger the death penalty for such a sinner. And when Nathan boldly turned the accusing finger at David, “You are the man”, we can only imagine the gasps in the royal court. Nathan had dared to say what many probably knew but knew better than to say. But now the king's sin was out there on the table, publicly for all to see. And David had a choice again.

He could have responded with a harsh rebuke of his own, even putting the prophet to death. “How dare you insinuate such a thing against me, the king! Take him away! To the dungeon!” Nathan knew this was a possibility.

But David was a man after God's own heart. So instead, David went the route of confession. Nathan said, “David, you sinned” and David said the same. “I have sinned against the Lord,” he confessed. And implicit in that was the admission that he deserved the punishment of death he just prescribed.

But now we come to the second part of confession. For as our Catechism says, “Confession has two parts”. Only the first part is the admitting of sin. The second part is the Absolution. That is, the declaration of forgiveness.

Upon David's confession, Nathan said (and said immediately), “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.”

Nathan functions much like the pastor does, who announces God's forgiveness in Christ. “As a called and ordained servant of Christ, I forgive you all your sins”. Those words, those beautiful words of absolution really say the same thing, “even though you are a sinner, you will not die.” You will not die. For the one who won forgiveness has died in your place, and as he now lives so too shall you.

David was forgiven, and we are forgiven, only for the sake of Christ. Jesus Christ who as the Lamb of God sacrificed himself to take away the sins of the world. Jesus Christ, who won God's forgiveness for David's sheep-stealing, and who won God's forgiveness for all us sheep who have gone astray.

Confession – Christian confession assumes both the confession of sin, and the forgiveness that is God's response. It couldn't be any other way. In fact, the whole point of confession is getting to the forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins”. That’s his plan.

The point of confessing is certainly NOT to catalogue every single solitary sin we have ever committed. This was Luther’s burden as a monk, when he spent hours trying to pin down every sin in his life – but the more sin he confessed, the more sin he found to confess. God’s forgiveness in Christ is certainly bigger than our catalogue of sins – complete or not.

However, as the Catechism states, we should confess before God all sins (even those we are not aware of). But before the pastor we should confess only those sins which we know and feel in our hearts. That means, if a particular sin is troubling you – your pastor’s door is always open to hear that confession. But remember that confession has two parts. Your pastor stands ready to – publicly OR privately – offer and announce to you Christ’s own forgiveness. That’s our job.

We’ve really gotten away from private confession in our Lutheran churches, and it’s a great loss. Some people don’t even know that we Lutherans have private confession available. Still, we would never command or demand it, thus making a new law - but we offer it as another gift from God by which sinners may find the consolation of the Gospel.

And know also that your pastor is bound by solemn ordination vows to never divulge the sins confessed to him. As with God, they are gone – as far as the east is from the west. Another has said that when it comes to confession of sins, the pastor’s ear is a tomb. The sin that is confessed dies and is left behind there. You may even be surprised to know that there is an order for individual confession and absolution found in the hymnal, on page 292. Check it out sometime.

Confession has two parts. First we confess our sins, and second, that we receive absolution, that is, forgiveness. All this is for the sake of Christ. What a powerful gift of God. Let us treasure and use it always. Amen.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Because you can never have too many blogs...

Shameless self-promotion:

Check out my newest blogging endeavor, "Render Unto Caesar...".

The theme of the blog is Lutheran "Two Kingdom" theology.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Sermon - Lent Midweek 4 - John 3:1-7

Midweek Lent 4
John 3:1-7
“Not Just Plain Water”

So far in our Lenten midweek series on the Catechism, we have covered the 10 Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer. Today we come to the Sacrament of Holy Baptism.

While Baptism is recognized by most Christians somehow or another, We Lutherans have a particular emphasis on this gift of God. We see it as the great blessing it is, not only for the moment it happens, but for our entire life. Your baptism is a “gift that keeps on giving”.

In our reading, Jesus is talking to Nicodemus about the importance of being born again- being born of water and the Spirit. Throughout the New Testament this washing of rebirth and renewal is explained as a precious gift. There are many ways we could approach the topic. But let’s take our cue from the Small Catechism, and its four questions:
What is Baptism? What benefits does Baptism give? How can water do such great things? And What does such baptizing with water indicate?

What is Baptism?

It’s water, but it’s not JUST water. It’s water AND the word. The word of Jesus, that is, that commands us to go and make disciples by baptizing and teaching. Baptism is not our idea. It’s not our work. It is the work and gift of a God who wants to make disciples out of us sinners. It is not just a symbol of something else, but it is a reality.

And what word of God is connected to this sacrament? God’s own name. Not just, “Oh, by the way, I baptize you” but, “I baptize you in the NAME of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”. God’s name has a power of its own, as it is part and parcel of his very self. When his name is upon us – we belong to him. When his name is upon us – we are incorporated into his kingdom, yes even his family. And his name IS upon us, in Holy Baptism.

What benefits does Baptism give?

The chief blessing of baptism, is of course, forgiveness of sins. And that’s something we all need. You don’t have to look to far to see sin in this world. You can look right in the mirror. You can see it in your own life. Anyone who thinks he doesn’t have sins or thinks he commits no sins – what a deluded person that is. We need what baptism gives. We come filthy and in need of a good cleansing.

And so God forgives our sins, for the sake of Jesus’ death and resurrection. But God forgives our sins through Baptism. It is a means of grace. It is a way that God gets his gifts to us.

And where there is forgiveness of sins, other benefits naturally flow. People who are forgiven are free from the penalties of sin – and therefore death is defeated. People who are forgiven are no longer under the power of the devil. Forgiven people are also saved people – saved for eternity and being saved even now – as the Holy Spirit works to make our lives conform to Christ.

How can water do such great things?

Forgiveness, life, salvation, rescue from the devil….Sounds like a great deal, huh? Sound too good to be true? Your dad always said if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. But, no, baptism is the exception to that rule.

It is great, and baptism does great things. But not just the water alone. We don’t have some fountain of holy water sitting locked in the back closet of the church somewhere. The water is – just water. Nor is it some special magical power of the pastor, a holy hocus pocus that makes baptism so powerful. There is nothing added or nothing taken away from this plain, ordinary, everyday water… except… God’s word.

It’s the word of God that makes this special, that gives baptism power and effect. And what a powerful word that is! The word of God – the same word that created the world – creates us anew in baptism. The same word that ordered all things – re-orders us in baptism. The same word of the same Christ who said, “neither do I condemn you” and “son, your sins are forgiven” – is the same powerful, mighty word that is the engine of his gift of Holy Baptism. Water by itself is just water. But with God’s word, this water becomes a life-giving flood of grace and mercy. It is the very river of life, the stream of salvation, the fountain of forgiveness. Overflowing, gushing with great things – blessings from God for you.

What does such baptizing with water indicate?

As I said, it’s not a one-time thing, this baptism. It’s not a historical trivia from when you were a baby. Like your first tooth. Your first haircut. When you learned to walk. No.

Holy Baptism is a daily benefit to the Christian. God’s forgiving word of promise, once given when the water was applied – that word still stands long after the head is dried off. His word lasts forever. His promise is for all time, and for every day.

And we return to those waters every day in contrition and repentance. Each day, as we remember our sin and sorrow over it, we remember our baptism. As we remember who God has made us to be, we turn from our sin and toward Him in faith.

And the Old Adam, our old sinful nature, is drowned and destroyed once again. And each day, out of that baptismal water, the New Adam arises to live for God in Christ.

Or to put it another way, Baptism is a gift given once by God with benefits to be drawn every day. For as his children, we stand in his forgiveness. As we bear the sign of the cross on foreheads and hearts, we live in the shadow of Christ’s cross and the forgiveness won there. As we hear God’s promises once made but lasting forever, we take comfort in the blessings of this miraculous washing, this flood of forgiveness that has been lavished on us.

Thank God for the gift of Holy Baptism. Not just plain water, but water with His word – which brings boatloads of blessings each and every day.

"God’s own child, I gladly say it, I am baptized into Christ!"


Friday, March 09, 2007

Sermon - Matthew 6:5-13 - Midweek Lent 3

Midweek Lent 3
Matthew 6:5-13
“Pray This Way”

I’ve never been a fan of “How-to” sermons. “How to raise a healthy teenager” or “How to affair-proof your marriage”. Sermons are about what Jesus does for you, not how you can do something for him (or worse) for yourself.

But here in our Lenten series on the catechism, we come do the Lord’s Prayer. And in the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus gives us this prayer of prayers, he gives it as a “how to”. Odd.

“Don’t pray like this. And don’t pray like that. But here’s how to pray…” he says. Is Jesus simply giving us a new law? A new set of commands about how we must approach God in prayer? Is this a school lesson in the how-to’s of proper prayer etiquette?

Is it all about me and what I should do or must do or fail to do?
Or is there actually Gospel here, good news for you and me? Consider the Lord’s Prayer today, also with the help of Dr. Luther, and see how Jesus is giving much more than a practicum on prayer.

Jesus does give instructions, though. He addresses two poor patterns of prayer. One is the “prayer to be seen” and the other the “prayer to be heard”. The “prayer to be seen” is the kind of prayer that isn’t really a prayer but is a public show. So that everyone can see how pious you really are. I don’t know how many of us make a scene of our prayers like those ancient Pharisees did, but pride is always lurking. Do you ever feel puffed up about your church attendance? Do you ever feel better than so-and-so because, well, “I live out my faith. I give money and time and I help with this-and-that at church” And if you mention it to someone in conversation, well, we don’t mind if they think better of us. Because after all, we are good Christians, right? Can you hear the voice of pride squeaking and squawking?

Then there are the “prayers to be heard”. Like the Gentiles, Jesus said, who rattled on and on expecting their many words would have the desired effect. Maybe this isn’t exactly us either. But they were praying hard, and we can pray hard too. And maybe we think if we just pray hard enough or long enough or use the right words, then God will have to do what we want. He’ll have to give me what I want. After all, doesn’t it say, “ask and ye shall receive”? But this kind of prayer turns God into a butler at best. Or an eager bellhop who stands ready to do our selfish bidding. Jesus says, “don’t heap up empty phrases”. So what should our phrases be filled with?

Jesus gives the model prayer. The Lord’s Prayer. “Pray like this”. But it’s more than an instruction manual or even an outline or a lesson on prayer (though it is all those things). The Lord’s Prayer shows us a Lord who wants to give us good things. A Lord who knows what we need better than we do. A Lord who brings daily bread and daily forgiveness. A powerful prayer. A perfect prayer.

Our Father, who art in heaven – Jesus shows that God is our loving Father, not our angry ruler. He is a heavenly Father, whose power to give us good things exceeds all earthly fathers.

Hallowed is his name – God’s name is holy whether we pray or not. But here we pray that we too might keep it holy in our lives.

Let your kingdom come – God’s reign and rule in the hearts of man comes – when and where he wants it. But we want it to come and to increase among us too.

Thy will be done – Again, this happens whether we pray or not. But we do pray that God’s will would be done in our lives. That I, personally, would live as God would have me. And that I, personally would receive his forgiveness when I fail to.

God’s name, God’s kingdom, and God’s will. First we seek the things of God in prayer. The rest of what we ask flows from these three.

Daily Bread – Daily, that is, today’s portion. Don’t worry about tomorrow, Jesus says. God will provide for our needs. “Give us bread” Lord, means that even when we think we are earning it ourselves, everything we have is still from his generous hand.

Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. We love because we’ve been loved. We are merciful because we’ve been shown mercy. We forgive because we are forgiven.

A trespass is “going where you shouldn’t go”. And we do that all the time when we sin. We go where God forbids. But Jesus went where he didn’t have to go – to the cross – to forgive such trespassing. His love has no boundaries – it is wide enough to include all boundary-breakers. But it’s also powerful enough to make us forgiving too.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Our enemies abound. Sin, death and the devil. Temptations and sufferings meet us at every turn. But fear not. Jesus wouldn’t tell you to pray for deliverance if he didn’t think God would answer yes. God does guard us from temptation. He does deliver us from evil.

He delivers us from the accusations of the Devil by forgiving all our offenses. He delivers us from our own sinful nature – by washing us with his baptism. And he delivers us from the final evil – death itself – with the new life, now and eternal, that he gives.

Our Father in heaven would hear our prayer. Jesus tells us to ask for those good gifts – God’s name, God’s kingdom, God’s will – our daily bread, our forgiveness, and our deliverance. And God grants all this and more only for the sake of Christ – the only begotten Son who by his cross has made the Father, Our Father.

Pray like this. Pray to the good and gracious God who would give you such blessings in His Son. Pray as Jesus taught, assisted by His Spirit.

The Lord’s Prayer, in as much as it is a “how-to”, tells us much and more about the “who” and the “what” of prayer. The who is the gracious Father, who welcomes our prayers in the name of his Son. The what is everything for which we pray – and more – good gifts he wants to give, and for which we look to him in faith.

Our Father in heaven, grant all these things for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Sermon - Lent Midweek - Romans 10:8-17

Midweek Lent 2
Romans 10:8-17
“Confessing the Creed”

Romans 10 is one of the many passages which highlight the importance of the Christian’s confession. To confess means, literally, to “same-say”, or to repeat together, what has already been said. In confession of our sins, we are same-saying what God has already said of us – that we fall short of his law. In confessing our faith – we are same saying those truths of Holy Scripture on which our faith is founded. So a confession is a restatement or a rewording or a summary of, very simply, the Word of God.

We Lutherans like to confess. Lutherans are, traditionally, a “confessional” church. The historical documents which first identified Lutheran teaching are called the Lutheran Confessions. In those writings, which we still hold to today, and which your pastors have vowed to uphold…. In those writings are laid out a true and faithful exposition of Christian teaching. The Confessions are: The Augsburg Confession, the Smalcald Articles, the Treatise on the Power and the Primacy of the Pope, and the Formula of Concord, along with the Large and Small Catechism.

But we Lutherans also confess a continuity with the ancient church. And so we also include, in our confessions, the three great creeds of the church – the Athanasian, the Nicene, and the Apostles’ Creed. The Apostles’ Creed which we come to today in our series on the Catechism.

The Apostles’ Creed is a very old summary statement of what the Apostles taught. It has been confessed by the church for most of our 2000 year history. It is a Trinitarian statement about our Triune God, and what he does for us. And it sets forth in orderly fashion, just who God is – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – And just what each person of the Godhead does for you and me.

God the Father Almighty – is the maker of Heaven and Earth. This means that he has created everything that exists and still sustains it. Everything that exists includes you, too! Everything that you are and have is a gift of the Creator. As Luther says, “All this his does without any merit or worthiness in me”. We don’t deserve to exist, or to receive food, clothing, shelter, family, friends, possessions etc… But God is good and he provides for us abundantly, even for the wicked.

Likewise, we deserve nothing given by the Son. But, He, Jesus Christ, purchases and wins us from sin, death and the devil, not with silver or Gold, but with his holy precious blood and his innocent suffering and death. The creed restates the major steps in Christ’s work for us: his conception, birth, suffering, death, resurrection, ascension, reign and return in judgment. Each of these a subject worthy of many sermons.

And in the same way, the Spirit does his work for us, calling us to faith and giving us gifts of forgiveness and life. And he does it without any of our reason or strength. He does it for us, and for the whole Christian church – the communion of saints. And at the last day he will raise all believers to eternal life with Christ.

Our Creator, our Redeemer and our Sanctifier. Our three-in-one God who does many and wonderful things for us, though we sinners don’t deserve it. This is what we confess when we say the Apostles’ Creed.

It’s also a Baptismal creed. The Apostles’ Creed has long been the confession of faith associated with the baptismal rite. When a person was baptized, they confessed the faith into which they were being baptized, in the words of the Apostles’ Creed. We do the same today, even as we say that creed on behalf of infants who are receiving the gift of Baptism. And as we repeat that confession throughout our lives, we are reminded of our own baptismal washing, confession, and vows.

We are baptized into the name of God – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – and all that that entails. We are children of the Father, by baptism. We are redeemed by the Son, Jesus, through baptism. And the Spirit makes and keeps us holy, through our baptism.

Paul says, in Romans 10, “if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”

Believing and confessing go together. Faith is the foundation for our confession. And our faith is always in Jesus Christ and his work for us. That he is Lord, and that God raised him from the dead. This is the heart of the Apostles’ teaching, and the lynchpin of the Apostles’ Creed too. Without Jesus, we have no access to the Father. Without Jesus, the Spirit would have no Savior to point to. Without Jesus and his resurrection, our faith would be in vain, and our confession pointless.

So what if God made the world? How is God disposed toward me? That’s the question. And the only true and happy answer to that is in Christ, who makes us holy and righteous children of God. Who sends his Spirit to call us to faith in him, and to help us hold fast to his promises, and confess them.

The Apostles’ Creed is more than just something we say in church, to take up a few minutes between the readings and the sermon. It’s an expression of the faith that has been handed down to us in Christ’s church, and the faith the Spirit has enlivened in our hearts. It is same-saying what God has said. That he has created, redeemed, and sanctified us. And he still provides for all our needs of body and soul. It’s a statement of our belief, based on the eternal truth his word. God speaks, therefore, I believe, and therefore I confess:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ his only Son, and in the Holy Spirit. In that triune name, Amen.