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 The historical documents which first identified Lutheran teaching are called the Lutheran Confessions.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.

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