03-11-18 “Apostle’s Creed”
NT: Ephesians 2:1-10
Gospel: John 3:14-21
A man found a butterfly cocoon outside his window. One day a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could, and it could go no further.
So the man decided to help the butterfly. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon.
The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time.
Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.
What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were God’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.
This sermon series has illustrated how we struggle with the parameters of our faith the same as we struggle with our Lent journey. We have discussed the merits of the law versus faith. We have discussed our responsibility within the law and the faith and how they work together. Hopefully we are establishing the groundwork for a lifetime of faith and faithful service.
The Disciples started us on the right path, but that path had a hard beginning. Like that butterfly I believe God does allow struggles in our life, sometimes we need them for our very existence and growth into new life. What you and I believe is a result of the the challenges and hardships those early disciples faced. They had the law and could understand it pretty much as is. Then came Jesus and things got a little confused.
After Jesus death, faith became even harder to understand due to the new beliefs that were emerging about the Lord. The law was literally set in stone on the tablets of the Ten Commandments. Faith on the other hand was far from written in stone. It was written on human hearts. Flawed human hearts and with every heart that came in contact with Jesus, the understandings changed ever so slightly. Why? Because Jesus is contextual; a poor person understands Jesus’ words differently than a rich person. A woman hears Jesus’ words differently than a man. A Pharisee heard Jesus’ differently than a fisherman. God desired to move us from being blind adherents to the law to spiritually sighted followers of Jesus. This was going to be a difficult transition, the same as it is for a butterfly to gain flight.
Some of the biggest questions concerning those who were asked to follow Jesus were – Who is Jesus? What is the Holy Spirit? What is the nature of God?
They were all living in the darkness, despite the law, they were depraved. Yet God still loved them and wanted to bring them into redemption. Jesus is the bridge of that gap as we discussed last week. Okay but who is he?
The early church faced this question. Since we all seem to hear Jesus’ words differently, how can they come up with a statement that all could agree upon about who Jesus, the Holy Spirit and God were?
They were given the law, the prophets, and faith as the templates, now they were challenged to bring this all together into one unified church. Christians developed a Creed. Just as in the beginning of the United States we had, rich and poor, male and female, slave and free, yet, there was an unseen force that brought us together – the desire for freedom through God.
We developed the articles of independence that articulate our creed and we have the bill of rights that have expanded our view of free living. These ideas bind a whole variety of people together as one.
Our ideology of independence came form the theology of Christianity. Freedom with accountability. Christians needed a Creed as a core set of ideas that would bind them together. Now that the early Christians had a creed, they had the beginnings of an organized Body. They were soon to be released to accomplish what God wanted them to do.
I believe they were guided to a creed by God. Today we have the Apostles Creed to help us identify what we believe. If the people would not adhere to the law, perhaps the teachings of Jesus would help hold this new church together.
The creed was the foundation of the burgeoning church.
When Paul wrote to the people of Ephesus, the church was about 300 years from the Apostles Creed. Still the Apostle sets the stage – He writes that God’s grace is not achieved by works but by faith. People are not saved because of strict adherence to the law but a belief in the Son of God.
He writes “Grace is not earned by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Before we can do good works we need to know whom we do the good works for.
Before we can believe in Jesus we must know something of what we believe.
Let us recite the Apostle’s Creed together NOW.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;*
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic** church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
Do these words resonant in your heart? Is this what you believe? Does anyone not believe this? As I stand here looking out among all of you I know we have many different people with slightly different theologies, yet we have come to an agreement on at least this one thing.
Unfortunately we still have sin, sin is like that pair of scissors in our butterfly story. We allow other forces to manipulate God’s perfect plan and we sometimes rush or push or try to force faith into what we want it to be. In these cases we never allow ourselves to fully develop. Many times that development is slow or it hurts or it doesn’t make sense. So we cut a bigger hole and find ourselves in real trouble.
Faith has never been about following the self, it is about following Jesus. We have talked about overcoming our struggles between law and faith, between works and grace yet we are still not in Heaven, the end has yet to happen. We have work to do. The challenge of the Lenten journey is still before us. With the creed in our heads and hearts, where do we go from here? We follow the Good News and go wherever Jesus leads us. Jesus may lead us through the most challenging tiny hole in our life. That hole represents that small hole the butterfly should have gone through. Just as the liquid from the butterfly’s body flowed into it’s wings so it could fly, so does Jesus blood flow from his body to give us life.
Without Jesus we would spend our lives crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. We would never be able to fly or see like Jesus without the challenge of believing who Jesus, the Holy Spirit and God truly are.
Some refused to follow Jesus because of the law.
Others wanted to follow, not because thy were inherently lawbreakers but people who wanted to see something new. They wanted to see more than the world around them had to offer. Jesus was about giving that sight.
Maybe because the bar was raised on them and they saw the possibility of doing even more than the law could allow them to do. Not lawbreaking but law expanding – to go beyond the law, never breaking it, but fulfilling it in ways they never dreamed possible. I believe that is the sight Jesus is talking about.
Leader: Go forth in peace. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all
People: And also with you.