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Sermon for September 9, 2018: Sermon Series on The Apostles’ Creed

The Apostles’ Creed: A Sermon Series (Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost)

First Article: “Creator and Creatures”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

September 9, 2018

 

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

          My favorite musical is Les Misérables. The convict Jean Valjean is released on parole. Life’s circumstances dictated that his parole be broken. Beginning a new life and rising from the bottom of society, he becomes mayor of a town with a new name and identity. Eventually, the authorities led by Inspector Javert arrest an ex-con of whom he is convinced is the parole-breaking Valjean. In the song, “Who Am I?” Jean Valjean searches within himself for his identity.

He thinks that man is me
He knew him at a glance!
That stranger he has found
This man could be my chance!
Why should I save his hide?
Why should I right this wrong
When I have come so far
And struggled for so long?

If I speak, I am condemned.
If I stay silent, I am damned!

Can Valjean turn a blind eye while another goes back to prison in his place? No. He confesses.

My soul belongs to God, I know
I made that bargain long ago
He gave me hope when hope was gone
He gave me strength to journey on
Who am I? Who am I?
I am Jean Valjean!

Who am I? Who are you? And who is God? The First Article of the Creed invites us to ask and explore these very questions.

          “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” In the Large Catechism, Luther explains these words so simply and beautifully. “This is what I mean and believe, that I am God’s creature.”[1] You and I are creations of God, creatures of God, who belong to Him and whom He richly and daily provides for. Dr. Luther continues, “’I mean that He has given and constantly preserves [Psalm 36:6] for me my body, soul, and life, my members great and small, all my senses, reason, and understanding, and so on. He gives me food and drink, clothing and support, wife and children, domestic servants, house and home, and more. Besides, He causes all created things to serve for the uses and necessities of life. These include the sun, moon, and stars in the heavens, day and night, air, fire, water, earth, and whatever it bears and produces. They include birds and fish, beasts, grain, and all kinds of produce [Psalm 104]. They also include whatever else there is for bodily and temporal goods, like good government, peace, and security.’ So we learn from this article that none of us owns for himself, nor can preserve, his life nor anything that is here listed or can be listed. This is true no matter how small and unimportant a thing it might be. For all is included in the word Creator.”[2]

          We are His creatures and God is our Creator. That’s our relationship to Him. The Father alone with the Son and Holy Spirit, the one, Triune God, created heaven and earth, “all things visible and invisible,” (Nicene Creed) out of nothing, simply by His Word of command, “Let there be.” “Besides this One only, I regard nothing else as God. For there is no one else who could create heaven and earth.”[3]

          How does knowing both our identity as God’s creatures and His identity as our Creator shape our relationship to Him and to His world? In other words, what difference does it make for our lives today that God is the Creator and we are His creatures?

          Because the Scriptures reveal to us that God is the Creator of heaven and earth, He is my Creator and yours. David writes in Psalm 139, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Ps. 139:12-16 ESV). Our entire life is a gift from God given to us through our parents as He formed us using the means of procreation. We then confess in the First Article of the Creed that “God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them” (Small Catechism, emphasis added).

          As creatures of our heavenly Father, we not only have a relationship with Him but also with the world that He created and in which we live with others. Every person (regardless of age, sex, race, and ethnicity) has received life from God just as you and I have. In that respect, they are no different from us. They are God’s creatures given life just like us. Then there are also all the other living creatures that have received life from God and depend on His care just like we do—dogs, cats, cows, sheep, pigs, horses, butterflies, sparrows, robins, geese, ducks, worms. And the rest of creation too—the universe, planets, land, sea, the whole material world—depends on God for its ongoing existence just as you and I do.

          In our relationship to God the Father, Maker of heaven and earth, we understand ourselves to be His creatures. With our bodies and souls, with our “eyes, ears, and all [our] members, [our] reason and all [our] senses,” you and I relate to God, and to other people who are truly His creations and creatures just as we are. And we also relate to other living things and to God’s whole creation.

          But it is also with our eyes, ears, hands, body and soul, money and possessions, and with everything that we have that we sin daily. Our relationship with our Creator is not what it should be. We, the creatures, often consider ourselves to be “creators” who are in charge of our lives in every way, shape, and form. That’s the very reason God gave us Commandment number 1, “You shall have no other gods before me.” We are to “fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” He is the Creator and I am the creature and He is the only one I am to regard as God because no one else could create heaven and earth. And yet . . . in our sinful nature, you and I rebel against God. We, the clay, tell the potter, God, how things ought to be. The word of the Lord spoken by Isaiah, “You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, ‘He did not make me’; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, ‘He has no understanding’?” (Isa. 29:16 ESV). Yet, that is what we do every time we sin and reject His Word and Commandments. We think we know better than the God who made us and gave us life and everything we need. Our rebellion in sin destroyed the relationship that we the creatures had with God our Father and Creator.

          Our sin and rebellion against our Creator have also destroyed our relationships with His other creatures. We often think of ourselves better than another person who we deem different from us because of ethnicity, position, economic status, age, and a myriad of other reasons. We label ourselves “most important” to the exclusion of others, including those closest to us—spouse, children, friends. We don’t always regard other people as God’s creatures who have been given life and life’s blessings just as we have. And it is also true that we don’t always do a good job of caring for the world which God has made for us to live in. We abuse His creation and misuse it to our glory but not to His.

          Our relationship to God as Creator and we as His creatures was in need of repair. Our relationship with other people was in need of restoration. Sin and its consequences and effects had to be undone which is something that we could not do. That is why the Father in love sent the Son into His creation to redeem and restore it to Himself.

          Jesus brought about this restoration and reconciliation with God the Father by actually suffering separation from the Father as He bled and died on the cross bearing the sins of the world. On the cross, Jesus’ relationship with the Father was torn apart because of the sin of the world that He was bearing as if it were His own. He cried out, “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken Me?” On the cross, Jesus stood in our place. He endured God’s hostility. He was at enmity with God. He was punished with the pains and torments of hell itself. He did this for you and me so that our relationship with the Father might be fully restored. His sacrificial death on the cross has brought about our unity with God. We are once again reconciled to God through faith in Christ. The relationship is no longer broken. Our sins are forgiven. We are at peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1). The division caused by sin has been healed by the blood of Jesus shed for us on the cross. Romans 5, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Rom. 5:10-11 ESV).

          Through Jesus, we know the Father who made heaven and earth (John 14:9). We know the Father who loved us and sent His One-of-a-Kind Son to be our Savior from sin. We are now reconciled to God through faith in His Son. Our relationship to Him is where we know and understand Him to be our Creator and we ourselves as His creatures who call Him “Father.” And it is this relationship with the Father through Christ that changes our relationships with other people. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are able to see others in light of Christ’s love regardless of who they are. The sources of division and hatred become sources of blessed and joyful celebration. We have a relationship in Christ with others that is able to go beyond skin color or ethnic or economic background because we are all creatures of our heavenly Father with the gift of life and the gift of new life by grace through faith in Jesus.

          Now, then, who are you? Who am I? We are God’s creatures. He is our Creator. He is our Father in heaven who, through the gift of His Son, Jesus, has restored us to a right relationship to Him and to others. We are new creations in Christ who are able to love God and our neighbors as our Father first loved us in Jesus. What an identity! What a relationship with God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth! Amen.

 

[1] Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 400.

[2] Ibid., 400.

[3] Ibid., 399.


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