Tumbling in the Sand
A sermon/reflection from Wednesday, March 7th, 2012. Texts: John 12:37-43, Mark 12:28-34, The Nicene Creed
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Last Wednesday (if we hadn’t been snow/sleeted/iced out), we would have heard a different text, from Mark actually, that was to frame all of our Wednesdays in Lent together this year. It is from the 12th Chapter of Mark:
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.
Hear O Israel…
Love the Lord your God with all your Heart…
Love the Lord your God with all your Soul…
Love the Lord your God with all your Mind…
And Love the Lord your God with all your strength…
Last week we were going to focus on Hear O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.
It’s something sort of like a creed—sort of.
Something that told the Israelites about the God that they were to love,
told them about who this God was and what this God had done for them:
because this assurance of the oneness of God was given to them in the context of the acts of God.
This was the God that delivered them from the land of bondage and made them a people.
The God that was One—unchanging—Only.
And this was the God that they should love.
Not because they should love God but because of what God had already done for them and because God was their God.
The Creeds that we recite week in and week out teach us similarly.
They teach us about God—about this God that we should love. But more than that, they help us to love God, if we let them, by deeply settling into our hearts, by showing us how God loves; by reminding us of how God lives us.
So, the other thing that I’m going to be juggling in these reflections over the course of the Wednesdays in Lent is the Creed—specifically the Nicene Creed:
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary
and became truly human.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
We don’t generally think of the Creeds and think about love. We might think about loving God with one’s mind and intellect; but we definitely don’t think the Creed has much to do with love that comes from the heart (which is the focus of this week: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart.”)
But, in fact, the first time I learned about the power of the creed was when I heard it said from the heart by the family of a man who lay dying in a hospital bed. They prayed together the Lord’s prayer and the Ave Maria and then they spoke Apostles’ Creed. In their speaking of these texts—even the creed—they were not intelectualizing their faith: they were letting the ancient faith of clouds of witnesses expressed in these words hold them, love them, support them as they waited as one they loved died.
Sometimes we say when we memorize something that we know it “by heart.” Such can be the memorization and speaking of the Creeds. And then the knowing of the acts of God expressed in this Creed are also held in our heart. And they can support our heart when we most need them to.
Besides this, you might find it hard to believe, but, there are many “heart words” in this Creed, as most expressions of faith tend to have. The thing is faith and belief in a God of love will find itself saturated by love and passion and every attempt to express the substance of that faith will end up dripping with those words of love, of passion, too.
Just check out the potentially dry sounding Augsburg Confession sometime, or even more so, the Apology to the Augsburg Confession. These documents are anything but dry. People who are confessing their faith do it out of love and passion and desire: not out of academic curiosity.
And so this creed, even, which seems so dry, probably because we hear it so often, drips with words of Love. Here are just a few:
maker of all
maker … of all—even us!
even the stars and the flowers and the dust.
the Maker of everything that surrounds us and holds us
and sustains us and scares us and makes us bow in awe
—greater that all of that is the God in whom we believe.
as in conceived (well in the sense of the male part of that process)
—loved into being, a part of God,
wholly God, entirely loved into being forever and ever and ever
—a love that never ends a love that creates and is ever creating community and relationship and intimacy
—and a love with which we are included.
–really for us
—there is nothing false about the way that God became human:
just like you and me.
REAL flesh and blood
REAL love and sacrifice.
REAL, not pretend, not a mask, not a fake.
Truth in flesh and blood.
Truth—like poetry, like love—walking with us.
For our sake
—really, for us
for you and for me
he will come again
—we will not be left alone. We will never be abandoned
by this love that will not let us go
the giver of life
—life, abundant, free, amazing live that comes from Love, that radiates from the love of God
the love that even dies
and yet cannot die
for us, given
—we know deep in us
we, irrationally, love this life given and believe with outrageous hope that nothing, nothing
not even death
will keep God from giving us life again.
Let it be.
Let it be.
Let it dwell deep in me and bring it to be in me and we.
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