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Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service.
August 27, 2023
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
For a little bit of a refresher from last week – the creeds are written documents that came into being when the early church was debating theological and philosophical questions about God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit. And so they were written to give some uniformity to what everyone agreed on about the Trinity.
When the creeds were written, the writers turned to scripture as they crafted them. And when we remember that connection, it keeps the creeds from being just some words that we speak from memory and opens the opportunity for them to be a conversation with God’s word.
We most often use the Apostles’ and the Nicene creeds in our worship and they’re divided into three articles. The first is about God. The second article, the one we’re talking about today, is about Jesus and God at work in Jesus. And the third, which we’ll talk about next week, is about the Holy Spirit.
Last week, when we looked at the connection between the first article and scripture, we talked about how that connection helps us understand that we believe in a living God. A God that is active and at work in our world today.
That belief flows into the second article – the one about Jesus. And even though we can examine the articles individually, they aren’t separate from each other, because God and Jesus are not separate from each other.
When we confess that we believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, we confess that we believe that God came to us as Jesus. That God came to us as a human being, and walked among us and lived our experiences.
And that’s more than what we actually say in the words of the Creeds. In the Creeds, we go from Jesus’ birth to the night of his arrest. It skips over quite a bit. And the parts that are skipped are important.
In John’s gospel, the origins of Jesus are clearly stated. The language is a little like a tongue-twister, but John sets it up from the start that Jesus and God are the same being. And that, as Jesus, God came to dwell among us – not as some untouchable divine being. But as an actual human being that experienced the beauty and the messiness of life.
And we know from the gospels and other New Testament writings that Jesus wasn’t well-received by everyone. He upset the status quo. He upset the established leadership structure. All because he shared God’s grace and love with everyone, and said that it was for everyone.
When the leaders had had enough, they arrested Jesus and crucified him. It’s important to pay attention to that. The person we believe to be God, died a torturous death. And by the world’s standards, dying on a cross was the ultimate symbol of weakness and powerlessness.
But we know that it’s in the cross that God showed the greatest strength. Because God showed us that death doesn’t have the final word. God does, and God’s word is life. And within that life is love and grace and mercy and compassion and peace.
An instrument of death is now a reminder of life. It’s the life that Jesus lived. It’s the life that shows us who God is.
And what all of this teaches us is that [,despite what the world says,] the values of the cross are not the values of the world, because the values of Jesus aren’t the values of the world. As our accompanying reading from 1 Corinthians tells us, the cross is foolish by human standards – not because all Christians are persecuted. But because [it reorders our priorities].
When we see the cross, when we hold the ones we wear around our neck as jewelry, it reminds us of Jesus’ life. It reminds us that, in our lives, power and money are not values that we should go after. The cross reminds us to value relationships and love as the more secure things. It reminds us to value life.
It isn’t an easy life to live, and it’s one where a Christian isn’t defined by a checklist of characteristics, but instead by a series of loving interactions.
So, when we confess our faith in Jesus, that we believe in the way of Jesus and that his way guides how we live our lives, we confess that we prioritize relationships and loving people over being popular, or having the most money or the fanciest house or the most toys.
To the world, we confess that we’re foolish. But in our affirmation of faith, we confess the wisdom within that foolishness.
When I was in grad school, I was involved in the Lutheran Campus Ministry group. One of my friends in the group, Jason – who is now a pastor, told us that when he was in high school, his Sunday school teacher gave them the assignment of living as though Jesus was literally walking alongside them.
And his teacher wasn’t talking about just remembering that Jesus is present in other people. But like – introduce Jesus to your friends, include him in conversations, offer to share your lunch with him, decide together what you were going to do after school. All of it.
And they only had to do it for a day, but Jason took it seriously. And in high school, he was one of the popular kids – he played sports and was well-liked. And even then he was also a person of deep faith. And when he told us about this, it was probably ten years after it happened.
And he said, “I love Jesus. And I know he walks with me every day. And my friends know about my faith and how I try to live my life. But do you have any idea how ridiculous it felt to say to people, ‘Hey – meet my friend Jesus’ when there’s no one physically standing there?”
When we live what we say we believe about Jesus, it’s risky. Not because it puts us at risk for persecution, but because it puts us at risk for being called foolish.
When we confess our faith, we confess that we believe God came to us as Jesus. God came to us as a human being, walked among us and lived our experiences. We wouldn’t have been able to receive the gift of salvation and grace otherwise.
In U.S. society, it’s easy to skip over the depth of this confession, or affirmation, of faith and let it just become words on a page.
But when we live what we say we believe, everything changes. Maybe we don’t directly introduce Jesus to our friends or other people that we meet, but he shows up through our love and care for one another.
Instead of only making sure we have enough for ourselves, we also work to make sure others have enough. We listen to one another when we disagree on things like politics, and find commonality together with accountability because neither side is 100% right.
We make sure people have food to eat when they’re sick and can’t get to the store or prepare meals on their own. We arrange for rides to doctor’s appointments. We pray for the people we love and for the ones who get on our last nerve.
When we live what we say we believe, we live in response to the love God brought to us as Jesus – not to earn it, but because we’ve already received it. We recognize the value, the cost, of it. And instead of taking it for granted, we treat it as the precious gift that it is.
And by the world’s standards, that is foolish. But by Jesus’ standards, it’s the only way to live. Thanks be to God! Amen.