Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost – August 20 2023

Posted on August 28, 2023, Pastor: Pastor Lara Forbes

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 20, 2023

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost 

Genesis 1:1-5
Matthew 6:30-34

Worship Service Video Sermon Video Sermon  Audio

Sermon Text:

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable to you, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

 I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

We make this confession almost every Sunday when we gather for worship because the creed, or Affirmation of Faith, is one of the pillars of our worship service and of our faith.

The word “creed” comes to us from the Latin word credo, which means “I believe.”

[1]And there are three creeds that are normally used during a worship service – the Apostles’, the Nicene, and the Athanasian. They are statements that serve to outwardly and publicly show the core matters of our faith. And they’re ecumenical, which means they’re all accepted and used by the overwhelming majority of the world’s Christians.

[2]Like the scriptures, the creeds are written documents. Their origin is in the history of the early church when theological and philosophical questions about Jesus were widely debated – and outright argued – among Christians.

So, the creeds were written to give some uniformity to what everyone agreed on about Jesus and, really, the Trinity.

When the creeds were written, the writers turned to scripture as they crafted them. But their placement in the worship service doesn’t clearly reflect that and it almost isolates them from scripture.

But when we remember the connection between the scriptures and the creeds as we confess our faith, 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.

For example, when we say, “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth” we recall the opening words of Genesis. In English, those words most often translated as “in the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth.”

Sums it up, right? Except we know that there are a lot of details that went into creating the heavens and the earth. Genesis goes on to give us an account of the order in which God created everything. And on the seventh day, God didn’t stop creating altogether; God rested. Because God continued to have a relationship with creation.

And when we connect that to the gospels and other New Testament writings, it becomes clear that God still has that relationship and is active in our world because God loves creation and cares for it.

In today’s accompanying reading from Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is speaking to the crowd in the Sermon on the Mount. And he’s talking about how God clothes the grass with the lilies of the field. And that if God so clothes the grass, God will also care for us.

In the Large Catechism, Martin Luther puts it this way: “to say ‘I believe in God the Father,’ is to say, ‘I hold and believe that I am a creature of God; that is, that God has given and constantly sustains my body, soul, and life.’”

In other words, when we confess, “I believe – or we believe – in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth” we confess a living God who is still active in our world today.

And that’s important because there’s a lot going on in our world that makes it seem like God isn’t active. But when we remember that we believe God is active, it opens our hearts to God’s activity and shapes how we respond to what’s going on around us.

When I served in Costa Rica, I coordinated short term mission trips for ELCA congregations and accompanied them while they were in country. And they worked and built relationships with the Costa Rican Lutheran Church communities.

One of the communities was La Carpio – and I’ve shared stories about this community with you before. It’s northwest of San José, the capital city, and it was settled by Nicaraguan immigrants and is now a large community. But it’s poor. Because people who immigrate from Nicaragua to Costa Rica are treated as well as people who immigrate to the US from south of its border.

While I was there, the government designated part of La Carpio as the location for San Jose’s newest garbage dump. There are rules and laws and policies about where to put garbage dumps. One of them is that they need to be located a certain distance from populated areas.

This one is about a kilometer away from the church in Carpio – which it’s super close to where people live, and much closer than it should be. And it was placed there, instead of farther out, because that location puts it out of view of a luxury hotel that’s up on the hill.

We took one of the ELCA groups on a walking tour of that part of Carpio after they arrived because it was near the church, and we wanted them to have an idea of the neighborhood the church serves.

That night, when the group had their check-in time and devotions, one of the questions the leader asked was, “Where did you see God today?”

And one of the women answered, “When we were standing along the fence at the dump, looking at the garbage pit, there was this purple flower growing out from between a couple of rocks. And it was the only one. I looked and there wasn’t anything else growing there. That’s where I saw God.”

When we confess, “I believe – or we believe – in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth” we confess a living God who is still active in our world today. We confess that we believe in a God that grows a random purple flower along the fence line at a garbage dump.

And that’s important because it opens our hearts to God’s presence in the people and places and events around us, and shapes how we respond to them.

If we’re consciously thinking about what we confess as we profess our faith, we remember our connection to God, to one another, and to the created order – to the planet on which we live. When we consciously think about what we confess, the creed isn’t just words we say or an intellectual agreement about who God is.

It’s a confession of what we believe about God, and that goes beyond what’s in our heads. It’s in our hearts, too.

And when we’re paying attention to that, we recognize that God is present and at work everywhere. God is in the people who leave their countries of origin for reasons most of us have never experienced. And God is in the people who care for them along their way.

God is in the air, the water, and the animals and the other living things that remind us how precious this world is that we live on and in. God is in the new life that springs up after a wildfire. God is in the people who are working to save our planet from the damage humans have caused.

When we profess our faith, it’s more than just words we memorized in Confirmation. It’s a confession of what we believe about God. And God is more than just words on a page.

God is active and dynamic and at work in our world today. Remembering that opens our hearts to God’s presence and activity in our world today. Thanks be to God! Amen.


[2] Ibid