Almighty (The Apostles’ Creed #1)
There’s a fairly common saying that gets tossed about in church a lot, and that saying is, “That’s the way we’ve always done it!”
The story’s told of a mother who was teaching her young child how to bake a ham. And one of the steps included sawing off the end piece (about 2 inches of the bony point). Of course, the young child noticed how much work was involved in removing the end of the ham, and understandably asked, “why... why do we have to remove the end?” To which the mother replied, “well, that’s the way we’ve always done it” - my mother taught me to always remove it.
But the conversation motivated the mother to ask HER mother - the child’s grandmother why? And the grandmother’s response: “Because my pan was 2-inches short.”
There’s usually a practical reason for doing things the way we’ve always done things... even when we forget or we’re never actually aware of the original intent.
And that’s certainly the case with many of the things we do here in church.
Like our weekly recitation of the Apostles’ Creed.
But why? Why do we recite these words week in, and week out! Most of us from memory.
Of course, the Apostles’ Creed had been part of Christian worship and discipleship for over 19 Centuries. The words are ancient... and harken back to the age of the disciples (or actually, the second generation of Christ’s followers)... but regardless, these words have been around a while!
And it begins with a very important phrase, just two words... “I believe.” The word “creed” literally means “I believe.”
But, do we? Do we actually believe the words we recite... do we believe the Faith we profess? Of course, many of you are thinking, well... yes! Of course, we believe!
But as we talked about last Sunday, unless we truly, honestly, deeply believe, unless we actually embrace our faith as having value, and benefit, and purpose... we will never persevere in our faith! We only “follow thru” in this life, when we believe in something!
So, asking ourselves if we believe what we’re saying, is necessary from time to time. Do you and I understand and appreciate these words we profess? Or are they just words that we recite because “we’ve always done it that way?”
If the plan works, we’re gonna spend the next few weeks looking at the ancient words of the Apostles’ Creed, as we attempt to better appreciate and understand what they mean for us... as modern day followers of Jesus.
Of course, the Apostles’ Creed helps us to value and treasure the fact that we’re part of something much bigger than ourselves... It crosses over denominational lines... it’s spoken in practically every language and can be heard in worship services the world over... helping to remind us, again, that you and I as individual members of the Body of Christ, are part of something that much older, much larger, much more far reaching, than ourselves.
If you were to go to a worship service in a foreign country, you’d most likely hear these words, as I have in Panama and in Costa Rica. These words help to unite us with Christians everywhere, as we share our common faith in Christ.
The Creed was originally used, in the early centuries of the Church, as part of the baptismal covenant. A candidate for baptism would be required to learn these words, as answers to foundational questions about the faith. Some of you may remember learning the Catechism as part of your confirmation process. The Apostles’ Creed was used much the same way, originally.
Again, it all reminds us that we’re all part of something that’s so much bigger than our own personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Of course, knowing that we’re part of something so far-reaching and grand... should challenge our individualistic approach to faith (it’s all about me... i.e., “I have decided to follow Jesus”). After all, it’s not all about me. It’s about Jesus! We’re part of a greater community... a household of faith... the Body of Christ. And what we profess, individually & in unison, matters.
The fact it... you and I may not believe every phrase of the Apostle’s Creed... we may not understand or fully appreciate what we’re being asked to recite. But, then, it’s not our Creed. It’s the Church’s Creed... It’s a summation of what the Church of Christ professes to believe... and we’re part of that! So, when we say, “I believe,” what we’re expressing is we’re part of a believing community... that’s been called into existence by Jesus Christ. We haven’t been saved to live out our faith and life on our own... We’ve been saved and called to be part of this community, a community of believers, sustained by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, and called to live differently. We’re called into a communion... a covenant... and you and I are covenant partners, together... in faith, and in practice.
Of course, every time we recite the Apostle’s Creed we’re retelling the story. We’re proclaiming and reclaiming, time and again, to ourselves, and to others... the Gospel. We’re recalling the essential points, the main elements, the primary beliefs, of our faith. And you and I, are shaped and reshaped, as we proclaim, and reclaim, the story of our faith.
I believe... we believe... in “God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth...”
We believe in a God who’s not just mighty... He is Almighty! All-mighty. The God who created everything... the God who said, “Let there be light” and light appeared. Not from some existent source... not with the flicking on of a switch that turns on a bulb. But from absolutely nothing.
To profess that God is Almighty is to believe that God is still active in the world He created. There are two Hebrew words that are used – one is El-Shaddai. In Genesis 17:1, God appears to Abram and says to him, “I am the God Almighty, walk before me and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between you and me and may multiply you greatly.”
To say he is Almighty is to say He has the power to accomplish everything (and anything) that He purposes and promises. When God promises ANYTHING (When he says, “I’ll never leave you, nor forsake you” - “Come to me and I’ll give you rest” - “I’ll deliver you”) you and I can be assured. God has the power to accomplish everything he has promised.
The other word is Lord – Sabbaoth – “the Lord of Hosts”. These words are used 333 times in Scripture. In the New Testament it’s used about a dozen times, to translate the Greek word as either Almighty or Omnipotent. Revelation 19:6 says: “Alleluia, for the Lord, our God, the almighty reigns.” (The ESV uses “omnipotent”). To say he is Almighty is to say he is all – powerful. To say he is Almighty is to say he is sovereign. He is sovereign over all the events of life. He has the power to accomplish all his purposes.
The Good News is... this Almighty God, who created everything... is also “slow to anger and abounding in love.” This God who is sovereign and omnipotent... loves us so much... that he became one of us... fully exercising his authority over sin and death... and offering each of us, life that abundant and free... in Jesus Christ... the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Only an Almighty God could do that... and fortunately, God’s Word assures us...
“This is what the Lord says—
Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty:
I am the first and I am the last;
apart from me there is no God.”
This is the Word of God for the People of God.
Thanks be to God. Amen