I Believe in God the Father (July 21, 2019)
Exodus 3: 13-15
I Believe in God the Father
I invite you again this week to turn to page 882, the Apostles’ Creed, in the hymnal as we begin our sermon today. As we talked about last week, the Creed was the statement of what we believed. It was a way for Christians to say who was in our group and what it meant to be in our group. And I want to say it together now.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, Born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; He ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of the Father, and will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit
The holy catholic church
The communion of saints
The forgiveness of sins
The resurrection of the body
And the life everlasting. Amen.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth. I want to be clear: this statement of belief is the statement “I believe in God.” The rest of that line is defining what God we say we believe in. Because everyone on earth believes in a god, whether they think they do or not. They believe in something that fits the definition of a little g god, which to me is some unseen force that impacts or affects the world now or in the past. And we all believe in something that fits that definition; whether it be power, or fame, or money, or family, or yoga, or any of a number of other things. Christians say they believe that this force that we are calling “the creator of Heaven and Earth,” that we are calling “the Father Almighty;” the force that is defined and shown in Jesus Christ, and experienced in the power of his Holy Spirit, and the church, and the Communion of Saints; we define God as that force.
There’s been a growth in the past few decades of people who don’t believe, adamantly and actively disbelieve, in this definition of a God. What I often find is that when you boil down what they’re saying, they’re really not necessarily not believing this God as just defined, but rather I find that they’ve lost faith in the people who say they believe in that God. And so they reject that because they reject the people who say they believe in that God. And then they go searching for something else. So there’s been a growth in the people who say they are agnostic, meaning they believe there’s some force out there but they don’t know what it is. They’re not calling it that God thing, and they’re definitely not religious. There’s also been a growth of people who claim to be “spiritual, but not religious;” which I think is saying “yes God exists, but not that God.” They’re rejecting the God we say we worship because of our actions, because the actions of the church, or the mosque, or sometimes the temple; although much less often the temple.
And there have been actions that people of God have engaged in; from the Crusades, to the Holocaust, to 9/11; that have been horrendous and that deserve repentance. Actions that I believe grieved God. But if you’re here today and you’re wondering if you really believe in God because of those actions, I would encourage you to at least consider that those actions happen outside of God as well. The people in atheistic countries like the USSR, like North Korea, like China have committed atrocities of a very similar nature, and not done it in the name of God. Human beings will find an excuse. That doesn’t mean that those things were good, but what it does mean is that I’m asking you today as we consider this belief in this God to divorce what God is from what the followers of God have done. At least consider what we say we believe about this God, and then we will get into how we should be acting if we really believe in that God, and how we should be acting differently than that those people that we just cited.
Ultimately I am not going to try and prove God‘s existence in this sermon, partially because that would be a sermon or two (or 10) on its own; but mainly because I don’t believe it is possible to prove to an atheist that God exists. The reason for that an atheist is going to want scientific evidence. And God does not answer to humans, so God cannot be empirically experienced in experiments that can be repeated. God cannot be seen through the scientific method. God can only be experienced by people open and willing to experience and look for God. So yes there are things that I have experienced that I believe prove God‘s existence to me. And these experiences that have convinced me that God exists, that God cares about me, that God does have a plan if I listen and follow. But it’s not scientific. I’m not going to try and sit here and prove it to you. I’m simply going to say what Paul said at Athens: “I think you know there are forces in the world you cannot quite explain. Let me tell you my experience with that.”
So let’s begin: what God is it that Christians believe about God. And I’m going to start by looking at the last part of the line were looking at today: that God is the creator of Heaven and Earth, which of course at that time would’ve meant that God was creator of everything. Their understanding of the world consisted of the Earth and the Heavens, encompassing everything in the sky. They didn’t have a concept of the universe, or the galaxy, or anything like that. This is the God who created everything that there is.
Christians believe that God is that being which, at the very least, set the universe and the forces within it in motion. Many Christians will then extend that statement to say that God also actively participates in holding the universe together and shaping it in some way shape or form. But I’ll point out that’s not in the Creed.
It is foundational for Christians to believe that God created the Heavens and the Earth. That is the point you’re supposed to take from Genesis: 1-3; that there was a formless void, that there was nothing, and that into that nothingness God spoke “let there be,” and there was. God created it all. And then God gave at least the earth to humans. I will point out this is not irreconcilable with the scientific understanding of creation. The idea, for instance, that there was a gigantic bang that started everything off it’s not inconsistent with the concept of there might of been something that lit the fuse. Christians simply call that something God.
Another way to explain this is to look at the Exodus story that was read today. Moses has been talking to God at the burning bush, you probably know the burning bush story relatively well. And Moses has been talking to God, as God said, “you need to go back to the Israelites. And I’m going to go with you. And i’m going to rescue the people from slavery in Egypt.” And Moses said, “OK. So when I go back to the Israelites, and they say ‘Moses, who is it that sent you?’ what exactly am I supposed to tell them?” And God says “tell them ‘I am’ has sent you.” God’s name, God’s very self, is a verb stemming from being. What Christians believe is that being itself is God; a force, an entity, which we can talk to. Being itself that created everything and to which everything owes its existence. This is God.
But furthermore God, Being itself, is called “Father.” Yes, Father Almighty, but still Father. Jesus goes through the Gospels calling God “Abba,” which does mean “father.” No, it does not mean “Daddy.” It’s more formal than that. But it’s also not Jesus going through the Gospels calling God “His Royal Highness, The King I Am, First of His Name, Lord of All That Is” either. It’s “father;” it’s familial. There’s a relationship there. But God is seeking to call you son, daughter, child. The God who made all of creation calls you “child.”
That should change you. All of this should change you. To believe in this kind of God, who interacts with you in this way, should change you. First off, you’re believing that there is a being that is so great that it created the whole universe. That should humble you. The world does not revolve around you, it revolves around that being. You are small in comparison.
And yet that Being, so large that the whole universe revolves around it, cares about you, calls you child, and died for you. That should humble you as well. Every time you talk about God you should be declaring with the Psalmist “who are we that you would think about us? Who are human beings that you would be mindful of us?”
Furthermore, Scripture tells us that each and every person has within them the image of that God. The image of the one who created everything is within each of our souls. Each and every human being. And that should make you pause before you interact with, or talk about, any other human being. Because you were talking about an image of the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth. You should be treating each person you meet as if they were God. You should pause before you hurt them, or yell at them; before you don’t tip them because the service was too slow, or before you flip metaphorical tables because they cut you off in traffic, before you suggest that they deserve a fate just simply because they’ve crossed some unseen boundary in our society. Before you say, or do, or think anything, think “what if this were God?” Part of believing that there is a God called “Father” who created everything means that that Father created who you’re talking about. And cares about them too.
Furthermore, God is a God of all creation. That should say something to us about how we are to care for creation. That God has created the earth, and has given it to us, and that we should therefore take care of that gift. Whether you believe that humans can or cannot impact the whole climate, you have to recognize that humans can litter and otherwise affect the beauty of this great world that we have been given. So at the very least you should be trying each day to have less of an impact on your general surroundings than you did the day before; because God made this, and gave it to us, and we should care about it.
Lastly, if God exists and God interacts with us, that God has a will that we as people who trust that God should seek out and try and follow it. And this is not just a statement of believing in terms of existence. This is a statement of trust in God. We’ll talk more on finding God’s will, and following it, as we keep going and talk about Jesus doing that, and talk about the Holy Spirit showing us that. But for this week, I want you to try and focus on these things. To be in awe and wonder of creation a little bit more. To think before you interact with, or think about any person as a reflection of the image of a God of all creation. Try and care a little bit better each day for the creation around you. And be in prayer and read the Scriptures to seek the will of God. Amen.