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Just How Big “The Heavens & The Earth” Really Are

To help people grasp the scope of creation during yesterday’s service on “I Believe In God The Father Almighty, Maker Of Heaven & Earth,”  we showed this video:

It helped (I think!) to reinforce yesterday’s bottom line:  God the Father Almighty is the perfect balance of I Care and I Can.

Below is a rough manuscript of the message itself.  The sermon was followed by an extended time of worship and art — as Chris Macedo and band led us in singing, church member David Loy painted a “globescape” culminating with the word “Abba” stenciled across the top.

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So we’re going Old School today.  We’re going Old School by looking at this thing some of you grew up reciting every week, others of you regard with suspicion because grew up in a church that didn’t use it and you don’t understand some of the words, and still others of you have never heard of this thing until today and you wonder what all the fuss is about anyway:  The Apostles’ Creed.  And before we start looking at the actual content of the Creed and what it means and what it doesn’t mean, I want to take just a couple of minutes talking about where it came from in the first place.

            Because the AC didn’t just drop down from heaven into the church’s lap.  It wasn’t created in the UM Publishing House and put in the hymn book.  It wasn’t even tweeted by some of the earliest church preachers – it’s more than 140 characters!  No, the AC was forged in the first 200 or so years of the church as it literally tried to establish foul lines for the faith.  What’s in?  What’s out?  What’s fair?  What’s foul?  What do we believe and what do we NOT believe?  Because think about it: in the earliest churches, they didn’t have the NT.  They were writing it!!  They would have had the OT on scrolls but probably just a handful of NT books.  And there developed a longing to sum up the teaching and belief of the original 12 apostles and so through the years of debate and council (without benefit of the printing press, much less email), this creed took shape and grew.

            And early legend had it that each apostle (Peter, James, John and the rest) each wrote line (Judas’ line is absent!).  It is more accurate to say that the churches in the different cities communicated with each other – at great personal expense, danger, and time given the way travel worked back then – and gradually standardized the list of lines in the Creed.  The earliest forms of it date to around 250; the final version took shape by 750.  But know this: it was forged in debate, as a way of answering urgent questions.  Nowhere is that more true than with the first line which came about because an early church leader named Marcion, living in what is today Turkey, between about 85 & 160 AD.  He rejected the OT God and the OT story.  He believed and taught that the story of God really begins with the story of Jesus & so the church should scuttle the whole of Judaism and the OT.  In response, the Creed begins not only with a glorious declaration but also with a decisive answer for Marcion himself:  I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven & earth.

            The church was and is wisely saying to Marcion and others: this deal is older than us, bigger than us, more sovereign than us.  We can’t discard what we don’t like.  We believe what we receive, not what we conceive.  That’s actually why we’re doing this series at GS!  We receive our beliefs; we don’t conceive them!  Now we use bells & whistles here at GS but all for the larger purpose of teaching old truths through new media.  Old School!  And you can’t get any more old school anywhere than to say, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven & earth.” 

            And here’s what is true about that first line of the creed, especially if you say it so routinely & frequently that the words flow out of your mouth rather than marinate in your mind:  we overlook the delicate balance that is the sheer brilliance of the whole thing.  Father Almighty and we’ve said it so much and heard it so often we fail to realize how discordant those two words are side by side.  Yet that’s why it’s so tremendous!  Let me show you why it’s so critical.  I had a pastor friend who with the best of intentions stopped saying “F,S, & HS” and instead would say, “in the name of the Creator, Redeemer, & Sustainer.”  Why?  Because he wanted his language to be inclusive, so women wouldn’t feel overlooked with male metaphors for God, and so that people who had had difficult relationships with their dads – most of us! – wouldn’t automatically bristle against God.  Fine, good, I get that.  Yet from those good intentions, that preacher – and hundreds like him – gutted the heart out of the church’s understanding of God’s nature and God’s character.  He robbed Xnty of its uniqueness!  Took our earthy, raw, wild God and made him antiseptic & sterile. 

            More than that, if you take the creed and reduce it to “I believe in God the Almighty, the creator . . .”, well Muslims can say that.  Our Jewish brothers & sisters can say that.  The breakthrough that Jesus has brought to our knowledge of God is that we can call him father because he isFather.  What do you have to have in order to be a Father?  Children!  Not subjects, not servants, not vassals, but children!  Family!  God as Fathers shows that he is by nature NOT solitary and distant and remote; he longs to CARE.  I love how Romans 8:15 says it: 

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[a] And by him we cry, “Abba,[b] Father.”

Relationship and caring is his nature; it is who he is.  You call him merely “Creator” like my NJ pastor did and you reduce him merely to what he does, to his function.

            I think it’s so great that the AC puts Father first & not Almighty Father.  But Father Almighty.  This is the great breakthrough of the Xn faith; it separates us from other religions, and the creed captures it so very well.  Makes us recognize that instead of some kind of distant despot, God is like what happened to the young boy on the passenger jet going through all kinds of turbulence.  He was so calm.  The lady next to him was freaking out.  Bumps, jolts, screams, fear.  And finally, after one more sudden drop in altitude through which the boy sat serenely, his flustered seat mate turned and asked, “How can you be so calm in this?!”  “Easy,” the boy answered.  “My dad’s the pilot.”  So he is.  Marcion was wrong, the Creed writers got the heart of Jesus:  I believe in God the Father . . .

            But the flip side is . . . Almighty.  He’s not a tribal God, he’s not just “our” God; this intimate Father is God of all, maker of all.  Genesis 1:1 opens the bible’s story in breathtaking scope and beauty:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

This is the same God is Romans 8:15!  Remarkable balance.  Again, this makes Xnty unique.  Allah is for Muslims all Law, all Fear, and you’d never call him Father; in the New Age or Eastern religions, god is really Grandfather God with no holiness; this God of the bible & God of the Creed is BOTH.  Here it is: when we say I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, we are saying that God is himself the perfect balance of I CARE and I CAN.  I CARE because I’m the Father.  I CAN because I am The Almighty.  I am these two contradictory things at the same time and that’s why I am God.  Brilliant. Balanced. True.

           

Genesis 1:1 starts this entire chapter full of incredible stuff.  Can I tell you something about Genesis 1?  Something that may shock you?  It is not a science book.  It’s a hymn.  A glorious hymn of creation that when you read it out loud you recognize that it has verses and choruses and pre-choruses, and this marvelous conclusion that takes the main refrain and amps it up:  “and it was very good.”  Genesis 1 is not a “how done it”; it is a “who done it” and the who is God the Father Almighty.  You read it right and most of the supposed conflict between faith & science just vanishes away.  It’s so funny, some of those folks who just question all science in terms of the age of earth & rocks & animals and say, “the earth is 6k years old and made in 7 literal days,” they don’t trust that science right.  But they will get on airplane!  They trust the science of jet propulsion that puts them in this enormous metal cylinder that travels 700 mph and if that science ever doesn’t work they’re toast!  They trust that with their life!  Ride a plane to go to a Creation Science Conference!  No sense.  But rocks at 4B years old and space at 15 B?  No way.  Please.

            Read science as science and Genesis 1 as inspired, incomparable art.  Who done it & who made it and it’s the Father Almighty.  No one else.  Because you know where even the best science, quantum physics, all breaks down?  Ah.  The Big Bang. That’s where the match stops working.  All up til then the rules, equations, theorems fit and then ZAP nothing.  Matter is no eternal.  Something – someone – is behind the matter.  In the beginning God . . . the ultimate I CAN.  REFRAIN.

            And speaking of that perfect balance, did you know that that balance is itself embedded into creation?  Do you know what is just marvelous?  Listen:  the moon is 240K miles from earth.  The 93 M.  Scientists have figured out that if either body was 100 miles closer or further (such a small fraction!) from earth, life on this planet would not be possible.  Likewise, earth spins at 1000 mph while orbiting the sun at 60,700 mph . . . and just a 2 mph difference would, you guessed it, prevent life on earth.  The delicate, brilliant balance that IS God’s character is built into his creation.  Or get this:  Jupiter (AV) as an enormous vacuum in our solar system, sweeping in all kinds of meteor and asteroids and space debris.  If Jupiter wasn’t there, we’d be sitting ducks!  Three cheers for Jupiter!  This creation is not random but beautiful.  It is immense and delicate. It is Almighty and gorgeous.  It is extravagant & intimate all at the same time.  Just like God himself.

            And we’re so casual about it.  Like the two guys at the lip of the Grand Canyon and one looks out and says, “Wow, what a mighty God we serve!”  And the other leans over, spits, and answers, “and that’s the first time I’ve ever spit a mile.”  It’s all in how you look at things, isn’t it?  And I want us looking at this thing through the Creed.

            Here’s a video to show you the scope:

            But then you’ve got this, a picture I’ve shown you before (AV of me & Taylor at home in Kentucky in 1989 from 2.10.13 sermon).  All I wanted to do with that newborn baby was to hold her, hug her, tell I that I loved her, and smell the top of her head.

And that’s what God the Father longs for from you: for you to surrender to him so that he can hold you, love you, caress you, and smell the top of your head.  REFRAIN.

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