Saturday, June 29, 2013

Meditation on the Second Article of the Apostles Creed

The Second Article
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 into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
What does this mean?
I believe that Jesus Christ is true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary; and that He is my Lord, Who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood, and with His inno­cent suffering and death; in order that I might be His own, live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness; even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.
Picture yourself falling into a deep dark pit.  The only form you can make out at the bottom is a ferocious beast that is ready at a moment’s notice to swallow you whole.  This is the condition into which each of us is born.  Dead in trespasses and sins, all are moving headlong into the deepest depths of hell with no ability of our own to escape what lies below.
When Adam and Eve fell into sin, the entire world fell with them.  “By Adam’s fall is all forlorn, man’s nature and his thinking, The poison’s there when we are born, In sin yet deeper sinking.” (ELH 430.1)  In our fallen condition, all of us are just dangling over the beast, waiting to be devoured.  Both our sin that we have inherited from our parents and the sins that we continue to commit, earn us a place as food for the devil’s appetite.
Yet, the truth of who Jesus is, brought out in the Second Article of the Creed gives us reason to spite the devil.  Jesus, became man for us so that he might be swallowed up by Satan in our place.  Jesus became our vicar or substitute, clothing himself in human flesh.  Much like a worm covers up a hook, Jesus covered himself in human flesh, by being born of the Virgin and entered our world in the likeness of mankind.  Bone of our bones and flesh of our flesh.  Jesus dangled himself within reach of the ferocious beast, so that once He was seemingly devoured, He would defeat that beast once and for all.
Because Jesus was perfect He had no reason to fear the devil’s snapping jaws.  The devil had no hold over him.  But so that we might be saved, Jesus shows us what kind of a Lord we have…One who was willing to experience death, so that we would not have to experience the terrors of hell.  Jesus removed us from the clutches of Satan and placed us safely at His side where he is able to nourish and strengthen us through His holy assuring us of the forgiveness of our sins.
The Gospel that the Church preaches is based solely upon Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection which has won for us the forgiveness of sins.  There is nothing we have done to rescue ourselves, there is nothing we can do to be saved.  Christ has done all of the work…while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  He called us out of darkness, into His marvelous light.  He requires nothing in return and promises us the blessing of heaven when we, by His power, trust in Him as our Lord and Savior.
O God, our Maker and Redeemer, You wonderfully created us and in the incarnation of Your Son yet more wondrously restored our human nature.  Grant that we may ever be alive in Him who made Himself to be like us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Meditation on the First Article of the Apostles Creed

The First Article
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
What does this mean?
I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still preserves them; that He richly and daily provides me with food and clothing, home and family, property and goods, and all that I need to support this body and life; that He protects me from all danger, guards and keeps me from all evil; and all this purely out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me; for all which I am in duty bound to thank and to praise, to serve and obey Him.  This is most certainly true.
The Ten Commandments have taught us the proper respect we are to have towards God and that we are to have only one God.  The question then that arises is “What sort of God do you have?” or “Who is God?”  The Creed then is that answer and confession of the Christian arranged in respect to the first commandment so that we know who the one true God is.
Psalm 139:13-14 For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.  I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.  In the First Article of the Apostle Creed, it focuses on what we know about God through the creation.  The opening words of Genesis speak very plainly of our origins and the origins of all life in the universe as we know it.  “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  It stands to reason then that the God who created us continues to preserve and care for us through the creation which he has made.  This is called God’s providence.  God still continues to provide for us through everything that he has made.  He gives us every thing that we need to sustain our lives.  All that we have is from Him.
Nor does God just let the powers of evil overtake us but he defends us from all evil and misfortune.  He directs all sorts of danger and disaster away from us.  We have not earned any such divine assistance or protection, but God does so simply because His nature is to love that which He has created.  He has knitted us together in our mothers’ wombs, he breathed life into us in a special way and has promised to continue caring for that life even amidst the struggles and trials that we face.  Yet God’s love for us is not based on the evidence of the material possessions we have, but our worth is derived out of His love for us in Christ as we will learn more about in the 2nd Article.
Because of His divine love for us in Christ, we could rightly say of ourselves that we have a face only a mother could love.  Because of our sins, we were alienated from God and from each other.  We have no worth of our own that would cause him to love us, but because of God’s benevolence, he continues to love the sinner, in spite of the sin.  The evidence of that love is found in the work of Jesus Christ.
Yet our duty toward God is not done.  Because he has loved us in such a way as to provide for us and care for us in all things we are duty bound to thank and to praise, serve and obey him.  Without God providing our oxygen, we would surely perish.  God, by his gracious hand, continues to provide those things necessary to sustain life and without them we would perish.  This article ought to keep us humble and terrify us all, because we cannot earn God’s willingness to preserve us.  Yet we are to thank him daily, even constantly for his blessings; the blessings of divine protection, food and clothing, home and family, property and goods, and all that we need to support this body and life.  By recognition of God as our creator and preserver, our hearts should be warm and kindled to be thankful and to use all such good things to the honor and praise of God.
Almighty God, through Your Word and Spirit You most wonderfully created all things, and through the Word made flesh You brought new life to fallen humanity.  Grant that in Your mercy we may be conformed to the image of Him who shares fully in our humanity, even Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.