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Sunday Sermons

Amen!
2 Corinthians 1:18-22

But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.” For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silas and Timothy—was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

~

This summer we have been working our way through the Apostle’s Creed, the ancient confession of faith that the church has held for almost 2,000 years.  Throughout the history of Christianity this has been the one document that Christians everywhere agree on. When someone asks you, what do you believe as a Christian , this is something that most everyone can easily point to and say, this is what I believe. But if we let it, can be more than just a creed, a collection of statements about what we believe. The creed itself should point us to God, everything that we do as Christians should point to Christ, but in somehow describing God, the Apostle’s Creed encourages us to know God personally. It can be a reminder about what we believe about God, but it should also point us to share in what God is doing.

So it is with this in mind that we take up the last phrase of the Apostle’s Creed. Now you may be thinking, what’s left, haven’t we covered it all. But there is one part we haven’t covered yet and that is the last word, Amen. It seems like such a small word, an afterthought maybe. We most often hear the word Amen at the end of a prayer, signaling to us that’s it’s time to eat, or we hear it at the end of a benediction where it serves as our dismissal. But the Apostle’s Creed is not even a prayer so what is the Amen doing in our creed? When it’s all said and done- in the end, it all comes down to the word Amen.

The word Amen has a rich Biblical history. The root of the word Amen in Hebrew means “firmness, reliability, or certainty.” It was something you could stake a claim on, but was often used to acknowledge the authority and binding nature of spoken words. It can be translated into phrases such as “yes, we agree” or “may it be as you have said.” In response to a prayer or event, it means something like “yes, I believe this to be true” and “let it be so.” It is at once an affirmation of what has come before, but it is also an act of faith which stakes its claim on what is being promised.

Yes, the Apostle’s Creed contains the doctrine of the church, but it also holds the promises of God. For example, the first week we talked about the fact that we believe in God, but the only way we can know God with any sort of conviction is because God graciously chooses to reveal himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ and in scripture. Like a painter who all of a sudden to steps into the painting which he has made, so that we might not just believe, intellectually, but come to know, personally, the God who reveals himself to us. It is a revelation whereby we truly come to know God. And to say that we know a person this way means that we believe not just that the information is true, but it is to say that we know something so truly that affects who we are, what we think and what we do.

Then we talked about God the Father Almighty. God is Almighty- all-powerful, all-sufficient, able to accomplish what he sets out to do and he is our Father- someone who is close and intimately related to his children and wants what is best for them. And yet God didn’t just want to be near us and think about how much he loves us; but in the concrete reality of the cross, we have become the objects of God’s love. Through Christ, we become the sons and the daughters of God. Through Christ, We have become the objects of God’s love and affection and pride. As the Father Almighty, as the one who knows all things and animates all of life, he can work out his perfect will for our lives because he is all-sufficient. He wants what’s best for us and he is able to bring it about. Do you hear the promise in that?

Next, by claiming that God is the “maker of heaven and earth,” not only are you saying that God wanted the world to be here and has created everything that is, but you are also saying that God continues to will that it exists, that he sustains the world by his power and chooses to remain active in it. Creation and providence is something that we affirm intellectually, but we can also claim the promise that God is creating us even now-even today- and continues to remake us in his image. As God brought order and form to the chaos, he brings order and purpose to our lives. By inviting us to know the person of God, the creed also invites us to trust in him. This is what God is really like; and that makes a huge difference not just for what we believe, but for the life of faith that we live because God is active in it. Do you see how that works- to say that God is our maker is to say that he is making us still.

Then we looked at the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ. We saw how it is only because Jesus is fully human and fully divine at the same time that we are saved from our sins. Not only that, but the fact that God came to us in the flesh means that he understands what it’s like to be human and that our human lives matter deeply to our Creator. This extraordinarily selfless thing which God did for us is why our scripture today says “But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.” For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you...was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.’” Jesus is God’s Yes! to a broken world. Even in the face of our sin, God says yes to us; to our salvation. What God did in becoming man he did solely for our sakes. Yes, I will go to the cross for you and for your sin so that you might have the fullness of life I offer.

Everything Christ did- that he suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried, descended into hell, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven was done for our redemption. So that when Christ comes to judge the living and the dead, we have one who was judged in our place so we don’t have to be on judgment day. In this movement of redemption, Christ holds us up to God so that somehow, in the very act of dying on the cross he brings us before God. And in this act, we are seen not as the sinners which we are, but as children who are redeemed. What a gift. Our lives can be and have already been redeemed, we don’t have to live as if we are not. Surely that is a promise that we would want to claim for our own lives -suffering can end in redemption and death can end in resurrection. There is power in the blood.

We also affirmed the work of the Holy Spirit when we looked at the creed. The Spirit comforts us, teaches us, convicts our hearts, prays for us, stirs our hearts to belief and faith and leads us out to engage in God’s work in and for the world. It is because of the Spirit that we can rejoice in the midst of our suffering and give of ourselves so unselfishly to others. It is our trust in the Spirit’s work in our lives that gives us that blessed assurance that the world can neither give nor take away.  One thing we can be sure of in this life, God is always at work through his Spirit- in us, in the church, in the world.

We will once again be blessed to see the Spirit so tangibly at work among us as our new members officially join Heights Presbyterian Church today. When the creed taught us about “the holy Catholic church” it taught us about the church universal, but it also taught us that when we say “I believe in the holy catholic church,” we are also saying I believe in this church, that God is present at Heights Presbyterian, and calling us to be a part of its mission to our local community. That’s why we join churches t begin with. In the church we find a home, but we also find community- a body of believers that holds each other accountable, stretches one another, challenges one another and holds one another up in prayer. Since we were designed to be in community, we must work as a team and depend upon others and support others. The creed calls this the communion of saints. It’s the bond that we share with all believers in all times and places. And it is vitally necessary that we cheer each other on in the work that God calls us to do. We are called to be God’s holy people and to do God’s holy work.

We also saw God’s promises at work when we talked about the forgiveness of sins. We saw how “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” and we all stand in need of forgiveness because we are sinful beings. The fault lies not in our immoral actions alone, it also lies in us. But because we have the promise and the assurance of the forgiveness of sins, we don’t have to be held down by the past, we can have new life, Christ’s abundant life, by the power of the Holy Spirit and the lasting seal of our baptism. In our baptisms, our sins are buried with Christ on the cross and we are resurrected with Christ to new life.

Finally last week, we discovered to say “I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting” when we say the Creed is to affirm that we believe our bodies will be raised after we die and we will be judged worthy to spend eternity with God, but it also means so much more. God’s promises to us, God’s Yes! to us is that we get to experience heaven now. The fullness of life, everlasting life, is not just something we can look forward to in the future; it is a present reality because eternal life is found in knowing God. The fact that we hold onto the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting as our final hope shapes our present realities, it shapes us. We know who we belong to, we know how the story ends, we know that “our Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after [our] skin has been destroyed, yet in [our] flesh [we] will see God.”

Yes, the Apostle’s Creed contains the doctrine of the church, but it also holds the promises of God because it tells us who God is and what God has accomplished for us. The word Amen believe it or not, is actually one of the names of God. In speaking about himself to the church in Revelation Christ says “these are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.” Isaiah writes, “whoever invokes a blessing in the land will do so by [the God of the Amen, or] the one true God; whoever takes an oath in the land will swear by [the God of the Amen.] God himself is called Amen because he is reliable and trustworthy.

My hope is that you will view the Apostle’s Creed not just as a set of statements about what the church believes, but that the Creed itself will guide you into a deeper way of knowing God. This is its purpose, to bring us God himself. In stating what we believe, we are forced to act in faith. If you’ll notice, the Creed does not say “I believe that God is the Father Almighty” but “I believe in God the Father Almighty.” I believe in God; I believe in Jesus Christ, his son; I believe in the Holy Ghost. I put my faith in, I put my trust in, I stake my life on this person, not this statement.

“As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been ‘Yes and No.’ For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you… was not ‘Yes and No’; but in him it is always ‘Yes.’ For in him every one of God’s promises is a ‘Yes. For this reason it is through him that we say the ‘Amen’, to the glory of God.” We say Amen at the end of the Creed because we are saying “yes, I believe this to be true,” “yes, I believe God to be true,” “yes, may it be unto us as you have spoken.” We say Amen at the end of the Creed because as many times as God has said Yes to us, we finally, in some small way, we get to respond with a resounding Yes to God with our very lives. Can I get an Amen? Amen.

~ Pastor Lindsay