I believe in God, creator of heaven and earth.
Dear People of God,
The above line is taken from the Apostles’ Creed. The three ecumenical creeds (Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian) serve several significant functions. The Apostles’ Creed in particular possesses the basics of what a person should know in preparation for baptism. But, all of them together, serve to witness to the faith of the Church—which is a faith not of its own, but one entrusted to the Church from God. Namely, “faith in Jesus Christ.”
All articles of faith are meant to point to and expound on the Christ—and how he is Christ for us. This is true when we are talking about God the Father and God the Holy Spirit—these articles are there because they help us understand who Christ is. It is why most churches in every land and time recite the Creed every Sunday. It is no mindless or lifeless task. Rather, the creeds store treasures the treasures of life—that is, the very promises of God’s grace made known in Jesus Christ. The creeds are not primarily about my or your ability to consent to them, but stand there as testimony of God’s faithfulness to a humankind in need of being saved. And they guard against all self-made spiritualities and other traps that obscure what true faith is.
In this my second reflection on the Apostles’ Creed for you, I want to explore the meaning of “God, the Creator.” The witness of the Scriptures, as early as Genesis, make the claim that not only is God the Creator, but everything God creates is very good (Genesis 1:31). But, tov maod, the little Biblical Hebrew words behind the “very good” would better be translated “exceedingly good.” This means that you, in both soul and body, were created by God himself. Also, the stars, the plants, the lizards, the waters, along with you all these things are exceedingly good. Yet we live in a world much unlike God’s dream for us. Racism, homophobia, transphobia and bigotry saturate this now dog-eat-dog world. Our love has grown cold.
The ugly truth each of us must come to terms with is as theologian Kathryn Kleinhans teaches, “I’m not a sinner because I do sinful things. I do sinful things because I’m a sinner.” Sin radically decodes and undoes the goodness within us. So much so that, “All have turned aside; together they have become worthless” (Romans 3:12). Sin comes with the dire consequence of death.
But there is hope, for as the Scriptures say, “We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up. But God will not take away a life; he will devise plans so as not to keep an outcast banished forever from his presence” (2 Samuel 14:14). God, who is the Creator, is faithful to his creation. He does not want to see anyone perish. Therefore, he instituted the ministry of his Word and sacraments.
The Augsburg Confession will say, “Through these…he gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when he wills, in those who hear the gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe.” And so, through the Word and sacraments God gives us every good thing, restores us to what we should be, and forgives us all sins….so that we may live with God’s joy in our hearts. The creed points us to all this.
A final word. June is Pride Month. I feel called to briefly discuss God the Creator’s perspective on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in an affirming way. Straight and cisgender people are not any better in God’s eyes than their LGBTQ counterparts.
When St. Paul says, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23) he means to put us all on even ground in regard to sinfulness. No one is inherently better than another person. We all depend on and are equally in need of a gracious God to redeem us. It is not sexual orientation or gender identity that determine whether or not God is gracious to you; God is gracious to you simply because God is a gracious God. Theologian Neal Anthony once taught me, “A person is not justified by sexual orientation, a person is justified by faith.”
And, so, take comfort, my dear LGBTQ siblings, that God the Creator is faithful to you. Everything good about you, including your sexual orientation and gender identity, comes from God himself. God in Jesus Christ endured the cross so that you may “have life, and life to the fullest” (John 10:10). I myself, an openly gay man, will say that what is true for me is also true for you. That is, the desire to love and be loved by someone of the same gender is a good and holy and God-given desire. Same goes for a transgender person, your desire to live the gender you know you are is a good and holy and God-given desire. Haters are gonna hate. Remember that God is on your side: “every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17).
Peace and joy,
Pastor Levi Powers
Mount of Olives Lutheran Church
Rock Springs, WY