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I Believe in God

November 10, 2019

Scripture:

Genesis 17:1-8 (NRSV)

1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. 2 And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, 4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. 7 I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God.”

Luke 15:20 (NRSV)

20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.

Psalm 8 (NRSV)

1 O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Theme:

“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”

We usually use the word “God” as a single, all-encompassing name, but God has many different names and titles that we find in the Bible, each describing different parts of God’s nature and character. As we grow in our faith and knowledge (intimacy) of God and God’s nature and love for us, we will experience the truth of many of those names for ourselves as we come to know God the Father, the Lord our Rock or our Shepherd, God our Provider, etc.

Many of the names of God can be sorted along two lines: the distant, almighty God who ordered the heavens and the earth, and the God who personally loves and cares about each one of us. Most of us have a tendency to relate to God more closely along one of those identities than the other, but in truth, God is both/and. A deeper understanding of the both/and will grow our intimacy with the almighty, all-powerful Creator God…who has numbered our days while we were still in the womb.

Most of the Hebrew names of God begin with either El or Yahweh, reflecting this dichotomy.

El comes from the Canaanites, and is one of the oldest designations for divinity in the world. Elohimis the plural form of Eland indicates not a belief in many gods, but emphasizes the majesty of the one true God, the God above all other gods. Elohimis the Hebrew word for God that appears in the very first sentence of the Bible. When we pray to Elohim,we remember that he is the one who began it all, creating the heavens and the earth. This ancient name for God contains the idea of God’s creative power as well as his authority and sovereignty. Jesus used a form of the name on the cross (Matthew 27:46).

Yahweh is the sacred, personal name of God given to Moses in Exodus. Yahweh is not a God who is remote or aloof but one who is always near, intervening in history on behalf of his people. Yahweh is closely associated with his saving acts in Exodus, and evokes for us God’s saving power in the lives of his people today.

Son of God, Son of Man

November 17, 2019

Scripture:

Philippians 2:5-11 (NRSV)

5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Acts 2:22-36 (NRSV)

22 “You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know—23 this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. 24 But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. 25 For David says concerning him,‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; 26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope. 27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption. 28 You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’29 “Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying,‘He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.’32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ 36 Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Theme:

“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;the third day he rose from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.”

The name Immanuel appears twice in Hebrew scriptures (Isaiah 7:14, 8:8) and one in the New Testament (Matthew 1:23). One of the most comforting of all the names and titles of Jesus, it is literally translated “with us is God” or, as Matthew’s Gospel puts it, “God with us.”When our sins made it impossible for us to come to him, God took the outrageous step of coming to us, of making himself susceptible to sorrow, familiar with temptation, and vulnerable to sin’s disruptive power, in order to cancel its claim. In Jesus we see how extreme God’s love is.

Kyrios: Christianity’s earliest confession of faith consisted of three short but incredibly powerful words: Jesus is Lord!When people addressed Jesus as Kyriosor Lord in the Gospels, they were often simply showing respect to him as a rabbi or teacher, addressing him as “sir” rather than acknowledging him as the Lord God. But after his death and resurrection, the title “Lord” began to be widely used by believers in a more specialized sense. (Thomas’ confession of faith in John20:28, “My Lord and my God!”) Over time, the title “Lord” began to take on the characteristics of a name; as such, it clearly identifies Jesus with Yahweh, the covenant name of God in the Hebrew scriptures. Knowing Jesus as Lord will lead you to a deeper experience of his presence and his power.

I Believe in the Holy Spirit

November 24, 2019

Scripture:

Acts 1:6-8 (NRSV)

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

1 Corinthians 15:12-22 (NRSV)

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. 17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have died[e] in Christ have perished. 19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. 21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; 22 for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.

Theme:

“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.”

This last section of the Creed summarizes the promises of God, the promises that form the bedrock of our faith.

In the Old and New Testaments, God promised to be with us always. We believe in the Holy Spirit that acted in the Bible, coming upon Mary the mother of Jesus, filling Elizabeth and Zechariah, descending upon Jesus in the form of a dove, and leading Jesus through temptation in the wilderness. We have seen the Spirit act in the Bible, and we believe the Spirit has acted and will act in our world today. God will lead us through the Spirit as the continuing active presence of God With Us.

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