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Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it: "I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them." (ESV)
Clear Air of Creation
Friday of Lent 1
19 February 2016
The first article of the Creed helps us interpret our experiences. Every person has had the experience of being saved from some calamity in ways that are unaccountable to human reason. These can be a narrow miss with a reckless driver, healing from a disastrous sickness, or rescue from financial ruin. None of these things of themselves tell us much about the heart of God, but together with God's self-revelation as a gracious Creator we can see His daily fatherly care both in His rescue from calamity and His granting of every blessing to us, His creatures. The first article of the Creed testifies to an Almighty God who is our Father.
The confession of God Almighty who is our Father is a commonplace. We no longer see or feel what this means to us creatures. We take it for granted. This presumption on our part is due to the consistently gracious activity of God. You can't presume upon what you cannot count on. We have a God who is willing to set Himself at our service that we might experience every good at His hand. His gracious care for the world extends even and especially to those who do not recognize his daily creative activity and love for the world. He feeds, clothes, and cares for those who do not know enough to give thanks for these gifts, but like a loving parent He still loves and cares for his ungrateful children and gives them everything they need every day. Our ungodly presumption upon God's daily care is only possible because God has determined that as Creator He would care for the world in this intimate and loving way.
Even modern science begins with this presupposition. The idea of a world governed by consistent principles, or what used to be called the "laws of nature," is a gift to the Western world from the Christian Church and begins with this glorious confession "I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth." The development of the scientific principle would not have been possible in the first century A.D., when every corner of the world was inhabited and governed by capricious and unaccountable principalities, powers, demons, god-lings, and state-sanctioned Olympian gods. If their child died or their laundry went missing, first century people attributed these calamities to the malicious caprice of a local god-ling. The Romans identified 265 different god-lings, called "lares," each ruling its own neighborhood in Rome. Sometimes calamity was attributed to turf wars among the various deities, Olympian and otherwise. Human beings were simply "collateral damage," unfortunate, but unimportant casualties in a battle for ascendance in the world.
It is no wonder that when the Church chanted the words "I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth," it was an emancipation proclamation from slavery to fear and the world's caprice. When the church confessed the first article of the Creed it freed the world from bondage to the terrifying uncertainty of nature under the control of innumerable false gods. How the clear air of that confession breathed life into the hearts of people. We too breathe that air, though we seldom recognize the enormous peace and freedom it brings.


Martin Luther

"We ought to recite daily the first article of the Creed. We are to impress it upon our mind and remember it by all that meets our eyes and by all good that falls to us. Whenever we escape from disaster or danger, we ought to remember that it is God who gives and does all these things. In these escapes we sense and see His fatherly heart and His surpassing love toward us (Ex 34:6). In this way the heart would be warmed and kindled to be thankful, and to use all such good things to honor and praise God.
"We have most briefly presented the meaning of this article. This is how much is necessary at first for the most simple to learn about what we have, what we receive from God, and what we owe in return. This is a most excellent knowledge but a far greater treasure. For here we see how the Father has given Himself to us, together with all creatures, and has most richly provided for us in this life. We see that He has overwhelmed us with unspeakable, eternal treasures by His Son and the Holy Spirit (Col 2:2), as we shall hear [in the second and third articles of the Creed]."
Martin Luther, Large Catechism, 2.24-25
Dear heavenly Father, grant us to believe what we confess about You, that You, our Creator, are our Father and that Your almighty power serves our every need. Give us a thankful heart for our daily bread, a gift from You. Amen.
For President Obama, that he would be lifted up and strengthened by God in the office which has been entrusted to him
For Steve Emshoff and Ruth Hanson, that the Lord would be with them as they recover from pneumonia
For Gilbert Lamberson, that he would be strengthened in his body and renewed in spirit

Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Isenheim Altarpiece (1515)

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