I Believe in a Creator
Luther tells the story of the famous Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas being tormented on his death bed with what he did or didn't believe. Finally he took a Bible in his arms and said, "I believe what is written in this book!" Luther then says, "May God...keep us from such a faith!" If that's all you believe says Luther, then you will believe yourself right into hell. Yet when the statement of beliefs of 53 American churches were surveyed, "no creed but the Bible" was found to be the distinctive feature of American religion.
This has never been true of confessional Lutherans. We bind ourselves and each other not just to the Bible but to a confession that states what we believe the Bible says. And what we believe the Bible says drives our lives. For example, we confess to believe in "God the Father Almighty Maker of heaven and earth." This simple confession of faith drives our view of the world, our confession of sins, and finally it drives us to our Re-creator.
Our view of the world is driven by the confession that God is our Maker or Creator. Our world is not here by accident or by chance. Randomness, fortune, happenstance did not bring this about. Those who believe in an evolver rather than a Maker have to conclude, "It was lucky that these amino acids came together." "It was fortunate that enough static electricity built up to discharge into the primordial soup and cause the spark of life." "It was simply a random trying of these chemicals that finally brought forth life."
O how frightful to live your life under the tyranny of randomness, chance, or luck rather than under a Father who creates. It's like living in a hostage crises where the captors randomly select people to be shot. It may be you or you and then again it might be you. If randomness rules it's just a matter of chance whether your genes are combined in such a way to trigger cancer at 31, leukemia at 49, heart attack at 68, sudden death at 75. Contrast this with the confession of faith we live under. We live under a Father God who created us, preserves us and protects us. In the earliest editions of our Small Catechism the First Article had a woodcut showing God as a bearded man in the midst of animals giving a blessing. Our view of creation is no more complicated then that. God creating zebras with stripes, giraffes with long necks, and me and you just the way we are. Whether we're a ticking time bomb of disease or not, we're in the hands of a creator God not chance.
What we believe about creation delivers us out of the hand of chance and out of the hand of necessity too. This is where many of you seek refuge. Things have to happen the way they do. The laws of nature govern where lightening strikes, rain falls, and disease attacks. Accidents, tragedies had to happen. What you don't realize is that you are finding your rest in the law, and that is no rest at all. Neither the laws of nature, abstract necessity or mysterious fate rule, compel, or direct God. They can't because then these things would be God. God by definition is self-directed, not compelled to do anything or act a certain way. A tornado doesn't have to form in certain conditions. People don't die because their number is up and they had to die right then, and this combination of genes doesn't have to give you cancer.
We're not in the hands of necessity, but in the hands of a Creator who richly and daily provides for us and who guards and protects us. This is not the realm of the necessity of the law; it's the realm of grace. God never turns away from your life, your body, your future saying, "There's nothing more I can do." No, God can do whatever He wants at anytime in any situation. That's why you can ask Him to un-ring a bell, call back a bolt of lightening, bring health from sickness, life from death, and joy from tragedy. Laws, necessity, fate says He can't do these things, but God is not bound by anything other than His gracious will.
My belief in a Creator drives my view of the world and my confession of sins. God tells us He created all things very good. Well, not only am I not good, I evilly use what God created, and fail miserably at "my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him." I don't thank God for what He does daily and richly. No, I complain that He doesn't do what I want. Though He has never failed to take care of me, I don't trust that He will. I act like I am at the mercy of chance or necessity rather than God the Father who promises me His mercy endures forever in Christ.
Moreover, though God the Father gives me countless gifts like body, soul, eyes, ears and all my members, my reason and all my senses, I have misused everyone of them. What wrong things I've done with my body; how I've misused my eyes, ears and all my members. And time would fail me if I tried to recount how I've fought against God with my reason and all my senses. Because I do believe in a Creator, all creation can preach to me of my guilt. It reminds me that when I misuse creation I am not spitting in the face of faceless chance or necessity, but in the face of my Father. When I worry and fret over what storms may be approaching me in life or what diseases may be on the march in my body, I am not calling into question the love of loveless necessity but the love of the God who says He is love.
Where am I to go for help with this load of sin that I've piled up to high heaven? Where does the liturgy say we go for help? After the pastor invites you to draw near with a true heart to confess your sins to God the Father beseeching Him in Jesus' name for forgiveness, where do you go? The pastor turns to the altar and says the first part of Psalm 124:8, "Our help is in the name of the Lord." You respond with the second part, "Who made heaven and earth." Yes, the Creator God can help us with our sins and sinfulness because He is also the Re-creator.
Because I've misused the creation and sinned against the Creator what I long for is a Re-creator. You hear this note of longing in many of the Christmas carols. Captive Israel "mourns in lonely exile here." "Long lay the world in sin and error pining." We are "beneath life's crushing load, whose forms are bending low." "Sins and sorrows" grow here and "thorns infest the ground." What we need this Christmas in not more of this fallen creation; we don't need more from fellow fallen creatures either. What we need is a Re-creator. Every weed I see in creation, every fire ant that bites me; every drought, every flood, every dreary bleak day testifies to me of the need for a Re -creator. Every sick person, every diseased body, every aging one I see preaches to me that no one like myself can be the Re-creator. Yet, it is people like myself that need the recreating.
God created us to have eternal fellowship with Him. He made this world and everything in it for our use, our joy. Adam and Eve misused the good creation and so broke fellowship with the Creator. There's God the bearded Gentlemen surrounded by His creation blessing it, and there's man throwing rocks at Him. How was the great chasm that man created between Himself and God to be breached? Men have tried philosophy; they have tried moralism; they have tried mysticism. That is, man have tried thinking, doing, and feeling to build a bridge between man and God. But we've failed because we're spiritually blind, so we can't think rightly about God. We are spiritually dead, so we can't do anything spiritual. We are enemies of God, so who can have good feelings about an enemy?
The Creator is on one side of the chasm. Life, happiness, and peace are all on His side in fellowship with Him. Apart from Him you can still use His creation as all people do, but true life, happiness, and peace are not found in created things but only in the Creator. We can't bridge the gap, but God can and did. In order to span any gap a bridge has to reach both sides. As true God from all eternity and as true Man from the womb of the Virgin Mary, Jesus reached both sides of the gap.
I believe in a loving Creator; I believe I sin daily and much against this Creator and His creation; this drives me to Jesus, the Re-creator. If I try to stand before God as I am, I will be found guilty and punished eternally. But the Christmas Gospel tells me the wonderful news that God became a Man in Christ to reconcile the world to Himself not counting my sins against me. Reconciled to God the Creator by Christ the Re-creator means that the Creator is my friend. I don't expect bad things from my friends. I don't expect a friend to purposely hurt me. I expect friends to use what the have for my good. God is my Friend because Christ took away any reason for God not to be by friend. So, in Christ I expect only good, helpful, blessed things from the hands of the Creator.
My belief in a Creator drives my view of the world, my confession of sins and drives me to my Re-creator, and in Him what do I find? I find that my Re-creator is also my Creator. "Without Him not a single thing was made," says John. "By Him all things were created," says Paul. In the beginning God created by speaking His Word. That Word was God the Son.
This Word was inscripturated, written down, so sinners might always know exactly what God says. But the written Word wasn't enough to save us, so the Word became flesh. The Incarnate Word, Jesus, kept the laws of God in His body that we don't keep in ours, and the Incarnate Word suffered and died in His Body for the sins we do in ours. But the Word wasn't done yet. Not only did He create and recreate us, He specially feeds those He recreates. God the Word was inscripturated; then He was incarnated, and now He is in-Breaded. Using gifts of the Creator, bread and wine, the Re-creator gives us His Body as Bread and His Blood as Wine to prepare us in this present creation that is coming to an end for life in the New Creation that never, ever ends. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Advent I Midweek (12-1-04); First Article and Explanation