From my Lenten meditation, March 15, 2017, series on Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, (Part Two).
Romans 10:9-10 — “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”
These verses are telling you how to be saved, so pay close attention. This is important. Verse nine says “Do this and you will be saved.” Verse ten repeats the same statement, saying if you do this, “You are saved.” Do what? Two things. First, believe; “believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead.” What you believe matters. The second thing you need to do is to say, out loud, what you believe. Verse nine says, “If you declare with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord,’ you will be saved;” and verse ten says, “It is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”
When do you do that? When do you say with your mouth what you believe? Do you do that at school, at work, with your family, friends, and neighbors? Do you say to them, “I believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior; how about you?” Well, that is probably not how you would want to start, but we should all try to look for opportunities to share our faith. But in case you didn’t get around to that this week, are there any other times you declared with your mouth what you believe? I can think of at least one time. If you are in church on Sunday morning we almost always say the Apostle’s Creed, so when you join in and do that, you are declaring with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and God raised him from the dead—just like the verse says. That is one of the purposes of the Creed—so we can say what we believe and be saved.
Another purpose of the Creed, and probably the main purpose, is to define the basics of what we believe as Christians. Romans 10:9-10 doesn’t just say believe; it also gives you something to believe in, as does the Creed. As you well know, there are many Christian denominations, and they are all different. In this Lenten sermon series you are hearing about Luther’s Small Catechism. Many of you grew up with this catechism, memorized it, and was quizzed on it ahead of the entire congregation before you were confirmed. Some of you never heard of it. Some of you grew up praying the rosary and going to confession. Many of us did not. Most of you were probably baptized as infants, but I know several of you were baptized as adults after you made a decision for Jesus. Some of you might wonder why our worship service is so stuffy and formal; for others, it is far more laid back and informal than what you are accustomed to. There are many ways to be a Christian and lots of room for diversity in God’s family.
But there are limits to this diversity, and being a Christian means believing in some very important truths. Two of those truths are in the verses above: Jesus is Lord, and God raised him from the dead. The Apostle’s Creed lists a few more. And despite our many differences, all Christian denominations recognize the authority of the Apostle’s Creed as the outline, summary, and definition of our faith. We might disagree on everything else, but Lutherans, Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Mennonites, Seventh Day Adventists, and all the rest agree on this. This Creed was written before any denominations came to be, going all the way back to the second century. And the Creed is brief, just over 100 words long. This brevity allows great diversity in many things, but it does set some important parameters.
Even this is too much for some. A common approach to faith these days is that Christianity can mean anything you want it to mean, and it doesn’t matter what you do and it doesn’t matter what you believe.
For example, I was watching the Super Bowl half-time show this year, and someone said, “Did you know Lady Gaga is a Christian?” I said, “No, I did not know that. And I don’t know much about Lady Gaga, but what I do know, makes me wonder what that means for her.” So I did some searching on the internet and found out all sorts of things. Lady Gaga did go to Catholic school as a girl, and she still does consider herself a Christian. But she does not believe in the institutional church, has a wide-open approach to morality, and does not feel bound in her faith by any creeds or traditional doctrines. She believes she can believe whatever she wants to believe, and can do whatever she wants to do, and it’s all okay with God.
Some newspaper columnists and bloggers I read praised this new form of Christianity as a religion freed from all previous restraints, and not so judgmental as the ‘old time religion.’ They even said this is perhaps the future of the church. Wow. I thought I was just looking up some information on a famous entertainer, and I ended up learning all about the future of the church. (continued…)
THE APOSTLE’S CREED:
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s 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; he descended into hell. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead. 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.