Tuesday, May 28, 2013
To confess is to worship... to worship is to confess
If someone were to ask you, "Who is God?" What would you say? How would you explain God? Because that is the task the world has placed before the Church and each of us as baptized Christians. What words define the God who was, who is, and who is to come, who made all things and became flesh, who bestowed power upon unbelieving hearts and fearful disciples?
We might be tempted to answer with our speculative thoughts or more personally with our feelings – what seems right or true for us. Would we answer with the creed? May we would think that too much. Too long. Too theological. Too mysterious. But that is exactly the point. We do not define or explain God. No words can do justice to that. Or to Him. We confess Him. We speak of Him as He has spoken of Himself to us. And that is enough. Explanations may be our temptation, definitions our desire, but confession is the only and the true answer.
Jesus said in the Gospel for today, "Before Abraham was... I am." The Jews clearly heard that Jesus was not merely claiming to be as old as Abraham but the God of Abraham. The eternal God always was but He reveals Himself in time through His incarnate Son. So we know the Father by knowing the Son. Even this is too much for us unless the Spirit works to break through our hearts and open us to faith. That is the mystery of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is One God in Three Persons and to know one is to know the whole God. Jesus imparts to us not merely the revelation of Himself as the Son but the fullness of the Holy Trinity.
He was and He is. It is not that He was or will be but He is. We are so caught in time that we instinctively divide everything according to past, present, and future. Our Lord Jesus was present before and in all things that He created by His will and word. Before He took on flesh and blood of the Virgin by the Holy Spirit, He is. He always was. He always will be. Yet He entered time and space for our salvation. It is the character of God, even the God who entered time and space, that the past and future are the present to Him.
Who for us and for our salvation became flesh and blood, we confess in the Creed. He entered creation in order to bear the burden of our sin. He was born to die that His death bound creation might live. This is the will of the Father which is fulfilled in His Son and it is this Gospel the Spirit makes known. It is this mystery into which we were baptized. It is this God who is God and apart from Him there is no god.
We know God less for who He is than for what He has done. He has made all things from nothing. He has redeemed His fallen creation with a love stronger than any love ever known. He purchased and won His sinful and dead world with the priceless cost of His own Son's body and blood. He has paid the debt of us debtors. He has restored what was taken from Him. He has redeemed the lost and welcomed them with the open arms of His steadfast love that endures forever.
What was sinful and unclean, He has declared holy and righteous in Christ. This is our baptismal gift. What was dead in trespasses and sin He has made alive by His own sacrificial death. He rose to bring us to God as those whom He has won for Himself for all eternity, no more can death steal us and no more can Satan control our will. This is no definition or explanation of God but the proclamation of what He has done.
We confess this God first of all in worship. From the invocation that began this service to the absolution that imparts what Christ has won to the creed which joins our voices to the Christians of yesterday and passes on the legacy of faith to those yet to come... we confess God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the Holy Communion we encounter Him as the baptized invited, clothed, and set apart for this feast, this moment.
To confess Him is to worship Him. In fancy terms we say, orthodoxy always results in orthopraxy. This is, right belief results in right worship. To put it in the words of the Athanasian Creed, the catholic faith is this that we worship One God in Three persons. As tempting as it is to speculate about God, we do not speculate of Him to the world. Nor do we define Him. God reveals Himself a defines Himself. In many and various ways until now He has spoken fully through His Son, the culmination of His self-disclosure whom we know by the Spirit. The best witness is one that does not speak of what we think but of what we know from the God who has made Himself known to us in His Son by the power of the Spirit.
So we believe what He has revealed of Himself. We confess what He has spoken. We worship this God where He has chosen to come to us in the means of grace. And we recount what He has done to the world. Christians witness God best when we witness what God Himself has said of Himself, what He has told us He has done, for saying back to Him we repeat that which is most true and most sure. The center of this is not philosophy or speculation but worship. Our presence as well as the liturgy are our witness to the God whom we know only because and as He has disclosed Himself to us.
The Scriptures reveal, the creeds confess, and the means of grace impart. Here is where we know God. This is why worship is sticky. It clings to us and we cling to it. This is why worship is the center of our lives for everything we are flows from right here, this water, this Word, this table.
And today we see it all... the water that gives life, the Word that absolves, the voice that speaks, the bread and wine that feeds us eternal life.... Who is God? Right here... Right now... This is God... The God of our confession, the God whom we worship, and the God who bestows upon us the gifts of His grace, just as He has promised.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen