“Boys will be boys”
“Girls just want to have fun”
“Good guys always finish last”
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away”
“In Wisconsin, if you don’t like the weather, just wait 3 hours.”
We come up with a lot of “explanations” in life; miniature stories to explain the way things are. Good or bad, we live by creeds every day. Sometimes they’re lighthearted, sometimes not so much.
“The Devil made me do it.”
“God could never love me.”
“If God loved me, this wouldn’t happen.”
“I can do whatever I want, I can be whatever gender I want, I can believe in whatever God I want.”
What creeds do you live by? What’s your explanation of the world around you? Every religion is an explanation of everything. As Christians, we live in and according to God’s story.
In Lent, we deny our stories and live by God’s. It’s a season of repenting of our personal creeds, and instead living by God’s Creed. So, how’s this for an explanation of everything? “Jesus is Lord.”
The basic Christian creed is “Jesus is Lord.”
That little statement packs a punch. It encompasses everything. It’s talking about the same guy foretold and described by the Scriptures. It’s present-tense (“is”), so it’s proclaiming that Jesus is still alive and acting today. And, most of all, it declares Jesus as Lord, the Supreme above all things, who has control over everything. EVERYTHING. You. Every aspect of your life. Your future. Government. Nature. The cosmos. It doesn’t get any bigger than Jesus.
“Jesus is Lord” is the creed of the Christian. It’s the fundamental explanation of the way things are. It is hope in his promises. It is living by his story of the world.
The Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds are other ways of telling the Jesus-Story. We say them every Sunday in church, and for good reason (and is not because it wouldn’t be “church” without them). They remind us of the Story. They shape us into the Story. We confess that we are part of the Story.
So, what does it mean to live by, subscribe to, and confess the Story?
The Story Is One
“Jesus said to him,‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:6)
Jesus isn’t mincing words there. He’s making a bold claim (frankly, the kind of claim that’s not too popular these days, even in Christian circles): there is one way to Jesus; one Story of Jesus. There is only one, true faith; there are not multiple right ways of being Christian.
So, we must make a bold claim: differences in belief and denomination matter. Ultimately, those differences mean we’re telling conflicting stories. Someone is right and someone is wrong. It doesn’t mean we’re condemning other denominations as not Christian, but we must acknowledge that there is only one true Story of Jesus. After all, it’s his Story, not ours. Jesus gets to determine what Christianity is and is not. Not us.
After all, it’s his Story, not ours. Jesus gets to determine what Christianity is and is not. Not us.
As Lutherans, we claim to be pure, true, biblical Christianity. (We could–and perhaps should–drop the “Luther” part. We only call ourselves Lutheran because we strive to practice the faith of Jesus’ apostles as described in the Scripture, as Luther’s Reformation called for.)
An arrogant claim? Perhaps. Okay, sure, claiming to be the right way of being Christian on a planet that currently is home to over 2000 denominations (last I heard) is an arrogant claim. But here’s the thing, we’re arrogant because we care about how the Story is told. If there is only one Story of Jesus, then ultimately, false faith about the Jesus-story is idolatry. It’s belief in a different Jesus than Jesus claims to be.
However, that doesn’t mean other denominations are all wrong and we’re all right. In fact, I would describe Lutheranism as A way in the one true faith. I’m not saying that there are different legitimate ways of being Christian. What I am saying is that there are parts of the Story that we haven’t explored. Questions we haven’t asked. Aspects we haven’t considered. And there exists the possibility that we could be—gasp!—wrong about something!
So, as Christians, we should strive to all live according to one Story. Therefore, it is LOVING to challenge each other over differences in that Story so as to prevent Christian brothers and sisters from falling into idolatry.
The Story Is Handed Down
The Bible is not the foundation of our faith.
Jesus is the foundation of our faith.
We believe the Bible because it testifies to the Jesus-Story. The Bible is based on the claim that Jesus is Lord. Because Jesus affirms the Bible, we don’t have to try to prove everything in the Bible. It sounds unbelievable that some guy could live in a fish for 3 days, but I believe it not because I’ve proved it, but because Jesus affirms it. Jesus is Lord. His word goes.
We believe the Bible because Jesus affirms it. Jesus is Lord. His word goes.
The Story predates the Bible. Adam and Eve knew the Story. Creation. The Fall. The foretold Messiah. The restoration of Creation through him. And that Story was handed down through the Old Testament writers, the prophets, the apostles, and etc. The Bible, then, is God’s gift to the church to keep the Story straight. Since our foundation is Jesus, Creeds help us interpret Bible according to that Jesus-story.
And since Jesus is our foundation, we should be bold about being the one true faith! Not bold because we get to be right. And not being jerks. But bold because the Story we live by is founded on Jesus as Lord and the Word Made Flesh. If we’re wrong, anyone who has the same foundation we do (Jesus) will correct us (and rightfully so).
The Story Unites
“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Romans 6:4-5)
Jesus brings us into his death and resurrection Story TOGETHER through baptism. He does this in two ways:
The Jesus-Story is a story about Jesus bringing us together!
As Christians, we come together by telling the same Story.
There’s beauty in that: the Church achieves a diversity this world can’t. The Church is made up of a community that transcends time, space, cultures, colors, class, sex, and age. What unites us is Jesus.
That’s why Communion is so cool: you don’t have to know all the answers, every detail of Story. Communion is Jesus acting by nourishing us in His Story. The Story literally is that Jesus claims you as his. And, Communion is us acting by uniting in telling the one, true Story that has been handed down to us.
Together We Confess
Confessing means acknowledging yourself in the Story. God’s Story becomes your story, His creed becomes your creed. As a Christian, you live according to an explanation of world (and yourself) that does not come from you. It comes from outside of you. Jesus has written you into his Story. He has written us together in the Story.
In this season of Lent, how is God challenging you to deny your story and live by His Story?