SERMON: To pray and to confess
It is about confessing your faith today.
It is about knowing how to pray and believe in the power of prayer.
Martin Luther once said: “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing. “
So, prayer is like breathing in our faith: we cannot live without it, it is fundamental to our existence as believers.
And we could say the same thing about creed and confession. We need to know what we believe in … to believe.
Like the bible the creeds, The Apostle, the Nicene and the Athanasian Creed are old written documents. All of them originate from the earliest centuries of the Christian Church and its history; from a time when theological and philosophical questions about who God was, who Jesus was and what or who the Holy Spirit was, were debated widely among the Christians. So as the earliest Christians did debate for generations about the concept of Father, Son and Holy Spriit, we too in the same tradtion of living faith debate what we confess. A Creed is a manifest of faith – but is living, reforming, challenging and transforming.
The Oldest of our Creeds, and the fundamental Creed that is included in the Small Catechism and that we do use in worship every week, is called the Apostle Creed.
The word Creed derives from the Latin word CREDO= I believe and there are creedal statements in the Bible. But even if we might think that the Apostle Creed is part of the Bible, it is not in the Bible.
Throughout the Middle ages it was generally believed that this old creed was composed by the Apostle on the very day of Pentecost and that each of them contributed one of the twelve sections. This appears to be a legend – however it is still our oldest Christian creed. And there is still good reason to call it The Apostle creed, because its content agrees with the teaching of the apostle. We often claim that the Apostle Creed is from the 3rd Century, but in its known form the earliest evidence for it is in the early 8th century.
The Apostle Creed had 3 uses
1. a confession of faith for those who were baptized,
2. secondly it was a catechism, and instruction for new Christians and 3.
3. thirdly it was to give the earliest Christians church a “rule of faith” and a continuity.
The Apostle Creed is trinitarian and one of my favorite sections of the Small Catechism is when Martin Luther explains the Apostle Creed.
I believe in God: God is the creator but also the loving father and provider.
I believe in Jesus Christ: Jesus is God’s son and our brother.
I believe in the Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit interacts in the world and connects us.
WE baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy spirit and we confess our faith in the triune God – Sunday after Sunday. So, it is not only prayer that is like breathing for Christians, - The Apostle creed is breathing for Lutheran’s.
As I do think most Christians agree upon: The Lord’s prayer is the most beautiful prayer – and according to the gospel this prayer is the Lord’s own prayer. Jesus taught his disciples how to pray and he gave them and us this beautiful universal prayer. So, when we pray this most beautiful prayer, we pray as Christ himself did and we pray in unison and yet different language throughout the world. It is an amazing prayer. This most beloved of prayers gathers many concern that are central to our lives as Christians and as humans. And Luther’s beautiful explanation provide another outline for ways we can pray, serve, believe, forgive, and confess.
Our father in heaven: we trust God as our Father, as one who loves us, protects us and cares for us even if we fail.
Hollowed by your name: Gods name is holy and his name is I AM the source of all and the power of all.
Your kingdom and your will be done
God’s kingdom is both here and there. Now and then… and the will of God is done, when justice is done, peace is among us and we live as his children
Our daily bread: Luther’s has a long extensive list of what daily bread means – and we can add to it: good relationship, strong families, just societies, peace among nations, being able to sit here in our beautiful church.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive. Forgiveness is at the center of the prayer. An old man once told me that he always felt bad, when praying Our Lord’s prayer and there wasn’t even a single word about Christ! But there is – the center word of forgiveness as Jesus taught us to and as Jesus was the embodiment of forgiveness. Forgiveness is hard on all of us – it is hard to say I am sorry and it is hard to accept an apology. It is hard to forgive and to believe that you are forgiven.
Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil…. Trials and testing’s is a part of our human lives. It comes in so many forms that this simple prayer covers them all. And evil…. Evil comes in many forms to, it can erupt from any corner of our family and our society. As we just saw evil in the terrible Las Vegas Shooting.
The Kingdom, power, and glory are yours, we pray and we confess. It is not ours, but Gods. The source of grace and life is God – which we need to be reminded when we are too full of ourselves and our deeds and our needs.
Many scholars have studied and written about Our Lord’s Prayer. John Dominic Crossan is one of the world’s foremost scholar of the historical Jesus. As a former Roman Catholic Priest and professor, one of Crossan’s latest book was called “ The Greatest Prayer”, and Crossan argued that Our Lords prayer is the greatest prayer, because it can be prayed by non/Christians too. Any religions greatest prayers should be addressed to the whole world, Crossan argued. If a prayer only speaks to you, that is fine. But shouldn’t it speak to all of us? Shouldn’t it be inclusive instead of exclusive? The Lord’s prayer is the greatest, because it comes from the heart of Judaism and the lips of Christianity, but speaks to the conscience of the world. And in my Danish ears it echoes the fundamental teaching of our Danish Reformer Grundtvig when he taught “ Human first, then Christian.”
The Lord’s prayer is the greatest, because it comes from the heart of Judaism and the lips of Christianity, but speaks to the conscience of the world.