Isaiah 42: 1-9
LUKE 24: 36-53

January 19,2020

I BELIEVE … you believe … WE BELIEVE.

Just a few moments ago, we repeated words that first appeared in writing in the year 390AD in a letter from a man named Ambrose to Pope Siricius.  SYMBOLUM A-POST-O-LI-CUM … the symbol of the Apostles.  Words intended to reflect what the original apostles might have stated about their faith.   I sincerely doubt that Ambrose had any idea that his words would be repeated by millions of people of faith over two millennium but in their simplicity they have become a public confession of faith for believers as well as a feel good statement for those who go to church to fit in but leave their faith at the church door.

 I BELIEVE IN GOD … the maker of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.”

It’s rather easy to recite words from memory … it’s easy to read these words on a screen or on a piece of paper … but in these skeptical times do any of us really understand or have the willingness to commit  ourselves to believe in the words we recited this morning? Because, when we believe in something it means we accept everything that goes along with that belief.   Take a look at the words again in your bulletin; read them with friends at brunch … we said we believed these things this morning in this church … a church of God and Jesus Christ.  We told each other and … WE TOLD God that … WE BELIEVE.

To reject or alter aspects of what anyone claims to believe in basically is admitting that the belief is not real.  Obviously there are some things we can’t deny believing … water is always going to be wet.  The sun will rise in the east and set in the west.  Winter when it snows is the best time of the year … ok, that might not be a universal belief but it is a truth.

So, together we are going to head out on a journey over the next few weeks to consider our CREED … our FAITH … our BELIEF system in what I hope will be a personal revival of faith for each of us.  A revival that I sense is needed in me and based on many conversations that I have had over the last few months I am pretty sure that many of you need to revive or rediscover your Jesus … your God; our God and our Jesus …  so that by Easter of this year when you are asked to say the words of the Apostles Creed you and I will be clearly stating a truth we feel and live … I BELIEVE IN GOD THE MAKER of HEAVEN and EARTH and in JESUS CHRIST … and together we will dedicate our daily lives to be focused …  on living the lives that God and Jesus Christ call us to.

Throughout my ministry, my messages on the third Sunday of January have always turned to the life and teaching of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior.  Our nation remembers him with tomorrow’s holiday and one of the impacts that he had on my life as a teenager and continues to have … was his consistency in his faith walk … in how he lived out his life following the lessons of Christ.  He lived what the Bible taught … he declared his belief in God and Jesus Christ to the world.  A sinner like all of us, he was far from a perfect man, yet he strived to actively demonstrate what believing with all of his energy meant and his faith and his belief and his acceptance of what Jesus taught sent him to jail, led other humans to beat him and to eventually kill him.

I looked for some reminders from Dr. King about faith and belief to share this morning because if we believe … then we will be people doing all we can despite our shortcomings … our sins .. our challenges … together if we believe we will be people who do what we can for God and Christ with the gifts and talents God has given to us.  Regardless of our education … regardless of our age and health … regardless of our wealth … we are all gifted by God through the Holy Spirit to bring our faith life into action.  That’s faith … that’s believing.  And if we answer the question WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IN with the response I BELIEVE in GOD the maker of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ His Son then we can become activists because of that belief.

That Baptist pastor born in Atlanta Georgia in 1929 taught that “faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”   Dr. King emphasized that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that” as he referenced Jesus teaching about loving and forgiving all of our neighbors.   Dr. King boldly proclaimed that “Forgiveness is not an occasional act it is a constant attitude.”

As I thought about this sermon series there is one particular quote from Dr. King that hit home with me … because when we say we believe it is my opinion that our lives should reflect what we believe in.  If we accept God and Jesus Christ as true and genuine … if with all that we are … deep in our own minds and our own hearts … if our understanding of what God is tells us that there is more than pretty flowers and more than the birds in the sky but a Creator whose greatness is beyond comprehension and whose love for ALL humankind is so incredible that this God would send Jesus not only to clearly teach us how to live but Jesus died for the sins we are all guilty of … and He rose up on Easter ALIVE … our SAVIOR … our LORD and KING because after all church HE IS RISEN! … << HE IS RISEN INDEED>>

If we believe then shouldn’t our lives reflect God and Christ.  On the day we are laid to rest shouldn’t those gathered to celebrate our lives be saying how they remembered that she or he lived for Christ.  Voices in memorial declaring that the woman … that the man … lived as the Scriptures teach people to live.  Lives not boastful but reflective of faith.

And, so right before Christmas someone shared with me these words from Dr. King that I have heard many times through the years but this time they hit home … “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”  When we feel embarrassed to speak out on the truths Jesus taught … when we get intimidated into not being willing to contradict the world’s chants and taunts with the love of God and Christ … when we allow others to say … shh don’t talk about God things people will get mad at you … then I wonder if we truly believe … or whether our faith lives have ended, which is why I believe we are in desperate times desperately needing REVIVAL of FAITH and RENEWAL of our CREED of beliefs so that you and I and those we meet and know can flourish in God’s love … be led by God’s Holy Spirit and bring about healing to this world!

And, so this morning we first heard the words of the prophet Isaiah … God speaking through him.  “HERE IS MY SERVANT … MY CHOSEN … who brings me delight.  He won’t be extinguished or broken .. the coastlands await His teaching.” 

We know that the prophet was teaching about Jesus … Jesus couldn’t be broken and the coastlands and the mountains and the plains still await His teaching but Isaiah continued sharing what God had to say “He will be the light to the nations … he will open blind eyes … lead the prisoners from prison … those who sit in darkness from their dungeons.  I am the Lord!”

God friends … God who gave us the opportunity for new life and hope.  God who brought us Jesus.  But, so many still sit in darkness … so many still are blind … some have not held onto God’s hand … God who will guard them … because it is hard to give ourselves up and just believe.

And, as Jesus looked up from the shoreline fish barbecue after offering them peace, He asked His disciples and followers, “Why are doubts arising in your hearts?  These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you … that everything about me must be fulfilled.  Christ must suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and a change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins MUST be preached in His name to the nations.  Look I am sending to you what my Father promised … He blessed them and left them.”

Their response … they worshiped Him overwhelmed with joy!  When we get it … when we believe … when we understand … the dark clouds go away … the doubts vanish and then our hearts change and that joy those disciples had can be ours as well.

The lyrics of the song go … “And for all the roads you followed … and for all you did not find … and for all the dreams you had to leave behind. I am the way.  I am the light! Don’t turn away; just take my hand and when you make your final stand I will be right there I’ll never leave and all I ask of you … BELIEVE.”

And, Dr. King told the nation … “When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when your nights become darker than a thousand midnights … let us remember that there is a Creative force in this universe, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows.  Use me God.  Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.” 


And, friends once our belief in God and Christ are reenergized and strong … once God and Jesus lead our lives we can join with this special man who did all he could to make this a better world by declaring ‘FREE AT LAST, FREE AT LAST, THANK GOD ALMIGHTY WE ARE FREE AT LAST!”


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