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I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
What is it about the name of Jesus? There’s a song that describes it as the sweetest name I know. What does it mean to us to say “I believe in Jesus Christ, is only Son, our Lord”? What is it about the name of Jesus?
In the past several years, God has done a lot through us here at Blythwood in terms of pastoral education and experience. We’ve had two students – one from Tyndale Seminary and one from McMaster Divinity College – spend two semesters here as pastoral interns. For the past four summers we have had pastoral interns from the US stay with us for two months and become involved in the life of the church. It’s been a great blessing for them and for us. A great time of learning for them and for us and for growing closer to God.
Three summers ago we hosted Michael Sizemore from North Carolina. He spent his birthday here and to celebrate he wanted to go out for tacos. We went to a taco place at Yonge and Eglinton, very trendy and if not tragically hip pretty hip. We had a good time. While we were there I noticed an ice cream place which was adjacent to the restaurant. It’s no longer there though they have other locations. The franchise started in Toronto and the thing that struck me as odd or maybe it just struck me was the name. Sweet Jesus.
I recalled this as I was considering this second line of the Apostle’s Creed and the name of Jesus. Why was I so struck by this? I don’t know if I would say I was offended though I do believe they’re playing fast and loose with a name that is very dear to many. I began to wonder why they had chosen such a name and went to their website. It says this: Our name was created from the popular phrase that people use as an expression of enjoyment, surprise or disbelief. Our aim is not to offer commentary on anyone’s religion or belief systems, Our own organization is made up of amazing people that represent a wide range of cultural and religious beliefs.
All this searching led me to an article in one of our national daily newspapers in which the reporter talked about how some Christian groups had organized online boycotts and communication campaigns. Again you can debate the merits or lack thereof of such a strategy. The interesting thing was that the angle that the reporter (who really became more of a reviewer) took was that the offense was not so much in the name but in the quality of the product. According to this reporter, the soft-serve was no better than you would find in any fast-food place. To him the appeal of the place for people was in how the ice-cream looked and how Instagram worthy it was. If you hashtag #sweetjesusicecream on a social media platform you’ll find pictures that people have taken. Ice-cream selfies if you will.
All this reminded me of another article I had read (and this is coming back to Jesus) about a thing called “Instagram face”. This is, as the kids say, a thing. It usually involves young women getting procedures done in order to look more like Instagram stars like Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner. It’s a look and if you’re not achieving that look, in their eyes, you are less than. So get filler and get whatever else done so that you will be compared favourably to the people whom you follow and who follow you and with apps like Facetune you’re not just competing against idealized images of the rich and famous but idealized digitized photos of yourself. This is a thing.
The question was asked recently “What would Jesus’ Instagram account look like?”
There would be much to say there, but let me just say this for now. If we consider Philippians 2, we can say with a fair degree of certainty that it would not consist of Jesus posting pictures of his Instagram face.
Jesus is pretty central to this whole Christian enterprise. Someone has said that this line about Jesus in the Creed is like the centre of a wheel from which all the other lines go out like spokes. The sweetest name we know. Jesus. Saviour. Deliverer. Rescuer. Christ. Not his last name but anointed one. Chosen one. Messiah. The root of the word that began to be used to describe his followers. Christians. First used in Antioch. Literally “Little Christs”. A name that was actually pejorative and we took it over and started using it.
The sweetest name we know. Don’t bandy it about. I believe in Jesus. The name is in the Creed to signify that we do not worship a manifesto or a set of principles or a set of rules to live by or deep thoughts or whatever else one might think we’re worshipping here. We worship a person. God with us. God stepping into history in a person whose name is Jesus. Saviour. Deliverer. Forgiver. Teacher. Lord. I was talking with Pastor Abby recently and we were saying that there is no end of things you could say in a sermon about any of these lines of the Apostles’ Creed. Before you get nervous and start looking at your watches I want to look at three things which this line from the Creed signifies for us today. Jesus
The name itself is number one. Naming Jesus at all implies a relationship with Jesus. This is how names work isn’t it? When we meet someone one of the first things we learn (hopefully) is their name. When someone remembers our name it makes us feel rather special doesn’t it? When someone overuses or misuses our name it can be a little off-putting or even creepy can’t it?
His name itself means saviour or deliverer. To say that we believe in Jesus means that we are pledging our allegiance to God’s grand salvation plan which was enacted and is being enacted and will be enacted in the person of Jesus. We see this described in the Creed and these are things that we’ll be looking at over the coming weeks.
Which means I suppose that this is kind of an introduction to Jesus! Not in the sense of you haven’t met him before but hopefully in the sense for all of us that we’re coming through the power of the Holy Spirit to a deeper heart-understanding of what this line means to us and to our lives. I believe in Jesus means that we are caught up in God’s grand salvation plan. I’ve been reading about millennials and church attendance and the various reasons why involvement in religion is on the wane for some. One young person said that they have found that they can be moral or live ethically without Christianity. I read that and thought that if we have reduced Christ to a moral or ethical program, or a self-improvement program or a get rich program or any program whose central message is the benefit to you personally, then we have done the good news of Christ an egregious disservice. May God save us from that and forgive us for that.
We’re talking about the point of contact between God and humanity. Jesus. Fully God and fully human and don’t try to begin to be able to figure out how that works because some things are simply beyond us (and would we really have it any other way – would we really want to be able to put God in a box labelled “Things We Understand”?) The messenger who is also the message. The messenger is the message (with a nod to Northrop Frye). We’re not just talking about some moral program. We’re talking about the centrepiece of the Creed being the centrepiece of our lives. The Heidelberg Catechism puts it so well when it asks the question “What is your only comfort in life or death?” The answer is “That I am not my own, but belong, body and soul, in life and in death to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.”
That we belong to Christ. “The God to whom I belong,” as Paul put it on that storm-tossed ship. The Christ who has claimed me for his own. This is whom we confess when we say “And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord.” Son
Secondly, he’s the one who calls us brother and sister. His only Son. The one in whom we have been adopted into the family. This is how Paul puts it to the Romans in 8:15-17:
“For we did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, of God and joint-heirs with Christ…” Social distinctions are erased. The things by which society tells us to judge people – what we look like, our ability to produce and consume, etc. are erased in the family of God.
Finally, what does it mean to us to call Christ Jesus our Lord? To call Jesus Lord is to say that the Herods of the world are not Lord. The kingdom of God is not dependent on political leaders who might talk about protecting Christianity as if the kingdom of God were something in need of protection from political leaders. Our leader is Jesus. To say I believe in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord means that Jesus is our Lord. It means that the messages that we are bombarded with and assailed by constantly about all the things that the world tries to tell us are worthy of lordship are not – be it “imagine the freedom”, to hookup culture, to valuing ourselves by how much we have, to a closet full of shoes (and don’t ever think that I’m preaching to myself here or don’t need to come to a deeper understanding of these things myself) to the aforementioned Instagram face to…. You can fill in the rest.
To say that Jesus Christ is our Lord is to say that we are not our lord. To paraphrase Dietrich Bonhoeffer, when Christ calls us, he calls us to come and die to ourselves. In so doing – in trying on that coat we find that fits perfectly, in tasting that meal that is the best thing we ever tasted – we find life. “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loves us so much we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:10-11) God calls us to step into this love that as someone has said “seeks nothing but to promote the flourishing of the other and to pay due respect to her for her worth.” Our worth as beloved creations of God brought back to God in Christ our brother.
This is our invitation this morning as we recite this great truth along with all the other great truths contained in these ancient word. Thanks be to God for them. Let’s say them together.