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Hello! I am Don Kirsch. Feel free to email me at pastor@oakgroveunitedmethodist.org.



Lent Study – 5

April 4, 2017

Believe

This week’s focus is on the baptismal questions: Let us join together in professing the Christian faith, as contained in the Old and New Testaments. Do you entrust your life to God the Father?… Do you entrust your life to Jesus Christ?… Do you entrust your life to the Holy Spirit?
The questions are found on page 34 of the United Methodist Hymnal (UMH).

For this week, there is one verb (believe) and three main objects of our belief (Father, Son, Holy Spirit).
Let’s begin again with a definition (www.dictionary.com)
• Believe – to have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something, although without absolute proof that one is right in doing so:
And just for fun we will see what the dictionary says about:
• Father – to beget.
• Son – a male person looked upon as the product or result of particular agencies, forces, influences, etc.:
• Holy Spirit – the spirit of God.
Take a moment to think about times you use these words in your everyday life.
Let’s take a look at how Taylor Burton-Edwards looks at these words:
Usually in Christian literature believe is translated “believe in” or it would be better translated, literally, as “believe into.” “Believing into” someone means entrusting one’s life to someone. (See Apostles Creed)

“I Believe in God, the Father Almighty”

Translation from the Greek:
“I believe into God the Father,
the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth.”

(Note: There is a comma after Father in the Greek text. It is missing in many English translations which derive more from the Latin than the Greek).
This article identifies the person of God the Father with two additional attributes: “almighty,” and “maker of heaven and earth.”
To entrust oneself to God the Father, then, is to entrust oneself to one who is both “almighty” and “maker of heaven and earth.”
The first of these terms may require some further unpacking. The Greek typically translated as “almighty” (pantokrator) is the same word used to translate the Hebrew Shaddai in the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible that was most widely in use throughout the Roman world at the time of Jesus and the early church.
Pantokrator itself means, most literally, to rule or hold sway (krator) over all things (panto). Because it has that basic meaning, it has extended meanings of “be as mighty as can be” and even “be conqueror over all.” What it translates in the Hebrew, Shaddai, which derives from the word for “mountains” or, alternately, “breasts” points in the first case (mountain) to one who is at the pinnacle, on the top of the mountain, and thereby able to dominate the valley and surrounding region, and, in the second (breasts), to the compassion of a nursing mother toward her child. Shaddai, in Hebrew, thus carries this idea of one who is at once able to rule over others and who does so with great compassion. That vision of compassion is lost in the translation from Hebrew, where it would have been heard and understood to Greek, where “krator” does not have similar roots or cognates.
The Latin and English translations follow the Greek rather than the Hebrew. Omnipotens (all-powerful) only captures power without the compassion implied in the Hebrew. Almighty, in English, is ultimately a translation of omnipotens, and again seems to exult only in the power of God, or, perhaps more problematically, suggest God’s power is completely unlimited, an idea not present in the Hebrew term or early Hebrew theology, but quite compatible with some later Greek (pagan) theistic theologies.
So to entrust one’s life to God the Father, who is “almighty,” is, via the Hebrew, less a matter of entrusting one’s life to an “omnipotent” being who “can” do anything, and much more to entrust one’s life to One who is able to govern the created universe, and who does so with compassion. Governing or ruling does not mean having absolute control over everything that happens. Instead, it means taking responsibility for what happens, however it happens, and intervening where needed to put at least some things more right than they had been.
To entrust one’s life to God the Father, then, is to entrust one’s life to the One who is responsible for all and who uses that responsibility with compassion toward all.
“Maker of heaven and earth.” God the Father’s rule with compassion over all (pantokrator) is immediately set into further context with the act of having made all things.
Here the Apostles Creed speaks of the universe in a typically Hebraic way, “heaven and earth,” all that we can see above and around us, and all that is with us here at the level of this planet. It also describes God as maker, or creator. In Greek and Hebrew, both, there is no real difference between these two English works. The maker or author or creator has an intimate connection with what is made, written, or created. Generally, when we make something and consider it to be good, as God does in the act of creation (Genesis 1), we love it, are proud of it, and hope for it to prosper or bring prosperity. This description of God the Father as maker of heaven and earth thus adds a further dimension to love, feeling, and intimacy to the description of the Father.
When you think of God the Father, what images come to your mind immediately? How do they compare with what the Creed says about God the Father? How does this understanding of what the Creed says help you entrust your life more fully to God the Father?

I Believe in Jesus Christ, His Only Son, Our Lord

Translation from the Greek:
“And into Jesus Christ, his only-begotten son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born from the Mary the Virgin,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried,
descended to the depths,
the third day was raised from the dead,
ascended into the heavens,
is seated at the right hand God the Father of all power,
coming from there to judge the living and the dead.”
To entrust ourselves to Jesus Christ in this article is to entrust our lives to the one who did all the verbs in the long list of verbs in this article: was conceived, born, suffered, crucified, died, buried, descended, raised, ascended, seated, and coming to judge.
It is also to commit ourselves to the same path from our own new birth in baptism to the closing of our days and beyond. As Paul writes in Romans 6:4, “So we have been co-buried with him in baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so also we ourselves may walk in newness of life.” We move as he did from baptism to suffering for the sake of the good news of God’s kingdom, suffering with those suffering because of the reign of the powers of this world, and suffering in our struggle to witness for God’s reign and for the freedom of all oppressed by the powers of this world. For as Paul also wrote (II Timothy 2:11-12), probably quoting a song or saying already in use by the church in Ephesus:
If we have died with him, we shall also live with him.
If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him.
If we deny him, he will also deny us.
If we are unbelieving, still he remains faithful,
because he cannot deny himself.
So, how do you entrust your life to Jesus in full awareness that doing so may well lead to suffering for the sake of his mission?

I Believer in the Holy Spirit

Translation from Greek:
“I believe into the Holy Spirit,
holy catholic church,
communion of the holy ones,
forgiveness of sins,
resurrection of flesh,
life of age to come. Amen.”
In this article of the creed, we entrust our lives to the Holy Spirit, yet seem to say nothing at all about the Holy Spirit beyond the name. That is, unless we see the rest of the items in this article reflecting the work of the Holy Spirit among us here and now.
From that angle, the Holy Spirit gives rise to the church, holy and worldwide. The Holy Spirit makes our communion with one another possible, and makes us holy. The Holy Spirit is the living breath and power for the forgiveness of sins. The Holy Spirit is the agency of the resurrection of our flesh. And the Holy Spirit at work in and through us is the guarantor, guide, and giver of life in the age to come.
So to entrust our lives to the Holy Spirit is to trust our lives also to and with one another in a way that builds community worldwide, a community made possible and sustainable because our chief currency is mercy, the forgiveness of sins.
How are you doing at entrusting your life to the Holy Spirit whose work is like this? How can we help you do this better, more and more?

This Lent series can be found at

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John 3:16

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life.