The first article, or part, of the creed deals with God the Father. We are not going to spend a lot of time discussing or detailing what it means to call God “Father.” There are endless books, articles, and recorded lectures you can look at if you’re into that. I’ll be happy to talk to you more about that, in fact, if you like, but it’s not the point of the first article of the creed.
The point of the first article is creation.
Both the Apostles’ and the Nicene creeds begin with the doctrine of creation, as it’s sometimes called. This doctrine is rooted in the belief in God the Father. When we confess a belief in God the Father, we associate that confession with the belief that God is the one who made all things. We confess that creation doesn’t exist apart from God.
“All things,” St. John tells us, “came into being through God, and without him not one thing came into being.” Now—this makes for some fascinating, fascinating discussion about the nature of creation and sin, which I’m more than happy to have with you at some point, but at its most basic level, the this means that all thing, everything, anything that is—all that lives and moves, if it lives and moves, and has being in God. It cannot exist apart from God. Creation doesn’t exist apart from God. The world doesn’t exist apart from God. The universe doesn’t exist apart from God. Nothing—no thing exists apart from God. This is what we confess when we say, “I believe in God the Father.”
And so as we go deeper into our pondering on what this confession means today, keep that in mind. There is no thing that exists apart from God…no thing, not even you.
Let us pray. May only God’s Word be spoken and may only God’s Word be heard; in the name of Jesus. Amen.
One of the most controversial parts of the Bible today is the account of creation. In fact, even referring to it as “the account” of creation is a misnomer because, in fact, there are two accounts, plural, of creation in the Bible—Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. These two accounts, much like the life of Jesus across the four gospels, are often melded into one account in minds of your average person.
For example, let me ask you a question—and it’s alright if you’re “wrong.” Did God make people first or last when creating everything? Well—it depends on how you read the Bible! If you read Genesis 1, you’d say that God made human beings last; if you read Genesis 2, you’d say that human beings were made first. The whole account of the garden is from Genesis 2. God makes Adam first and puts him in a garden. God makes companions for Adam in the animals, but realizes that they’re not appropriate to be his life partner. So God takes a rib from Adam and makes Eve…It’s also in Genesis 2 that we even get the names Adam and Eve. In Genesis 1, God makes the whole world before making humankind—and we don’t get any details or names in Genesis 1.
In short, the two accounts are different.
And they’re different because for one they’re not meant to be taken as factual, scientific accounts how creation unfolded and two, they’re trying to say different things about the origins of life. But this much is true, and sufficient for us today. Both accounts, individually and together, tell us this much: God is the creator of life. Or as we say it slightly differently in the creed, God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. That is to say, God is the one responsible for all that is, both in this world and in the worlds far from us in realms and places we can’t even begin to imagine.
From a scientific standpoint, it makes sense that the earth was created before flora and fauna. And so the general trajectory, at least from a biological, physical, and archeological perspective, would be to follow the path of Genesis 1 in understanding how the world’s creation unfolded. When God first created all that is, the heavens and earth, the earth was formless and void. This is to say, all that we could possibly know—the earth, our world—wasn’t at all like we know it now. Yet God was there, and God spoke: let there be light. We know that, from science, this is actually quite accurate to how things unfolded. The Big Bang, a scientific theory that was in fact first articulated by Georges Lemaître, a Roman Catholic priest from Belgium, tells us that the universe was so dense, so condensed in on itself, that at the moment of creation, it burst forth in pure energy and light, expanding rapidly through…a void. Over the course of billions of years, stars, planets, and galaxies coalesced and soon life developed—much in the way that the Genesis 1 lays out, the “simpler” life beginning first and then more complex life coming later.
Don’t think that I’m suggesting that Genesis is a science textbook for the creation of the world. It’s not. But it is an accurate accounting, from a layman’s perspective, of the general trajectory of how things unfolded. And what’s more, it does tell us something more fundamental that science doesn’t attempt to address. Who created the universe, and perhaps even more to the point for many of us, why.
God created the universe because God wants a relationship with something and someone beyond himself. God is inherently relational. We see that in God’s very own self in the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A dynamic union of three persons, indivisible-yet-distinct from each other. This same God whose fundamental nature is relationship created the heavens and the earth, all that is, seen and unseen, known and unknown to us, because he wanted a shared relationship outside of himself. God wasn’t satisfied to just be, but instead created life—something so marvelous and fantastic as everything we know, even unto our very selves, to be in relationship with it all. And to be in relationship with us…
One of the most compelling parts of the Genesis 1 account of creation is that it happens incrementally, day by day and morning by morning, but that each increment, each day, is punctuated with God seeing that what he did was good. God’s creation is a good creation. And what’s more, after God has created everything except for humanity, he says, “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature.”
Some theologians have suggested God is speaking to the angels. Others have wondered if God is talking amongst himself in speaking of “our nature,” or in other places, “our image.” But when we see that God is relational by nature, relational among himself, and we are created in the image of God, reflecting God’s nature, God is speaking here of himself. We are relational in our nature as well—just as God is relational. From the very foundation of creation, humanity is meant to be in relationship—relationship with God’s created world, relationship with one another, and relationship with God. By our nature, we are relational—and this isn’t just good, but it’s very good. God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created us. And God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
The significance of this cannot be overstated. We are created in the image of God, with God’s nature, and as part of the created world, God has called us along with everything else “very good.” Only once humanity, only once we enter onto the scene of creation does God see that things are “completed” and indeed, it is very good. Sometimes we might be tempted to think of ourselves as somehow more important than the rest of creation—than the birds, animals, fish, trees, water, mountains—because God called creation very good after creating us, but that’s not the case. We are part of creation, a critical part of the story. Without us, creation isn’t whole, but creation isn’t whole, or very good, without the rest of God’s expansive goodness either. God loves his whole creation.
Humanity, you and me, are marked with the image of God, but that comes with a responsibility as well. God charges us to have dominion over creation, to care for it as God would care for it. Some have wrongly thought this means that the world is here to serve our needs, to be bent to our will and desire, but that’s not it at all. We are here to tend to the world in relationship with the world the way that God would tend it, in relationship with it. We are to love the world—its breadth and depth, wonders and terrors—with the same love that God has for it, with the same love that God has for us.
While we might be tempted to overinflate our importance and relationship to creation, we can also undervalue ourselves in relationship to it as well—or worse, in relationship to one another or to God. When God created us, he created us in his image, in the image of God he created us. And God saw all that he had made, and indeed, it is very good. You are created in the image of God. In the image of God you are created. And God looked at you, and indeed, God saw that it is good—very good. God loves you, an important, critical part of the grand design of creation. God has declared you good—not because of what you do or don’t do, but because God chooses to love you and have relationship with you.
The fundamental truth of creation is that God created the universe because God wants a relationship with something and someone beyond himself. The fundamental truth of creation for you is that God created you because God wants a relationship you, someone beyond himself. And God has placed you in his beloved creation, with everything and everyone he loves and calls very good, because he loves you, tells you are like him, and charges you to care for all things as he would do. Called by love, fed by the Word, caring for all—that’s who we are, each and every human being created in God’s image, and indeed, it’s very good.
In the name of the Father and of the Son of the Holy Spirit. Amen.