Sunday, October 30, 2011

And Of All Things Visible And Invisible

Fr. Dale Matson

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2nd Corinthians 5:7 ESV)

Occasionally a particular passage will stand out and remain in my mind. Today, while reciting the Nicene Creed, I realized that in addition to the Creed itself being a statement of faith, there are many specific faith statements within the Creed. “And all things visible and invisible.” This passage in the Creed comes to us from Colossians, “For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible. (1:16a) Nearly each line in the Creed is a faith statement in and of itself, yet how many in our contemporary culture believe that there is also an invisible world created by God? How many see an invisible Heaven as a pattern for what we can see in our material world (Hebrews 8:5).

As Christians, we are encompassed by and believe in this invisible world. It allows us to see things through the eyes of faith that are not, as though they were. “As it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.” (Romans 4:17, ESV).

When we believe in an invisible world, it enables us to at least partially grasp the reality that Christ not only lives in us but we live in Him. For in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28a). It helps us to understand that God is at work in our life, mostly unseen, guiding and protecting us.

In his Large Catechism, Martin Luther was detailed in his unpacking each Person of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the Creed. In the first article on God the Father, Luther refers to the Creator and to His creation. What he does not discuss further is God as creator of the invisible. It is consistent however with Luther’s understanding of daily bread in our Lord’s Prayer as our material needs not Christ Himself. I am not taking issue with Luther in general here, only his focus on creature comforts.

If we take nearly every line of the Creed as a mini faith statement, I believe the statement about God the Father in the first article sets the precedent and principles upon which the rest of the Creed is built. How many people say that they confess and believe the statements in the Creed when they actually parse out what they do and do not believe within it? If we do not believe in God, there is no point in continuing. If we believe in God but He is not the creator of both a visible and invisible world, there is no point in continuing either. In other words, the Creed builds logically on itself.

If we believe that there is an invisible world, then we may and can expect that the invisible world, the world of Spirit, will sometimes break through into the material world. “And He said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 18:3). This invisible world is The Kingdom of God that arrived with Christ, is with us now as His church, empowered by God the Holy Spirit and is yet to be fulfilled when Christ returns. If we don’t believe in an invisible world, then we will be no different than Nicodemus who stated, “Must I enter into my mother’s womb a second time?” (John 3:4). The Nicene Creed is not an old wineskin constricting our understanding of God. It is a living, faith building document distilled from Holy Scripture by men of God in the spirit of unity and truth.

“Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see.” (Hebrews 11:1, CEV). Amen

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