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For Heavens Sake

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					For Heaven’s Sake!                                                     March 15, 2009
Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
        the holy catholic church,
        the communion of saints,
        the forgiveness of sins,
        the resurrection of the body,
        and the life everlasting. Amen.


Would you pray with me? Lord, I believe; help my unbelief. Lord, I wonder; help my
understanding. Lord, of some things I am absolutely certain; help me cling to what is life-
giving; open me to what you would have me see in new ways. Amen.


“For heaven’s sake!” Usually those words express surprise. It’s not an expression many
use any more. Mostly grandmothers…When the grandchildren come and they have
grown four inches since last time…. When a cake comes out loaded with candles…
When a child proudly displays a carefully created drawing. “For heaven’s sake!”


As we conclude this series on the apostles’ creed, I want to take the whole third article as
a unit. To this point we’ve wondered about certain phrases or concepts in the creed:. We
started by thinking about why we have creeds at all. Then we thought about creation; who
Jesus is; something about his death and resurrection; how the Holy Spirit is still active in
the world; what the second coming is all about. This morning, I would like to consider
what has been called the third article in the creed, taking it as a whole so we might better
understand these words: for heaven’s sake.


For heaven’s sake. I would bet that thinking about heaven usually raises some concepts
held in tension. Earth… and heaven. Life… and life after death. Body… and soul.


But look carefully. The first article states faith in God the Father, who is active in
creation. The second article states faith in Jesus the son, whose whole life, death and
resurrection was about our salvation. And the third article states faith in the Holy Spirit,
but look carefully at where the Holy Spirit is busy…


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I believe in the Holy Spirit… the holy catholic church… the communion of saints… the
forgiveness of sins….


So far, that is all about life here and now. It’s about the Spirit present among people. It’s
about a community, a community that transcends time and place. It’s a universal
community, irrespective of cultures, languages, races, denominations, even time. That’s
what catholic – small “c” means. The church everywhere, in all places and in all times.


But it’s still the church in ordinary places, in ordinary time. The Spirit works with
ordinary people, not saints; although the Spirit makes us saints, that is, more than we
already are. But I’m getting ahead of myself.


The Holy Spirit gathers people, through the gospel. How did Luther put it?
       The Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts,
       and sanctified and kept me in true faith. In the same way he calls, gathers,
       enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it united
       with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.


The Holy Spirit works through the Word, addressing relationships. The Holy Spirit calls
the hungry and the homeless and the sick and the broken, people who are ordinary,
people who are imperfect; all of those who need love and gentleness and encouragement.
That would be all of us, I think.


And when we mess up – and we always do – this Holy Spirit offers forgiveness – first
God’s and then wriggling within us, so we will forgive too. And forgiveness is more than
being nice. It’s more than overlooking trouble. Forgiveness is about correcting trouble.
It’s about making right what was wrong. It’s about justice. And that means ordinary
things – like jobs and homes and health care and basic education and freedom from
pollution. To live for heaven’s sake involves very earthly things.




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All of this - church, community, forgiveness – has to do with life here and now. To live
for heaven’s sake involves what we do on this earth. Then, and only then, does the creed
speak about a resurrection and life everlasting.


Do you know that “life everlasting” is a phrase that the Bible uses only once? It comes
from Daniel. But if we look for the phrase “eternal life” we can count those words forty-
three times. But look carefully! What the scripture describes as eternal life does not begin
when you die; it begins now. It’s not something believers will be given; it’s something
believers already have! Eternal life, living for heaven’s sake, begins here and now.
Someday we should do a study of this, but you can google it yourself.


To live “for heaven’s sake” is not about another, unseen dimension, some spiritual plane,
some timeless eternity. I don’t have to give up my scientific worldview to believe in
heaven. I just have to think a little differently about where heaven is.


Jesus said time and time again that the kingdom of heaven is here, among us, now. Jesus
urged his followers quite emphatically not to wait to live the godly life, someday, in
heaven. The spiritual life is to be lived now. To live the spiritual life is inherently a
bodily life.


Notice too that even the resurrection is about the raising of the body. Not just the soul or
spirit. The resurrection, rising to live for heaven’s sake, isn’t just a spiritual matter, our
matter matters. There was a time when living by the spirit meant the body didn’t matter.
There has been an emphasis among some Christians who wait for this world to end; they
await the destruction of this planet, in hopes of a new world to come – somewhere else. It
seems to be understood by some that this life is to be endured. I’ve even heard of this life
being a practice life – preparing us for the true life to come. I still think the resurrection
of the body says as much about living now as it does about living later.


Let me tell you about Mary Louise. Mary Louise has muscular dystrophy. She wears a
brace to keep her somewhat erect in her wheelchair. If you saw Mary Louise in a



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restaurant or in her church, you might see the chair and a contorted body. But Mary
Louise is not a body. Mary Louise is a personality. She has an education. She keeps a job.
She has a sexuality. She travels. Her body is not a shell. Her body is not a prison. Mary
Louise lives with her body, like you or I would live with her body. There are
accommodations she has to make, and we have to make. But her body does not define
her. Mary Louise has a spirit. That spirit is expressed in her body but also beyond her
body. But it is in her body.


Let us be cautious about this body-spirit language. We have gotten into a whole mess of
trouble thinking earth and heaven, body and spirit. As if heaven matters and not earth.
Spirit matters but not the body, some say. That thinking led to reason being higher than
emotion. Being male was higher than being female. To live faithfully meant attending to
the spirit, and it did not matter what you did with your body – or another’s. I am thankful
we are outgrowing that thinking, for heaven’s sake.


I like this apostle’s creed. I’m not prepared to throw it out as archaic or irrelevant. This
creed keeps me grounded. Grounded. See, living for heaven’s sake, while in this earthly
realm.


I think that in the next couple of decades it will be essential for the church to address faith
and salvation in very new ways. And it must be quite creation-centered. The earth will
depend upon it. But this does not require us to throw out the creed. We only need to
interpret it differently, to apply the traditions to new questions and needs.


We already have a faith in God who has made all this. There is a relationship then
between God and our energy consumption, our waste dumps, the quality of our air and
our water, the production and distribution of food. All of this is involved in living for
heaven’s sake.


And Jesus came and lived among us. Not satisfied with being above this earth, God
became part of this earth. And salvation was not just about people but the cosmos. Christ



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did not come to take us away from this earth but to better equip us to live with it, and
with one another. Eternal life is more than a matter of time, it’s a quality of living; it’s an
approach to living, and to dying and to living something transcendent.


Is the church outmoded? Much of it probably is. But the church is the means God’s Holy
Spirit has chosen to act redemptively in the world. Will the church look different twenty
years from now? For heaven’s sake, I hope so! I hope that the church will be a more
inclusive body of people who have discovered a community, a common humanity, an
approach to living well and justly and gracefully. The body of the church may have to die
as it is now, in order to rise to become what God has in mind.


Have I lost faith in the church? No more than I have lost faith in this old body. But I
know that god made this body and gave his life for this body and uses this body. So I’m
absolutely convinced God will raise this body to become something more. For heaven’s
sake.




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