Genesis 1:1-5 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
Psalm 19:1-4 — 1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. 3 They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. 4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
- We’re all searching. Sometimes the search is easy — simply type the question into Google and the answer pops up.
a. But sometimes our questions are complicated, and the answers are difficult to see and even harder to articulate.
- In this series of messages, we will explore the essential beliefs of the Christian faith and why these beliefs matter. We peel away the unnecessary, dismiss the extraneous and examine the truths that give meaning and purpose to life. If you are curious about Christianity, looking for answers to tough questions or wondering if faith really matters, join us as we search together for truth.
- The messages for the next several weeks, before we move into Lent, are about the essential elements of what it means to be a Christian. We are using the Apostles Creed as the basis of a guiding light.
- When we get to Lent on February 26th, we will be ready to really dive into God’s grace – God’s — Amazing Grace — 250 years after the most recognized Christian Hymn in the world was written.
- Back to the topic for this morning.
a. Many of us are keenly aware that Christianity in the United States is shrinking – both in attendance at worship and actual belief in the existence of God is declining.
b. The major denominations, Lutherans, Baptist, Methodist, Episcopal and Presbyterian are declining. In the last several years the Boring UMC, Reisterstown Presbyterian church and All Saints Episcopal churches have closed. But they are being filled by non-denominal churches.
c. After the pandemic, worship has declined significantly. We at PGUMC have witnessed this.
- The title of this message is short “Is There a God?” — if we do not believe that there is a God, which by the way, more than 20% — especially the younger people, believe there is no God—- then this topic should be a challenge to all of us.
- First — let me establish the basis for the message series – my experience — I am here to testify that YES, there is a loving and caring God actively at work today challenging the massive evil that we are experiencing.
- When I was forty, one of the biggest spiritual awakenings of my life occurred.
a. Talk about – my questions at Glyndon UMC
b. My start at St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute in Baltimore, MD.
c. The paper — Prove the Existence of God!
d. My reaction – should be easy! – but what an eye-opener it was to try to do this.
e. This effort — a movement by the Holy Spirit – has forever shaped me.
f. Hebrews 11:1 – Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen
- Today we begin a five-week series considering important questions about life, reality and truth.
- We’ll consider Christianity’s answers to these questions by looking at the Apostle’s Creed, an early statement of foundational Christian beliefs.
- We’ll look not only at what Christians believe, but also why they believe it and why it matters.
- Before we start, I need to clarify three terms – atheist, agnostic and theist.
a. An atheist is a person who believes that there is nothing beyond the natural, physical world — no super-natural creative intelligence lurking behind the observable universe.
b. An agnostic is a person who does not have a definite yes or no answer. Many people question whether God exists or, — if God does exist – where is God when I need God? Agnostics have been unable to find convincing evidence that God exists!
c. A theist believes in a God and is convinced that God exists. I am a theist – I believe that God exists.
d. Each of these positions requires that the person search for an answer to their questions.
e. People come to church because they are searching for God and because they want their faith reinforced by being in a Christian Community.
- I found that more I searched for God, the realer God became to me. Let’s look at the primary question, Is there a God?
a. How you answer this question plays a key part in how you answer other questions like, “What is the meaning of life?” or “What does it mean to be human?”…
- The Christian answer to the question, Is there a God? is found in the dramatic opening words of the Bible. “IN THE BEGINNING, GOD…”—this assertion is the foundation of Christian faith as captured in one of the earliest creeds of the Christian faith.
- The Genesis accounts about the creation are the biblical explanations by the writers of Genesis as to how the majestic earth and complicated humanity came about — It was through the action of God. Chapter 3 – known as the Fall is how the serpent or the tempter – or Satan – continues to temp us from following God.
- The Apostle’s Creed begins: “I BELIEVE IN GOD THE FATHER ALMIGHTY, MAKER OF HEAVEN AND EARTH.”
a. What do we mean by God? We often conceive of God as an old man sitting on a throne, but that’s not the Christian conception of God. I’d like to suggest two answers.
i. First, I believe God is the creative force, the power, the source from which everything that exists derives its existence and upon which all that exists depends for God’s existence.
ii. And second, God is not an impersonal force. God is a personal force! God is personal!
iii. God defines for us the attributes we associate with personhood: intelligence, individuality, emotion, reason, logic, and will.
- We see both of these ideas in Exodus 3:13-14. 13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.[a] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
a. There Moses, who lives in a polytheistic world, asks God, “Tell me your name!” “God said to Moses, ‘I Am Who I Am. So say to the Israelites, ‘I Am has sent me to you.’”
b. This word, I AM that I AM is in Hebrew YAHWEH, sometimes translated as Jehovah.
c. What kind of name is that? I Am?
d. I believe the word is intended to tell us that God is being itself – that God is the source of all that exists.
- Here theology and science might meet.
a. Scientist speak of fundamental forces (strong, weak, gravity and electromagnetic) that are responsible for governing, shaping and sustaining the universe, particles that permeate the universe, and things like dark energy and dark matter, most of which cannot be seen, but their impact is what makes possible everything that is.
b. When I hear about these things I can’t help but think of the force, influence, presence, and power of God.
c. Is it possible in some way they are talking about God without realizing it?
d. You can’t see these things they describe, yet without them the universe could not exist….
- Christianity doesn’t stop with defining God as a force from which all things derive their existence.
a. We also believe that force is a personal.
b. It is being itself, but it also thinks, reasons, creates, enjoys, is purposeful, so that what the intelligence human beings exhibit is a dim reflection of the intelligence and personhood of God. God knows, feels, loves, thinks, wills, acts, and creates.
- The Apostle’s Creed, drawing from Jesus’ primary way of addressing God, speaks of God as Father, a very personal term.
- Both atheists and believers say the universe was created EX NIHILO–out of nothing.
a. Some scientists struggled with this at first, for they thought it would point to a Creator. They began looking for a way for this to have happened without a Creator.
- But those who believe in God say:
a. I have a hard time believing that everything started from nothing without a guiding hand:
i. “It takes faith for me to believe that somehow the lighting the fuse on the Big Bang needed a guiding hand,
ii. It takes a guiding hand that wrote the laws that so carefully govern our existence, one had to help guide the amino acids that formed the building blocks of life on our planet.”
iii. It is hard to believe that the universe, the solar system, the earth and life as we know it just evolved over the eons.
iv. Can we believe that give evolution about 13.8 billion years and you get us and the universe? — without a guiding hand.
- Astronomer Fred Hoyle’s noted that the probability of life originating on earth is no higher than a hurricane blowing through a junk yard and, after it passed, leaving behind a fully assembled Boeing 747….
- Think about an apple pie: need an oven, a plate, stuff to make the crust, Granny Smith apples, sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, lemon juice and vanilla ice cream. But you have to assemble it and bake it and savor it. You could wait for an eternity that the ingredients would combine into
- Even Albert Einstein is quoted as saying: “Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe — a spirit vastly superior to that of humanity.” Einstein rejected the idea of a personal God with God’s human tendencies.
- The Apostle Paul captured this well in Romans 1:20, “Ever since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—God’s eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, because they are understood through the things God has made.”
- To me, the universe itself is God’s handiwork. Its powerful forces, its logic, its patterns and its beauty are evidence of the Creator, and they reflect his glory.
a. I love the way the Psalmist captures this in Psalm 19: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech; they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”
- And the Psalmist couldn’t even see what we see today, as when the James Webb telescope peered into a patch of space that to us, from earth, would fill no more than a postage stamp, and saw hundreds of galaxies, most at least the size of our own trillions of stars.
- The James Webb telescope images don’t diminish God. They humble us….
- Talk about the Milky Way that I saw in Africa!
- On June 26, 2000, President Clinton congratulated those who completed the DNA human genome sequencing. President Clinton said, “Today we are learning the language in which God created life. We are gaining ever more awe for the complexity, the beauty, the wonder of God’s most divine and sacred gift.”
- I believe in God in part because I am, because I think and reason and love and perceive and my very existence, and yours, point to something greater than we are.
- But I also believe because of the thousands of moments in prayer, Scripture reading, reflection, when I’ve felt God offering comfort, assurance, guidance and grace.
- I believe because I’ve experienced too many coincidences in my life to believe they are all coincidences.
- I believe because my heart cries out to give thanks to the one who ultimately gives life as a gift. I believe because when I am seeking to do the things Scripture calls me to do I feel most fully alive…. I believe in God and in that faith, I find purpose, meaning, grace, joy and hope.
- Hebrews 11:1 — Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
- In the beginning, God!
- Please turn to page 881 in our hymnal for the Apostle’s Creed