Tag Archives: Ephesians

We Believe

Throughout history creeds have been used to define a community of faith. These statements are usually developed and affirmed by representatives of each of the various factions within a community to affirm core beliefs that would bind them together.

“Under this sign you shall conquer,” Emperor Constantine had received in a vision. This sign is formed by the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ. Thus under Constantine, the Roman Empire became Christian.

The Nicene Creed is the earliest example of this process within the Christian Church. After Emperor Constantine had united the Roman Empire a theological dispute threatened to undo what his armies had accomplished. Thus he gathered 318 bishops at Nicaea to hammer out a creed that the whole Empire could affirm.

In AD 320 a new theology was forming around the idea that God the Father had formed God the Son. Thus the Father and the Son would be of different substances and the Son would be subordinate to the Father. Established theologians insisted that God is both the source of being (Creator) and the order of the Universe (Word) and that the Son must be fully divine (same substance) to effect salvation. After much bitter debate a creed was adopted, named after the city where it had been written, and those who affirmed different substances were excommunicated.

Yet the minority party was not defeated and drew many supporters, including Constantine’s son and subsequent Emperor, Constantius. During Constantius’ reign the Creed was amended adding one letter, the smallest letter in the Greek language, an iota, changing the meaning of the key phrase from the “same substance” to “similar substance”. Thus a saying arose from what had been the majority party: “Not one iota more!”

In AD 381 under yet another Emperor, formed a new council which made a few modifications to the Creed from Nicaea giving us what we now call the Nicene Creed which includes the phrase: “being of one substance with the Father” and expanding the statement on the Holy Spirit.

After rigorous study this Creed was officially adopted in AD 451. Those 130 years of debate gained the Church four key elements to the understanding of the nature of Jesus Christ:

  1. Jesus Christ is fully divine.
  2. Jesus Christ is fully human.
  3. Jesus Christ is fully integrated, one being.
  4. Jesus Christ has two natures: divine and human, a mystery beyond human understanding.

This would have been a great ending, except that in AD 1014 the Bishop of Rome unilaterally added two words to the Latin version of the statement on the Holy Spirit so that it then would read that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son.” This assumption of authority over an ecumenical council incensed the Eastern Church contributing to a split in AD 1054.

None the less, with or without those words added over a thousand years ago, the Nicene Creed remains the one statement accepted by Roman Catholics, by Eastern Orthodox Catholics, and by Protestants. Thus with these words we can affirm what “We believe” as the universal Christian Church.

I will have more to say about the Nicene Creed and its implications for us at 8:15 a.m. and 10 a.m. on Sunday, October 1st, World Communion Sunday, at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Robert Shaw, Pastor

Committed to Service – Sunday

Instead, we are God’s accomplishment,
created in Christ Jesus to do good things.
God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.

(Ephesians 2:10)

Our passage today declares that we are “created in Christ Jesus to do good things.” We have been called for a purpose! We are called to love our neighbor, serve the poor, uplift the widow and orphan, comfort the afflicted, seek after the lost, retrieve those on the margins and bring them into the center, disciple others, care for children, announce the gospel, and more! We are “God’s accomplishment”!

Think of service this way: In Christ, you have been freed to live a new way of life. You have been freed for obedience, graciously undertaking the tasks God has given you. You no longer do good works to justify yourself, as though caring for the poor, speaking truth to power, advocating for justice, or converting others to Christ would improve or solidify your standing with God. You do them because God has planned these goods things as your way of life, in which you now are privileged to participate.

Service, then, is no longer a burden, but a joy. It is a grace. God has chosen you! And God desires to act in and through you! This is to be our way of life. We are made for good works.

God, may I discover deep joy in service of your purposes,
and may I deeply sense your Holy Spirit at work making me holy. Amen.

From Committed to Christ: Tweets, Posts, and Prayers by Ben Simpson, Copyright © 2012 by Abingdon Press. Used by permission.

Font and Pulpit

Ready or Not

If temptation were like a lion roaring in the jungle, one might turn and run the other way. But temptation is more like a tiny snake, hiding among the path were one might walk, able to slip through the narrowest crack, then inject its poison before one might react.

Donation of the British Museum.
Sumerian phalanx formation. c. 2450 BC (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A thousand years or more ago a well-disciplined armed unit could readily withstand arrows by marching tightly together, with soldiers on the outside holding their shields side-by-side forming walls around the group while soldiers in the middle holding their shields over everyone’s head providing a protective roof. But flaming arrows were more dangerous because they could provoke panic. If only one soldier broke ranks, gaping holes occur in the unit’s armor.

Even today panic can disrupt armor one might neatly arrange against temptations and evil. I have known managers who snap at candidates for a job to see if they will panic under stress.

In our culture of rugged individualism panic can cause one to perceive, if only for a moment, weaknesses that another person might exploit. And in that moment of panic, other weakness appear.

Faith in God, trusting that we are not alone but aligned with Christ guards us from panic. If in a moment when all seems lost, when all of one’s friends have departed, we can remember that the Holy Spirit is as close as our next breath, and avert panic averted and we might face a critical moment as a thinking rational human being instead of a reactive animal.

With all of these, take the shield of faith,
with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

— Ephesians 6:16 (NRSV)

How has practicing your faith helped you prepare to quench panic?

I click below to hear Pastor Robert Shaw’s sermon from Sunday, August 23rd at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.


1985-1989 Dodge Aries
1985-1989 Dodge Aries
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the early 1980’s Chrysler Corporation nearly went bankrupt their stock price had dropped from about $8 per share to under $2. Lee Iacocca, became their CEO and personally appeared in advertisements promising to rebuild Chrysler. I had considered buying a few hundred shares during those dark weeks for Chrysler, when bankruptcy seemed more certain than growth. The upside appeared nearly unlimited. But risking nearly a month’s pay seemed quite foolish. From this side of history, betting on Chrysler would have been a superb investment for in the next two years the stock price soared to over $15 per share. A year after that it was still growing, soaring past $26 per share. And by 1987, it had split and those $2 shares would have been worth over $52 each. My investment of a month’s pay might have blossomed into over two years of salary.

Alas, Chrysler was a missed opportunity for me.

The letter to the Ephesians has similar warning:

Walk carefully,
not as unwise, but as wise,
redeeming the opportunity,
because the days are evil.
— Ephesians 5:15-16 (author’s translation).

Many translations interpret verse 16 as “make the most of the time,” but I wonder if the author had intended a play on words, urging followers to redeem each opportunity as God has also redeemed us, as the original Greek words have meanings of ‘redeem’ as well as ‘make the most’ and ‘opportunity’ as well as ‘time’. But the author did not write about our financial opportunities, but about our spiritual opportunities to praise God. Waste none, but redeem each moment for singing praises.

What opportunities have you redeemed? When have you redeemed a problematic situation to make a spiritual connection with God?

Click below to hear my sermon on this passage from Sunday, August 16th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.