Written by Pastor Aaron Decker. Posted in Light and Life

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about other faith traditions.  Next Saturday, we have an event coming up for our youth called “One God, Three Faiths,” that aims to explore Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, to see what we have in common, what makes us unique, and what we can learn from one another.  In the context of this thought, I wondered, what sort of creeds do these other faiths have?

For Jews, there is one soaring sentence from the Old Testament which takes primacy of place over others.  It is easy to find if you’re sitting with a Jewish prayer book, as suddenly you will turn a page and, instead of long prayers, psalms, poems, and songs printed in columns across each page, you will find only six words written in ornately embellished Hebrew, spanning across the width of the book.  Shema Yisra’el, Adonai Eloheynu, Adonai Echad.  Listen O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is One.

Amidst an ancient world filled with many, many deities from many foreign nations, always threatening to encroach on the land, the ancient Israelites had learned a powerful bit of wisdom.  All those gods and goddesses are false.  There is only one God.

Muslim wisdom begins from a similar place.  Becoming an adherent of Islam doesn’t require a complex ritual like Baptism, or an intense period of training like the confirmation process of the fourth century church.  In it’s purest form, becoming a Muslim requires only the gathering with two Muslim witnesses and proclaiming the basic tenet of faith:  La ilaha illallah.  There is no god but God.  While Christians would be hard-pressed to take the next step and declare Muhammad as God’s prophet, that first piece of proclaiming monotheism is something we can easily agree on.

Lutheran Christians have not one creed, but three.  Most of us are familiar with the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed, but very few of us would be able to easily rattle off the Athanasian Creed, also known as the Quicunque vult.  It’s very long, and basically seems to say the same thing over and over and over again.

That one thing is awfully important, though.  The Athanasian Creed asserts that “The Father is God; the Son is God; the Spirit is God--and yet there are not three gods but one God.”  As Christians, we have experienced God in very distinct ways.  God the Father is quite different from Jesus Christ, who is quite different from the Holy Spirit.  Our experience of God is as three very different persons.  And yet, we insist, these three are only one.  There is only one God.

God’s existence as Trinity in Unity and Unity in Trinity is perhaps the most confusing, most enigmatic paradox in Christian faith--a faith that is chock full of paradox.  It is something that goes far beyond human understanding, but expresses something we have come to know about God.  As a well-trained pastor, I can’t pretend to even begin to know what the doctrine of the Trinity is talking about.  And yet, it remains, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful assertions of our faith.

But the most incredible thing about our faith in One God is that it promises that there are no other gods.  There are so many other things which seem to draw us in, which seem to have power over us.  Perhaps more noticeable in a moment of national election, those powers tug on us all the time.  But God’s promise to us is that they aren’t really powerful.  They are not gods.  Only God is God.

The Lord our God, the Lord is One.  There is no god but God.  There are not many gods but One God.  A promise that is so powerful it reverberates among multiple faiths.  Nothing else has any claim on us.  Only God.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Aaron

Powerful God, so many other things--money, work, health, government, despair, hurt--seem to have power over me.  Help me trust in your power over them.  For You are One.  Amen.