A Good Pair of Running Shoes

May grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen

When I ran cross country in Jr. High and high school, one thing I learned was the importance of a good pair of running shoes. A good pair of running shoes are not too heavy, they support your arch, they don’t grip your feet too tight, or give you blisters. They breathe, allowing air to pass through the mesh so your feet don’t suffocate.

Text: 1 Timothy 4:6-11

A Good Pair of Running Shoes

May grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen

When I ran cross country in Jr. High and high school, one thing I learned was the importance of a good pair of running shoes.  A good pair of running shoes are not too heavy, they support your arch, they don’t grip your feet too tight, or give you blisters.  They breathe, allowing air to pass through the mesh so your feet don’t suffocate.  When you find that one pair of shoes, it can make all the difference.  The psychological effects when you lace up those shoes, your body recognizing the comfort and support has a near Pavlovian response shooting endorphins to the brain.  When you put on those shoes you feel faster, stronger, ready to go and take on any trail.  The world becomes your playground with an infinite number of directions and turns you can make.  Putting on a good pair of running shoes just makes you stand up and say.  “Let’s go for a run.”

Throughout the New Testament we hear faith being describe through the metaphor of running.  Hebrews 12:1 states “Let us run with perseverance, the race that is set before us.” Philippians 2:16 “I can boast that on the day of Christ, I did not run in vain.” Or Galatians 5:7 “You were running well; who prevented you from obeying the truth?” There are more, but in our reading today we hear about the training involved to be able to take on these marathons of faith.  One doesn’t simply go from the couch to the Olympics without some serious training.  But where do we find some good running shoes?

As Lutherans I think we cringed when we hear about requirements or training in godliness, or even just following instructions.  The Small Catechism, the Apostles’ Creed, even just Scripture itself, can feel like a chore, or a work that doesn’t quite fit with our theology of salvation by grace alone.  Whether you’ve thought about it that way or not, no one likes homework, especially when it’s on the weekend.  To many I think the Apostles’ Creed feels like a burden.  A set of rules that must be followed in order to be a Christian.  If on any given Sunday my doubt outweighs my beliefs, saying parts of the creed can feel an outright lie.  So why do we say this thing?  Why not ditch it like so many other denominations and move into a far more “embracing theology?”

Well let’s get some history first about this article of faith.  The church legend states that the Apostles’ Creed can be traced back to the apostles themselves, as the Holy Spirit moved among them each spoke in turn adding phrase after phrase until the Creed was spoken into existence.  Although that’s a lovely image, it’s a legend, not even documented in the Bible.  In fact the creed is not found in the Bible.  The earliest form of the creed we can find is the Interrogatory Creed of Hippolytus around 215 CE. This would have been a part of an adult baptism where the baptized were asked if they believed in the trinity and they would response with something that sounded similar to our creed today. That is why we still say the creed during baptisms.  This statement developed over time with the Creed of Marcellus in 340 and the Creed of Rufinus around 404, until we have the text we recognize today as the Apostles’ Creed around 700 first called the Textus Receptus.

So there you go.  The Apostles’ Creed is a sound teaching that has been insisted on a taught over the centuries, an impressive summary of the expansive witness to God’s actions here on earth.  After that fascinating bit of history I’m sure all of you are convince this Creed is here to stay and worth learning.  Right?  Well if that didn’t convince you let’s compare what we heard in this letter to Timothy, a leader in the early church, to what Luther wrote to pastors in his preface to the small catechism.  The letter to Timothy makes it clear, instructions and sound teaching train us in godliness and keep us from profane myths and old wives tales.  Luther hopes that his small catechism will be a simple Christian instruction to educate people of the Christian faith, and keep them from lives like simple cattle or irrational pigs (he always had a colorful way with words).  In this light the Apostles’ Creed isn’t just an affirmation of what is to be believed, but a guardian against lies and falsities, which try to lead you astray.  You see the propagation of ideas like, “Those who die with the most toys win,” “Money is power,” “Popularity and Looks are what give you value,” “Pleasure is the only true pursuit.”  “This brand will make your life better.”  The world pulls at us in every direction, with deceitful lies of value and worth.  When everything is given credence, nothing is given true value, and we are all wondering barefoot through a world of ambiguity.

But if we are grounded in our faith, and well-nourished in the promise of life through God, it is much harder to be swayed.  The Apostles’ Creed can be the tool that frees us from these voices, filtering all that we encounter through our lens of faith.  Does this affirm God as my creator? Does this affirm Christ as my redeemer?  Does this affirm the Holy Spirit as my inspiration? Or is what I am encountering a profane myth or an old wives tale?  When we are running through life, it is this filter than can make all the difference.  Like a good pair of shoes, that guard your feet from the hard pavement, the hot blacktop, or the gravely track.

It’s hard to run without shoes.  It’s hard to search without a flashlight.  It’s hard to learn to read without the alphabet.  We derive truth and meaning from these words, exterior tools given to us to help build our understanding of the world.  We train with truth, so we can recognize truth.

Those who believe that they create their own truth, that they find their guidance by their own hearts desires, may find their feet swollen and bleeding when life gets rocky.  Those who dismiss the creed, and all other instructions, dismiss the revelation of the living God, who reveals Godself and reaches out to us, not needed to be searched for or deciphered but clearly showing God’s self to the world through these words of faith and sound teachings.

The Apostles’ Creed is a life affirming gift.  This statement of firm belief is filled with the promises of an active living God, who has given us a savior in Jesus Christ.  The Creed is not some sort of work, magic words to recite to give you salvation, salvation is given and we boldly make that declaration to ourselves and others.  The teachings we possess are training equipment, passed down to us by good servants, to propel us forward so we do not sit, but follow where the teachings lead.  The shoes mean nothing if all you do is prop them up on the table while you watch tv.  You may know the Bible backwards and forwards, you may know the Creeds and the explanation by every stroke of the pen, but if that knowledge does not result in action, in a race well run, then you have wasted the gift of a good pair of running shoes.

Christianity does not end at the door of some classroom, or at the memorization of verses and creeds.  That’s the training before the race.  Let’s not just bear the name of Christianity, but live a life of Christianity.  When we say “I believe” we are stopping to tie our shoes, securing to our feet the truth to protect our soles/souls.  When we say “I believe” we toil and struggle against oppression because we have hope set on a living God. When we say “I believe” we accept this gift freely given to us by our Savior and we run out into the world to proclaim that gift.

Our faith and our creed should be the proclamation of good news to all people, especially of those who believe, because these words proclaim a God who acts for us, not by anything we’ve done but by Christ alone.  Those are shoes worthy of trying on.

Our faith is one founded on Scripture. Our faith is one built on instruction, and doctrine, and catechism.  Not to jail us in or bury us under the burdens of rules and regulations, but to nourish and encourage us with a truth that’s beyond our broken understandings of this world.  We read and learn seeking that endorphin rush, lasing up, and preparing our bodies for the marathon that is life.

I believe in God, the three in one.  Let’s go for a run.

 

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