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Insights from Pastor Steve

In His Loving Grip


Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dazzled us as they gracefully held each other gliding across a dance floor accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz of the Flower.” Held within each other’s arms, each sensed and responded to the other’s moves, griping tightly at times, holding loosely at other times. Mr. Astaire’s fingers cupped around Ms. Roger’s hand loose enough for her to rotate elegantly and tight enough so she wouldn’t become unmoored.

A newborn child is brought quickly to mother’s arms there to be held tightly and lovingly. A baby not held in infancy suffers long term harmful consequences, even possible death.

Every Sunday worshipers recite one of the church’s creeds. “I believe . . .” are words included in the Sunday liturgy. Like a partner in a dance or the hold of a mother’s arms, the creed holds us together as a community, reminding us of all God has done and continues to do.

Identity can be easily reduced to a favorite sports team holding like-minded fans together, or a political party holding like-minded partisans together or school colors holding like-minded peers together. The church’s creeds break through those limiting boundaries, binding us together with all of God’s creation, an identity both expansive and inclusive, words holding us to our forebears a thousand years ago, to brother and sister in every corner of the world and in hope and anticipation to those who are yet to come. We are family with many and varied talents, interests and distinctions.

Ours is a divine embrace. Martin Luther explains the first article of the creed: “‘I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.’ The Creator embraces us, writes Luther, with ‘all that exists’ in a community where everyone’s ‘body and soul. . . are preserved’ and where all can expect to be provided with ‘food and clothing, home and family and . . . protection from danger.’” This embrace by God, this gift of God, is not of our earning but is freely given to each, and all out of divine goodness and mercy.

It is not an embrace in isolation but an embrace in relationship, together with one another, all together receiving God’s love and attention. It is in church, sitting next to family and friends that we recite the creed, mindful and thankful to God for our neighbors and friends both near and far, and for the world God created and charged to our care.

“I believe in God the Father . . .” are words we recite every Sunday, mindful we aren’t dancing alone, but as a family held “body and soul” in a grip sometimes tight and other times loose but always firm enough so as not to become unmoored from the One who created heaven and earth.

– Stephen H. Swanson