Our Fatih

We Believe in God
We believe there exists a God who loves us and who made us in his image: to be like him and to be stewards of creation. God is eternal, or outside of time itself, and also all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-present. One thing that makes the Christian belief about God unique is we also believe God is “Trinity”. This may be a word you have heard before. This means that there is in essence one and only one God, but that this one God exists as three “persons”. We call these Divine Persons the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; each is fully God, each is distinct, but there is only one God. Think of it as three “whos” in one “what”. God is an unfathomable mystery indeed! We believe life should be focused on orienting ourselves to the Triune God and his will, and that we humans have the privilege of a genuine connection with God our creator, a connection made possible because of Jesus.

We Believe in Jesus
When Jesus was on earth he asked his disciples: “who do you say that I am?” This question is just as relevant now: who do you say that Jesus is? A great teacher? A wise sage? A political revolutionary? A madman? A prophet? Who was and is this Jesus? Many people may believe in one God, but what makes Christians unique is our belief about and belief in Jesus. We believe Jesus is the Christ, the Lord, the Son of the living God! What does this mean? Simply that in the person of Jesus God the Son took on our human nature to live as one of us on earth. He taught the ways of God, he healed the sick, he displayed God’s power in miracles, and at the last he was rejected by those in power and killed in the most horrible way - on the cross when he died for our sins. But he didn’t stay dead! Three days later he rose again from the dead and was fully alive in a restored and resurrected body. After showing himself to his disciples (including his wounds) and others he ascended back into Heaven where we wait until the time he will return to fix all that is broken in our world, make everything right, bring life back to the dead, and usher in a perfect Kingdom and a renewed creation.

We Believe in the Holy Spirit
Jesus may have ascended into Heaven, but God is still here primarily though the Holy Spirit who Jesus promised to send us after he left. The Holy Spirit is the life of the Church, has continued to guide the Church from the time of the Apostles, and also empowers us now for service to Jesus. One of the roles of the Holy Spirit has been in showing us who God is, most importantly in the Scriptures, and guides the Church in the interpretation of those Scriptures. The other main role of the Spirit is to bring conviction of ways we’ve walked away from God, and to bring us back (repentance) to following our Lord.

We Believe in the Bible
The Bible (Holy Scriptures) is one of the most read and discussed books in the world, and the central sacred text of the Christian Faith. The Bible is really about revelation, and revelation is really about love. If God is love then God must desire to communicate to us. This communication from God, about his will for us and how to connect with him, we call “revelation”. Revelation is then found in the Bible/Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments which, though written over a long period of time, is inspired by the Holy Spirit and so communicates God’s truth to his New Covenant people, the Church. In our Sunday worship you will hear a lot of the Scriptures being read. We always read some part of the Old Testament, about God’s work in ancient Israel, recite a Psalm (poetic hymn) together, something from the New Testament about God’s New Covenant people, and finally part of the Gospels which record the words and works of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We Believe in the Gospel
Gospel literally means “good news”, but good news of what exactly? At the time of Jesus the Greek word for “Gospel” was often used for the rule of a new emperor; it was a royal proclamation that someone new was in charge, so naturally it was also a call to loyalty. With the resurrection and ascension of Jesus early Christians claimed, as we still do, that Jesus is the true Lord and so the Caesars of the world are not. The Gospel is a royal proclamation , not about us, but about Jesus: that he is King of kings, and Lord of lords who triumphed over sin, death, and hell for ever. The result of that victory is the Gospel news of salvation: that through faith in Jesus we can also have that victory and be freed from the bondage to sin and evil in our lives. It is a call to loyalty, in that the Gospel calls all people to come to Jesus and be his disciples by Baptism—placing our ultimate trust and faith in him as Lord and Savior. Finally, it is a promise of new life, that Jesus will return to redeem us, make judgment on evil, and bring us complete victory over death as we are raised from the dead to eternal life just as he was!

We Believe in the Church
The Church is the community of the God’s New Covenant, entered by Baptism and tasked by God to restore all people to unity with God and each other through Jesus Christ. The Church is the Body of Christ, made of all Baptized Christians both here on earth and those in the past who have passed on to be with Jesus. We are one people made of many different nations, tribes, and languages, but all in Covenant with the same God though faith in the same Jesus and united by the same Baptism. The Church is also a religious institution because we both have specific beliefs about God and a mission from God to proclaim his Gospel to the world. To fulfill that goal we have an organized structure, an institution built for God’s purposes in the world. In the Church we talk about four “orders” to this structure. First are Bishops, who can trace their ordination back to Jesus (“Historic Episcopate” or “Apostolic Succession”). Next are Priests who are extensions of the Bishop’s ministry, and have primary responsibility in the Eucharist and other Sacraments. Then Deacons, which literally means “servant”, who serve the Church and the people on behalf of the Bishop. Finally in our Church we list lay people (non-clergy) as an order as well with their own role in the mission of the Church. No matter the order, all are called to proclaim the Gospel and live for Jesus Christ.

We Believe in the Sacraments
One thing about believing that God created all things is that creation, though corrupted by evil, is good. So often when God works in our lives it’s through his creation and not against it. One phrase used for this by a famous medieval theologian, Thomas Aquinas,  is “grace perfects, but does no destroy, nature”. Grace is often given through physical objects such as bread and wine - which become Christ’s Body and Blood -  or by Holy Water, or by blessing ashes and palms. Even our bodies can be used to worship God though physical actions such as the making the sign of the cross or by kneeling in God’s presence. The primary way we see this is in the Sacraments: material objects that function as “means” to receive God’s grace such that by them we can have assurance that God is at work! The two main Sacraments are Baptism and the Eucharist. We also have five others often listed: Confession, Unction of the Sick, Ordination, Matrimony, and Confirmation.

We Believe in Forgiveness
When we confess our faith we often say something along the lines of “Jesus died for us” or “Jesus died for our sins”. Christians often use the word “atonement” to describe this event, which literally means “at one ment”, or making things one - an act of reconciliation. In this case fixing the broken relationship between God and us. Over time there have been various theories about how exactly the atonement “worked”; but at core what we mean is that God, the second person of the Trinity, became a human person Jesus, and through his death and resurrection redeemed, or rescued, us from the powers of sin and death. As part of this redemption we are given forgiveness of the many ways we have failed to love God and love others as Jesus commanded. This means that God has offered his forgiveness to you as well, no matter what your past has been - you too can have new life in Jesus Christ our Lord. This forgiveness is found in joining the New Covenant by Baptism when we turn our back to sin and turn to Jesus in faith.

We Believe in Eternal Life
Jesus didn’t just save us from sin, but also will save us from death itself. After Jesus died for our sins, he came back to life again in the same body, the resurrection, and so triumphed over death. Before ascending into Heaven he promised to return again, to finish the salvation of the world, and to raise all who believe in him to eternal life as he was raised. Essentially we believe that death is not the last word, and that life always triumphs in the end. Death, chaos, evil, and sin may seem to have the power but their time is short - Jesus has already won victory over them which we will experience when he returns again in glory to make all things new, a victory we can have as his New Covenant people who have been baptized as his disciples.

 
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St. Stephen's Episcopal Church