This is the 1st of 8 sermons on The Eight Essentials of the Moravian Church as described by several general synods held in the 19th century. They are no longer the official doctrine of our church, having been replaced in 1957 with a statement of theology known as “The Ground of the Unity.” The Ground of the Unity can be found on this site on the “Parish Papers” page. Though the Eight Essentials no longer represent the official theology of our church, they are still representative of the “kerygma” or “preaching” of the early Church, notably the list of Eight Essentials closely parallels the preaching of the Apostles in the sermons in the Acts of the Apostles. Once learned these essentials are wonderful “pegs” onto which to hand the various doctrines of the New Testament that make up what the New Testament calls ” the Good News,” “the gospel” or “the gospel of Christ.” This sermon is a DVD sermon. The text of the sermon is pretty much what was said on Sunday. The notes add information. I recommend that one read the sermon first, then read the notes, thus gaining additional insights into the texts.
This morning I take up the first of the Eight Essentials. This first essential has been published in various forms since the General Synod of 1818. It reads:
The doctrine of the universal depravity of humanity; that since the fall, no health remains in humankind, and we are powerless to save ourselves.
The first essential makes three assumptions: 1) All human beings are sinners. 2) Sin exercises great power over us, and we are sick with it, individually and corporately. 3) We are powerless to help, heal or save ourselves. If this first essential were an advertising slogan it would read:
“Humankind has fallen, and we can’t get up.”
Continue reading 1st Essential: Universal Depravity
When I was on Sabbatical, I spent many hours reading books and essays by skeptics, doubters, and militant atheists. I read them so that I could stand before you in the integrity and sincerity of my convictions to advocate the Way of faith. In my reading, I hit upon a two-fold truth. On the one hand, most agnostics and atheists have abandoned faith in God precisely because they cannot reconcile the idea of a loving God with all the pain and suffering in our world, a wold that lives under a sentence of death. On the other hand, when they begin their attack on God, they always begin by attacking the god of the philosophers and deists, in that they usually begin by attacking the philosophical proofs for the existence of God.
I found this interesting because we Moravians have never bothered to defend the god of the philosophers and deists. Rather, we proclaim the God the New Testament calls, “The God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ.” Consider if you will the 2nd of the Eight Essentials. It does not proclaim “the love of God” for the world. It proclaims “the love of God the Father for the world.” The mere mention of “God the Father” reminds us of “God the Son.”
Continue reading 2nd Essential: The Love of God the Father
The 3rd of the 8 Essentials declares, “the real Godhead and real humanity of Jesus Christ.” That means that Jesus Christ is “fully God and fully human.” I know this is a paradox, yet I believe it is a necessary paradox, and this is how it came about.
Continue reading 3rd Essential: The Two Natures of Christ
The story is told about a man who got on an airplane in New York City bound for Los Angles. He and the other passengers settled into their seats with the help of a stewardess, then the plane took off. As it attained cruising altitude, a recording came over the cabin speaker. A computer generated voice said:
Welcome to the first totally automated trans-continental flight. We took off from New York automatically. We are cruising automatically. We will land in L.A. automatically. There is no pilot, no co- pilot, and no flight engineer; but don’t worry, nothing can go wrong, go wrong, go wrong, go wrong, go wrong…..”
Continue reading 4th Essential: The Atonement
The experience of the Holy Spirit is both subjective and objective. I have seen some unusual things attributed to the Holy Spirit.
Continue reading 5th Essential: The Gracious Work of the Holy Spirit
19 Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering (patience), gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 meekness, and self-control; against which there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another. Galatians 5:19-26
The 6th Essential is “the fruit of the Spirit” in the life of all believers. The term “fruit of the Spirit” is used only once in the Revised Standard Version of Scripture.
Continue reading The 6th Essential: The Fruit of the Holy Spirit
For almost 15 centuries, the church possessed a visible unity in the form of the Catholic Church. In 1457 the Unitas Fratrum, or Moravian Church, became the first protestant church. Since that time 38,000 (FN1) other protestant churches have been formed. Today protestant churches are forming at the rate of 300 a year. These numbers do not include the many fiercely independent congregations that are scattered all over city and world.
Continue reading The 7th Essential: The Unity of the Church
We have come to the end of our journey. In this sermon we deal with the 8th and final Essential, “The Second Advent of the Lord in Glory.”
No aspect of Christian theology has become as controversial and as layered with competing opinions and arguments as the doctrine of the 2nd Advent of Jesus Christ. I am going to cut right to the chase, and give you what I believe to be the simplicity on the far side of complexity:
Continue reading The 8th Essential: The Definitive Revelation of God