Tuesday, March 22, 2011

We Need the Creed

These things are written that you might believe (John 20:31).

Nine years is long enough. I should have it down by now.

I’ve been a Presbyterian long enough to have the Apostles’ Creed committed to memory. But whenever I’m in a worship service and the congregation is asked to “stand and say together what we believe,” I reach for the print version. I guess when it comes to the creed I still need a crutch.

The faith tradition grew up in did not say the Apostles’ Creed. In fact, the oft repeated boast in my tradition was that “The Bible is our Creed.” That’s all well and good, but it pretty much rules out any kind of congregational “recitation.” I was probably in seminary before I knew that there was an Apostles’ Creed. I’m sure I was 30 years old before I attended a church that used those words in worship.

But now I know what it is and what it says. And I like repeating those words even if I do self-consciously reach for the bulletin or the hymnal for some help. I like that we can actually say what we believe. And I like very much that when we say it we’re saying something that others before us have said for centuries. I am increasingly at home with the creed, with the rhythm of its language, the orderly movement from God the Father to Jesus the Son to the Holy Spirit and finally the church.

I have found my way to the creed rather late in life, but I’m learning to like it. More than that, I’m learning that I need it.

Ours is an age when everybody has an opinion and plenty of people are willing to tell you what they think. We also live in a time when emotions are highly regarded and all of us are regularly urged to explore and give expression to what we feel. But it’s a different matter to say what you believe.

I need the Apostles’ Creed. I need to stand with other believers and say together with them what we believe. I need it because sometimes, quite honestly, I need to be reminded. Maybe you do too.

Some months ago we began a series of reflections on the words of the Apostles’ Creed. In the weeks ahead we will pick up where we left off. We’ll take our beliefs bite-sized and linger with what they say and ponder what they mean – not as an exercise in theological posturing but as prayer.

My basic premise is that we need the Creed.

Some of us need it because we know what we believe but we take it for granted. We haven’t given serious thought to our beliefs in quite a while. They’ve collected dust or they’ve mildewed slightly in some dark corner of the mind. We know where they are; we just never pull them out and look at them very often.

Others of us need the creed because we’re not sure what we believe. We’re not sure if we believe. It’s time to get honest – not just with ourselves but with our tradition. We need to hear what it claims and then deal with what it claims of us.

Hopefully, in the weeks to come, you’ll realize that you also need the creed, even if you can’t say it from memory.

Grant us grace, O God, to believe with both humility and confidence. Make us bold in what we believe, not in order to win arguments but to bring others to you. Bless these weeks so that what believe may be clarified and strengthened by the power of your Spirit. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.