What three things/people/places/ideas do you value the most? What is most important to you? I met a lawyer once who proudly proclaimed that three things were important to him, and they were: Golf, Work, and Family – in that order. It did not surprise me that he had been divorced twice and his current marriage was in trouble.
What about you? Who or what takes first, second and third place in your heart? Creeds are statements of what is most important in our lives, of what we say we believe in. But they are not just academic – a list of what we agree to philosophically. Creeds also proclaim who or what we trust with our hearts, our souls, our lives.
The first known creed, the first communal statement of faith, is found in Deuteronomy: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.” It’s called the Shema. This declaration of faith in One God was the core belief of the Jewish people at the time and still is today. The verse that follows it is the response of the people to their faith and is what Jesus calls the greatest commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”
This was the faith of the people of God in Jesus’ day: One God. But after the resurrection of Jesus, followers of Jesus began to proclaim another simple statement of faith: Jesus is Lord.
As the faith grew and spread, people who had not met Jesus began to ask questions: – how could they proclaim one God – and yet also proclaim Jesus as God? And what was the Holy Spirit? Christians were asked – did they have one God – or two – or three?
The leaders of the faith found they needed a resource, a creed, to explain, proclaim and defend their faith. So, in the year 124, church leaders, using scripture and the teachings of the apostles as a basis, wrote a Roman creed as a summary of faith and as a teaching tool. This was later expanded to become the Apostles’ Creed to help share the mystery of One God – in three persons, God the father and creator; God the son and redeemer and God the Holy Spirit and sanctifier.
In 1529, Martin Luther wrote the small catechism to help parents teach their children not only the basics of the creed, but also to apply it to their lives. It still applies today because Luther helps make it personal. Believing – or trusting – that God is the creator means, as Luther says, that God has created ME – eyes, ears, mouth nose, limbs -- my whole body. It means trusting that God has created and provided an abundance of everything I need.
Likewise, believing in Jesus Christ means trusting that Jesus is indeed God and human. And that Jesus suffered and died and rose again “in order that I may belong to Christ and serve Christ Jesus.”
And, in the final article, Martin Luther emphasizes the power of the Holy Spirit in his life. He credits the Holy Spirit for drawing him to Christ, forgiving him and sustaining him in the faith.
Luther teaches that the creed more than a profession of faith. It reflects our engaging on-going relationship with God – creator, redeemer and sustainer.
As I was preparing to teach and preach on the creed, I came across a suggestion: don’t simply proclaim your faith in the Apostles’ creed – pray it!
I appreciated the sentiment. It is easy for something you say regularly to become rote. But it did not sound very practical – until I read a response from a woman named Kim who did just that – she prayed the creed and found it transformative!
Kim wrote, “The first time the Apostle’s Creed began to change from a statement of belief to an actual prayer was about a year after my husband died at the young age of 33. I had only recently returned to church after about 10 years in the agnostic camp. I was definitely a seeker and wasn’t really sure what I believed. Then one day I happened to ask my pastor what the communion of saints meant. He explained that it was the community of believers in every time and every place that is joined together in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. He went on to explain that we believe that this whole community is present together at the communion table through the body and blood of Christ.
At the time this was powerful good news because it gave me a way to connect with my late husband in a way that was life giving and hopeful. I began to see the creed not just as rote words that we recite week after week but as an actual prayer – a life line – something that was meaningful in worship – something that gave me hope and fed my fledgling faith.”1
It changed her life. She stopped arguing with the parts of creed that she questioned with her head – and started praying from her heart.
Interestingly enough, that may have been the intention of the creeds all along. The Apostles Creed begins with the Latin word “Credo”, which is usually translated as “I believe…” But the Latin word “Credo” actually means something closer to: “I give my heart to”. Using this translation, the Apostles’ creed reads: I give my heart to God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I give my heart to Jesus Christ…I give my heart to the Holy Spirit.”2
Brothers and sisters in Christ, may you give your heart to God and may the Holy Spirit continue to call you through the gospel, enlighten you with God’s gifts, make you holy and keep you in the true faith in Jesus’ name. Amen.
2 Article “What is a Christian” From Dr. Borg’s blog on Patheos: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/marcusborg/