The Apostles’ Creed is made up of 112 words passed down through the generations. They are words that summarize the Bible, words that protect right belief and keep us from drifting into not-so-healthy ones. It is a creed billions believe in, thousands have bled for yet few can recite. What about you? Are they words you once had to memorize for Confirmation, but have long since forgotten?
A creed is: “A set of beliefs that guide one’s life.” They are like a lens one wears through which life is interpreted and lived. As a Lutheran, we have a particular lens, or worldview, through which we interpret life. Paul describes a creed as a lens this way: “It is with your heart that you believe and are justified; it is with your mouth you confess your faith and are saved.” (Romans 10:10)
We live in a culture whose heart and mouth is in a state of self-destructive confusion, it seems just about anything goes. Where has this path left us? I look at our world and sometimes shake my head, wondering how we have gotten to where we find ourselves. Can you relate? The Bible is clear, we are to love one another with the love Christ has shown us. Our focus should be to help our weaker brother and sister in the faith, not judge them; to keep the main thing the main thing. Everyone needs the compassion of the Savior, the forgiving breath of life Jesus freely offers through a cross and empty tomb. As life tenses up, take a breath and look at what stands before you through the lens of Jesus before speaking and acting. I pray earnestly for my children, trusting God’s faithful hand to guide and protect them in the faith.
It all comes down to the question: “What do you believe?” There is a big difference in believing there is a god and believing in God.
What do you believe about creation and how things came to be? The Bible talks about Jesus’ descent into hell; what does this mean, for what purpose did He descend? Did Jesus really die and rise from the dead? Is there such thing as a Holy Ghost (sounds spooky)? Is that the same thing as a Holy Spirit? What on earth am I here for?
Regardless of our question, Christianity is grounded on one thing: Jesus. He is the lens and focal point to faith. Faith leans into the divine mysteries of God, trusting in the Lord’s many promises He graciously provides in His Word: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) In October we will start a sermon series called “Here I Stand”, walking through the core aspects of Christian confession as found in the Apostles’ Creed and why certain words mean everything–why certain words are worth dying for. The Apostles’ Creed is a succinct summary of the Christian faith, made up of three paragraph sections, called articles. This Creed is not scripture, yet God’s Word fills, informs, and sustains each letter woven in its creedal statement. Paul reminds us: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) Grounded on this inspired Word of God, each article focuses on a different personhood of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The First Article focuses on the creative and life sustaining work of God the Father, the Second Article describes the work and ministry of Jesus, and the Third Article describes the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit to grow faith in and through the Church.
As we gather weekly for worship, we recite one of the Christian creeds: Apostles’ Creed, Nicene Creed, or the Athanasian Creed. Most often, the Apostles’ Creed is spoken for its beauty, simplicity, and clarity of summarizing the faith. Be honest. All too often, we come to church and unthinkingly spew these words from our mouth, not pondering the rich teaching and historical framework behind the creed. I pray this series will allow us opportunity to peel back the layers of the Apostles’ Creed as we explore the inner workings of our faith in “Here I Stand”. Paul urges: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?” (2 Corinthians 13:5) Are you living the faith or merely existing?
To bring the Apostles’ Creed home, consider the following:
- As you speak the Creed, realize you are part of something bigger, that your voice joins together with the cloud of faithful witnesses who have gone before us and will come after us.
- Blood, sweat, and tears have spilled over the words we speak.
- Focus on specific words or phrases, pondering them for the day.
- Use the Creed as a basis for your Daily Devotion. Of particular help are Martin Luther’s explanations to the creed found in the book, Luther’s Small Catechism.
- Make the Creed personal, paraphrasing it in your own words.
- Memorize the Creed (as well as Luther’s “What does this mean?”).
- Speak the Creed as a prayer (pray the whole creed or break it down into specific phrases).
- Consider breaking down the Creed into smaller phrases, writing each phrase on a Post-it note. Next, place the notes throughout your house, car, and workspace. Whenever you see one of these phrases, say a prayer using the content of the phrase as your prayer.
I am sure we could come up with a multitude of ideas on how to bring the Apostles’ Creed home. The point is, make it your own, so both the heart of faith and mouth of confession are joined together as one. Let’s stop being robots and start engaging our faith to better understand why we believe what we believe.
I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 1:19-20)
Not a robot,
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