What we believe is an important part of who we are. Christians believe in the Republican Ideal, Muslims believe in making everyone like them, atheists believe in themselves, Buddhists believe in enlightenment. Yes I realize I am stereotyping in these comments.
As a Christ Follower I believe that the Great commission is best fulfilled by working as hard as I possibly can at being more and more like Jesus. Seeing people with the eyes of Christ, seeing myself and other leaders through the same lens he looked at religious leaders in his day, attempting to not be one of the guys that made relationship with God harder than it has to be.
The Apostles Creed was not something that was used in the worship services that I was a part of growing up. In fact the liturgy used in the church I grew up in had little if any resemblance to what churches would consider liturgical, still there was a liturgy to our services, even if there were no responsive readings, formal calls to worship, etc. There were things that could always be counted on in every service, a set number of songs, a certain time for reflection, a chance to respond by coming forward. All of these things made up the liturgy in our church. But we missed out on the Apostles Creed. We missed out on what it says, we missed out on the Doxology, some of the communion responses are really beautiful. We never did a formal call to worship, something that has become one of my favorite parts of the service, especially as I write each call to worship based on the Psalm found in the lectionary for the week. That’s another thing that I really like, I like the Scripture Readings each Sunday. These passages, sometimes large and at other times not so large are great because it’s pure unfiltered Word of God and as we know from scripture God’s Word doesn’t go out void. It always will do something.
What has been especially enjoyable has been the new series we are in at the Church. What are We Saying? Digging into the different parts of a highly liturgical service and really finding out what is being said. These passages these, creeds, and prayers are really great because they say so much, the problem is they can become ritual instead of reality. That’s the danger that some churches concern themselves with when they stop using them or question churches that do. Ritual is not a bad word, but for some reason it’s become something that some in the church community have decided is akin to breaking one of the commandments. It’s funny, many in the church talk of the importance of developing a habit of reading the Bible and Praying each day, usually at the same time and for the same duration each day, and yet they will take people who enjoy the ritualistic portions of a highly liturgical service to task for having a form of Godliness. I’m not writing this to rant though, just to say that when looked at thoroughly these elements of a service are beautiful.
This past week as I was studying for Sundays message we were in the section of the Apostles Creed that has to do with Jesus death, and resurrection, it goes without saying that this one part of the creed means more to Christians as a whole than any other portion. It is the thing that we point to, the thing that allows us to have a relationship with God that goes beyond a sterile non-interactive acquaintance. As I was doing the work for the message I really took time to think about the Pontius Pilate part of the creed. Funny how Pilate can paint a picture so plainly of humanity in their attempt to have a relationship with God on their own terms. We try to let God know exactly how things are going to work, how they are going to be. We want to be in charge of a relationship that we broke. It’s sad really. Ultimately all of his attempts to make things okay between the two of them came to nothing. His attempt to absolve himself by washing his hands was more condemnation than anything else. Funny how self-justification is at the root of so many of our problems. What does it take for us to admit that there is no way we can make ourselves okay with God no matter how hard we try. Why do we want to try to do it on our own anyway. Have you read Levitical Law? Have you seen what it takes for a human to be good enough all on their own for a vibrant relationship with God? I maintain that one of the main purposes of the Old Testament writings, particularly the ones that lay out the rules that the Hebrews had to follow was to prove to them that no matter what they needed God. There was no possible way that any of them were going to be able to do it all the right way. They were going to mess it up. We will mess it up if we try. All this has been in my mind for a while now. I have talked about it, I have posted thoughts about it, but studying for this series has given it a freshness that I welcome.
I tire of looking at the church as a whole and seeing people who are more concerned with their rights than they are with doing right. More worried about their standing in the community than they are standing with those that are hurting, frightened, alone and disenfranchised. Nervous about “those people” coming into their community instead of being nervous that John 3:16 has been relegated to a sign held up in the end zone. I think there is more than a little bit of value in going back to the roots of what we believe, and really digging in. I think we would find a very different way to live out our faith, we may find that the way we do life with the world at large is lacking in the what would Jesus do side of things, and more fitting with what would evangelicals, or emergents, or catholics, or fill in the blanks do. The Apostles creed is a great way to understand our base of operations, and an awesome jumping off point for sharing a vibrant faith with a group of people who need to hear what it really means to be a Christ follower, not what it means to be a christian.
I think the church is missing out on a vibrant relationship with God mainly because somewhere we decided to settle for the visible proof as opposed to the deep truth that goes beyond cool songs, nice sermons and simple quips. What happens if we can’t handle it, what do we do when there is no real reason for the bad things happening, what does it mean when the chills don’t come, the bills don’t get paid, the tumor grows, the healing that we thought we witnessed turns out to be fake? The songs fade, the feelings disappear, the questions come and the shallow faith that is based on what we see and feel crumbles.
Imagine though if when those things happened we were still able to say ”
I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of Heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only begotten son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into Heaven and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty ; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the one holy universal Christian church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting . Amen.