September 2022

We stand and recite the Apostle’s Creed every week (or almost every week). The ancient words of this statement of faith are based on scripture, but not found in scripture. The Creed states the primary teachings of the Christian faith. Teachings that cross the boundaries of denomination. These words were first authored in the early 9th century to clearly state what the Christian church believed against the worship of Greek gods and Roman emperors, but the statement’s origin came even earlier, linked to The Roman Creed and The Nicene Creed. The words have their roots in the sacrament of Baptism. As the candidates were training for
their baptism, they were taught an early form of the creed. As the candidate was immersed, they are asked, “Do you believe in God the Father Almighty?” “I believe” is the response. The second dunk, “Do you believe in Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who was born of the Holy Spirit and Mary the virgin and was crucified under Pontius Pilate and was dead and buried and rose on the third day alive from the dead and ascended in the heavens and sits at the right hand of the Father and will come to judge the living and the dead?” Again, the response is, “I believe.” Finally, with the final submersion, “Do you believe in the Holy Spirit and the holy church and the resurrection of the flesh?” “I believe!” You may have noticed echoes of this practice in the conduct of Baptism in our congregation. Following the whole assembly’s recitation of the Creed, we ask parents of children brought for baptism to respond to a series of questions that are fortified by the ancient statement of faith. It
is simple yet deep. I am reminded of how powerful it is every Sunday as the words wash over me, amplified by the voices of the faithful.
“I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ His only
Son, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost (Holy Spirit).” Right there, the magic number of the three-in-one God. God the Father, the creator and ruler of all things is our Father. This one word tells the world that this is a relationship. The earliest creedal statement was two words, “Jesus is Lord.” This is found in Paul’s letters to the Romans and Corinthians. In the Apostle’s Creed, everything that follows the triune statement revolves around our understanding of who Jesus is. It is God revealed in the person of Jesus and scripture is, for us, a witness to Jesus. He is the center of our faith. “Conceived by the Holy Spirit born of the virgin Mary.” This is an act of Divine nature and not of man. “Suffered under Pontius Pilate,” Jesus suffered at the hands of humanity. “Was
crucified, died and was buried,” Jesus died the death of a criminal, a humiliating death. The
death that should have been ours, the judgement that we deserved, the moral order of the world justified in his death and the world became the Upside Down. He became the fulfilment of prophecy. “He descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead and ascended to the right hand of God the Father.” In his death and descent into hell, God in Jesus allowed himself to be dragged down to the depths of human experience in death and brought it out of Shaol. The gates of Hell are opened, the graves emptied. Jesus’ ascension now places him in the judgment seat where
he rules with God. The result is as Athanasias states, “we no longer die as those condemned but as those who will arise and he will come to judge the living (or quick) and the dead,” author Ben Myers says that the day Jesus comes to judge the living and the dead will be the best thing that ever happens to us. Our self-deceptions will be burned away, the evil removed, and we will, for the first time, be able to see the truth of our lives, yet still know we are loved. “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic (small ‘c’) church, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” We state our belief in the
Advocate promised by Jesus, sent to help us live as Christians. We state our belief that we are born into a Body of believers, universal (that is what small ‘c’ catholic means), across time,
denomination, or tradition, together and united for the purpose of serving the kingdom, with all
who have gone before us and those who will follow, forgiven and freed. We will be given new
bodies and we will have everlasting life. “Amen.” Many of us think “Amen” means “the end” but it does not mean the end. Only God can declare an end. The word is closer to meaning “indeed.”
Six sentences (albeit some of them very long, and one only one word) that encapsulate the basic beliefs of the Christian church. It is an extraordinary, concise statement. From time to time, it does the soul good to think about and meditate on the words that bind us together in the tapestry of our faith, reminding us that we do not live to ourselves but to a marvelous Creator, Triune God who desires to be in relationship today, yesterday, and tomorrow, world without end. INDEED!!