CREDO of My Heart

 

These notes are intended for distribution to members and friends of the Kirk of Kildaire Presbyterian Church family. While effort is made to give credit for work done by others, the notes may use material for which appropriate credit is not given. Also, the notes may differ from the actual sermon as it was delivered. Remember, sermons are meant to be preached and are therefore prepared with the emphasis on verbal presentation; the written accounts occasionally stray from proper grammar and punctuation. 

Deuteronomy 26:1-11 (5-9)

1 Corinthians 15:3-7

CREDO- I believe- best translates: “I have given my heart to…”

Which why I am not surprised when I find there are many creeds out there in the world. People give their hearts to a lot of things. There is an American Creed which came as a result of a national contest in 1917 which was to be a brief summary of the American political faith… at a time of war… The creed ends…

I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it, to support its Constitution, to obey its laws, to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies.

It is a creed for those who are ready to give their heart to their country.

I’ve told you about the Auburn creed written in 1945 – at the end of another war. You may have heard it if you watched an Auburn football game last fall. In the public service commercial for Auburn, different voices repeat the creed: proclaiming they believe in hard work, education, honesty, sound mind and body, obedience to law, human touch as an expression of sympathy and helpfulness, in our country… then together the voices say:And because Auburn men and women believe in these things, I believe in Auburn and love it. 

They could have said, and because we believe these things, “I give my heart to Auburn…”

So every week when we stand to say a creed – and there are many to choose from… but we use the Apostle’s creed as our default… we are saying, “ this is what I have given my heart to. I give my heart to this God”… maker of heaven and earth… in Jesus Christ his only son our lord… and in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic church…

Creeds have been around a long time. Some of the earliest creeds that people gave their hearts to are ones in the Bible. We just read two of them. One was clearly used in worship. The Jews were instructed that when they come to worship and make their offering, they were to set the basket down… and make this response:

   “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt…” and they would retell the story of the God who delivered them…  This was the story they were to give their hearts to…

Paul seems to be repeating a creed used in Christian worship as a means of instruction as he teaches people wondering about the resurrection: “For I handed on to you as of first importance, that which I had received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures and that he was buried…”

And Paul goes on tell the story of Christ… how God raised Christ from the dead… another story of deliverance… we are to give our heart to…

There has not been a time when God’s people have not put their faith into words… to express something of what they believed about God… of their allegiance… as a means to tell their faith story.

The story I heard most often growing up was offered in the Apostle’s creed – an old creed whose phrases can be found back in the 1stcentury but did not come to it’s final form until the 8thcentury… I grew up saying the Apostle’s creed every Sunday in worship… truth be told, I didn’t know what I was saying… but  learned it by the time I was 5 or 6. What I didn’t realize is that I was learning the basic story of our faith. It is all there… the Bible in miniature. You don’t have to read the Bible in 90 days to know the basic story – it is all there in the Apostle’s creed.

I have to confess that over time, it became, can I say this in church – sort of boring… the same words week in and week out. Yada, Yada, Yada…

Maybe that is why Calvin sang the creed every week in worship… to give it a little variety. Maybe it is why Zwingli had men and women repeat the creed antiphonally as we did this morning… to keep it fresh.

Early in my ministry I introduced congregations to other statements of faith that were more contemporary… and I’m glad I did. There are some good ones out there…

But lately, lately, I’ve found myself returning to the Apostle’s creed for many reasons.

First, it does tell the story.

Also, it is one of the few shared stories we have in a very divided and diverse Christian world… almost everyone in Western Christianity says the Apostle’s creed – Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, and even some Baptists. It is one of the few creeds we can say together as a sign of our common faith. So I sort of like it as a way of us saying, no matter what our differences: “This is what WE give our heart to…”

Having said that, I know that for some people, creeds can be a problem. At their best, creeds are good storytelling. But at their worst, the creeds can conjure up for some ghosts of a hard edged, judgmental and harsh Christianity – they can seem like a grocery list of beliefs that one has to understand and assent to before one dare show one’s face in church. In fact, this seems to be a popular understanding of creeds… as a sort of gatekeeper of the faith. One person once told his Christian friend in a sharp tone of voice: If you don’t ascribe to all of that crap, you have no business being there.”

Which is sort of sad. Because properly used, the creeds may be of help to those who are doubting…

I think of a couple of stories… one is a young man living with his doubts… saying he wasn’t sure he could believe what the creed said, and his wise mentor said, “that’s okay, let the church believe for you…”

I think of another story I heard about a heated exchange between a seminary student and an Orthodox theologian at Yale Divinity School. The theologian had given a talk on the history of the development of the Christian creeds. The student’s original question was centered on belief: “What can one do,’ he asked, ‘when one finds it impossible to affirm certain tenets of the Creed?’ The priest responded, “Well, you just say it. It’s not that hard to master. With a little effort, most can learn it by heart.”    Feeling misunderstood the student shot back:

“What am I to do… when I have difficulty affirming parts of the Creed – like the Virgin Birth?” And he got the same response. “You just say it. Particularly when you have difficulty believing it. You just keep saying it. It will come to you eventually.” [1]

Sometimes when I stand up here and lead you in the Apostle’s creed I think about how many Christians have shared this moment – for 1900 years… again and again… sharing their faith from one generation to another through this creed… this story…that binds us together across the years.

I think about how many people in times of doubt… wondering what they believe anymore… have returned to this old story… to find faith… or at least to lean on the faith of others when their faith is shaky… When you are praying, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief…” and then you join the church of all ages saying, “ I believe in God the Father….”

It can ground you when your faith feels shaken. It can guide you when you lose your way as you let others speak for you.

It can give you the words when you want to share a witness… It can tell a great story, if you let it.

Years ago, when I first came to the Kirk, a young man, in his mid 20s set up an appointment with me. He has since moved.  He had not been to church in a long time but had started coming to the Kirk. The reason he wanted to come to see me was because he was wondering about something in the Apostle’s Creed. It wasn’t a matter of doubt – just curiosity. He said, “Jody, can you tell me who is this Pontius Pilate is that we keep talking about?”  And though I was calm on the outside, inside I thought… “Wow… he has never heard of Pontius Pilate? I thought everyone knew… especially here… but I would have been wrong.”

So, I proceeded to tell the story of our faith… using the Apostle’s creed as the outline of who God is and what God has done for us in Christ. Later, he was baptized here at the Kirk as an adult.  It was one of the greatest visits I’ve ever had with a person… one of the best moments as a pastor to be in this conversation.

I love faith that is searching and seeking… and I love the faith that gives me a story to share… the story of a loving God… the creator of heavens and the earth…

a God so in love with us, that when we sinned and lost our way, God sent his Son to guide us and redeem us… and though we rejected his Son… God raised him from the dead… and then God sent the Holy Spirit to us to form a church – to be Christ’s body in the world… one church… consisting of the fellowship of believers both past and present… who believe not in revenge, but the forgiveness of sin… and who believe there is fullness of life with God forever…. I love that story. That’s a story I can give my heart to.

You know where I learned it don’t’ you?… Right here… in black and white… in the creed… I learned it right here… in church… in worship… where I come each week to remember the one to whom we belong… the one to whom we have given our hearts and lives to and to whom I offer my thanks and praise. Amen.

 




[1]
Amazing Grace- p 64-65 adapted


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