Good morning. I am really happy to be able to be here with you once again as a guest pastor. I am going to do something a bit different today, so let us embark with a sense of possibility and creativity. After a brief explanation of our topic, we will do an activity.
Before I dive into our topic of writing a personal creed, I would like to share a story with you. There once was a lawyer that was in the midst of a very difficult case. He was pretty sure that his client would be found guilty of murder. However, his only hope rested on the fact that a body had never been found. At the last moment he had an idea…one last trick up his sleeve. In his closing arguments he told the jury that he had a surprise for them if they would just turn to the door. Looking at his watch, he promised that the supposed victim would show up. The air was tense while the jurors waited. Finally the lawyer said, “You all looked expectantly at the door. This demonstrates reasonable doubt!” The jury went to deliberate and came back within a few minutes. They pronounced the verdict as guilty. In great confusion the lawyer said, “but you all turned to look at the door.” “Yes we did,” said one juror, “but your client did not”. It would seem that we often find truth in that delicate interplay of doubt and faith.
Our topic today is really all about faith, but before we look at what we believe, first let’s talk a little about doubt. Sometimes we might worry about doubt or be afraid of doubt, but I believe there is a place for doubt in a mature faith life. Doubt keeps us honest. I say that because the truth is we just don’t know the answers to many questions about our faith. Sometimes we pretend we have solid answers, but we are really using our intellect to question our faith all the time. But faith is a stubborn and resilient thing. We don’t have to be afraid of our questions and doubt. In reality our questions and doubts can lead us to new truths we never expected. When we ask questions about our faith, we learn and grow. I think it is important to note that questioning one’s faith is not a sign of a weak faith, but rather of a faith strong enough to risk uncertainty.
So as I talk about faith, don’t be concerned if you have doubts. Our purpose here is to focus on what we do know or believe! Like the jurors, we can trust ourselves to figure out enough of the truth. And like the jurors we can see that sometimes doubt is what leads us to truth.
One way that churches have tried to teach and instill faith has been using creeds. The earliest Christian creed to be recorded in the New Testament originated in the writings of Paul in Philippians 2:11. It says, simply, “Jesus is Lord.” This is a formal statement of Christian beliefs, or a creed. Then we find in 1 Corinthians the creed we just read as today’s scripture. It tells us more about who Paul believes Jesus to be. It is his statement of faith. These creeds, and communal creeds were used to teach the faith, to encourage believers in their faith, and to express unity in belief.
Creeds have often been formalized and used publicly. Unfortunately, creeds can sometimes separate people if adherence to the creed is valued above allowing for a diversity of beliefs or above the need to question and grapple with one’s faith.
Many churches choose not to use a creed during Sunday worship. This leaves room for inclusion of those who do not agree or are unsure about the theological teachings of the church. It allows for freedom and creativity. For unity, the church instead relies on shared prayer and communion.
So, do we abandon creeds altogether? Well, the United Methodist church still uses the Apostle’s Creed on some occasions, mostly as a way to remember the baptismal vows. I think we can still use these creeds but do so in a mindful manner, and in a manner that is generous to diversity and questioning of theological views.
Beyond this, I think there is great value in writing your own creed and using it in your private prayer life. That also allows for freedom and creativity, and for a meaningful way to encourage yourself in your faith. Once you have written a creed, you can recite it daily or weekly or whatever feels comfortable. Do revisit it though. A creed is not meant to be stored away in a drawer or in a computer file, but is instead meant to be utilized in one’s faith life.
Some questions to think about before writing a creed:
Who is God to you? For example: God might be a Parent, a Creator, a Friend, or a Rock of Strength. What kind of God is this and what does that mean in relation to you and to the world? For example: If you think of God as a Mother, why is that? Why is this idea of God important to you?
Who is Jesus? For example: Jesus might be a teacher, a savior, a model human being, or God in human flesh. Whoever you think Jesus is, what does that have to do with you?
Who is the Holy Spirit to you? For example, is the Spirit inside you or a part of you? Where does this Holy Spirit come from? What is the purpose of the Holy Spirit in your life? When does the Holy Spirit show up for you?
Who are you? For example: Are you a child of God? Are you created in God’s image and likeness?
What does your relationship with God tell you about yourself?
Is this related to your purpose?
As you finish up, ask yourself if there are any other questions or statements that get to the heart of what you believe.
Here is an example of one way to answer…this is my creed that I wrote a few years ago after asking myself those questions. I edit it a little now and then. I would expect it to be different than one you would write. I would anticipate that if 100 people wrote their own creeds, we would have 100 different creeds, so here is mine:
I believe in one eternal Creator God,
Who is a God who loves us into existence.
I believe in a God who has made us in Their own image and likeness.
A God who revels in diversity as evidenced by the great diversity we find in nature and in humanity.
I believe that this Creator is constantly seeking connection with us,
And sent Jesus to liberate and save us from all that holds us bound.
In his life, death, and resurrection Jesus has shown us how to connect to God.
Before he died, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to be a constant presence building up the Church and the people of God both today and throughout history.
I believe that I am called to live a life of love and of building up the realm of God here in this world.
I know that I will die, but I believe that I will rise again.
God, our dearest friend, we know you intimately because you are in our very souls. Grant that we might find your purpose for us, that we might serve you better day by day.
We ask for this in the name of our beloved sibling, Jesus. Amen.