Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Message and the Creed

In our online Bible Study this week we have been talking about belief. In an earlier post, I published Keith Sanzen's statement of belief, which he had shared with that group.

As I thought about Keith’s creed, I found myself coming back to The Apostle’s Creed. I went looking on line to find it so that I could paste it into this email, rather than copying it from the hymnal. There may be a United Methodist link out there somewhere that leads to our hymnal version of the creed, but I couldn’t find it. On the other hand, the Lutherans and the Calvinists had web-sites with obvious and easy links. Searching in vain on the United Methodist sites reminded me again that we really are NOT a creedal church.

Eventually I went to the Lutheran web site and copied their version. It was not quite what I remembered, so I checked with our hymnal. The version they use is the Ecumenical version in our hymnal. I edited it to conform to our “Traditional” version. The Ecumenical version replaces the phrase “descended into hell,” with “descended to the dead.” Our Traditional version omits it altogether. Again, a small reminder of our theological heritage.

This is the Traditional version from our United Methodist Hymnal:

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried; the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

One of the things that is difficult for us to understand is that the creed was intended as a liturgical retelling of the Gospel Story. It was part of the worship life of the early church. More like a hymn than a theological statement, and certainly not intended to be read as history.

In the spirit of Eugene Peterson’s “The Message,” this is my paraphrase of the Apostle’s Creed:

I believe in God, the Ground of our Being and the Source of all that is.

And in Jesus Christ, the fullest and best revelation of God, who was born into a human family, suffered under the violence of the Empire, was executed for treason and died a human death. He went to God, even as he came from God, and then appeared again to his disciples. By his life and death all things are judged, and in his love the whole world is reconciled to God.

I believe in the Living Spirit of God in the world, and in the Church as Christ’s living presence among us. I believe God accepts us in spite of our brokenness and loves us beyond our imagining, now and forever. Amen.

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