Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I believe in…

Watch out! Call the Church Police! Shane’s gonna do something Disciples of Christ pastors just don’t do…. Let me write today, my friends, about creeds.

You know, those ancient lists of doctrines beginning, “I believe in…”? For those reading on-line, here’re a couple links to famous creeds. For those reading during my Sunday sermon, locate pages 358-361 in our hymnal. Since we Disciples don’t like creeds (“No Creed but Christ,” being a famous denominational slogan), we dub these “Affirmations of Faith.” But most Christians use “creed,” and frequently recite one during worship.

Well, the other day, while worshipping with young adult clergy from a variety of Protestant Traditions, I experienced something so moving, my eyes flooded with tears of praise. And the instigator was- I confess- a creed.

Or, more accurately, a joint reflection on the Nicene Creed. It occurred when our worship leader projected this most-famous of Christian texts onto the screens in our worship space (wouldn’t it be awesome if we had screens at church…!). Then, acknowledging that not every worshipper’s church affirmed creeds, she invited us not to recite the creed together, but to read the words, pray silently, then lift our voices to declare whatever we believed.

So, we did. Some people, for whom those Nicene words carry great personal meaning, quoted phrases directly, like, “I believe in one God…maker of heaven and earth.” Others shared simple gifts like, “I believe in love”, or, “I believe in good news.” Having grown up reciting the Nicene Creed, I resonate with much of its language. Although, being a true-blue Disciple now, I feel free to make amendments. Thus, I said, “I believe in the future of the holy catholic church,” since whatever the doomsayers say, I think Christian churches still have a powerful mission of love to fulfill. (Fyi, ‘catholic’ in this statement has nothing to do with Rome and the Pope. It simply means ‘universal’, i.e. all Christians across time, throughout the world).

To someone not in the room, this worship act might sound boring. But believe me, mine weren’t the only wet eyes. Of course, as happens, the sharing started slowly. It took half a minute for the first person to speak. But once the dam was cracked, many voices flooded in. And soon, it was clear that the people in this room believed! Not in the same things in the same ways, certainly. We were diverse, and disparate, and more lovely for that being true. But we were united by a greater force- the God who inspired our spirits to belief. Who gave us faith beyond understanding, and urged us to share it.

And I learned anew that it’s a powerful thing when someone else shows you that she believes; deeply believes in something powerful and profound and good. But what’s especially neat is when this sharing isn’t meant to change your mind, or force you ‘to pick sides’, or make you feel dumb. For, too often in our culture, I feel, that’s what people do with belief. They use it as dividing tool, a blunt attacking instrument. Like someone might invest belief in some cause or doctrine or politician, then ‘share’ that belief on facebook, blogs, news programs or Thanksgiving tables. But not in ways meant to reveal to her neighbor what truly motivates her, thereby fostering intimacy and dignity. But in intimidating ways, an administration of a litmus test. Churches have so misused creeds before, thus I no longer trust them myself. But if used in holy fashion, if you tear down facades of fear and insecurity and honestly reveal to your neighbors what burns deep in that corner of your heart where passion feeds the soul, then…wow…belief can be incredible. It can build community; inspire action; dare I say it- change lives. At the very least, this exercise reminded me that I’m not alone. Turns out there are many good people of humble-striving faith who’ve chosen to believe. To not simply wander through life, but to stand for something, to stake a claim.

So, that said, I wonder how you’d finish this sentence- “I believe in…”

Grace and Peace,
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