Lenten Devotional: March 19th
Amen is a Hebrew word meaning "right on," or "so be it." It is a biblical way of saying "this is true." Jesus frequently says, "Amen I say to you," which gets translated as, "Truly, I say to you."
This all begs the question, "In what way are we calling the Apostle's Creed true?"
It is not true in the sense that you are giving intellectual ascent to every statement. It is not coalescing to a set of outdated propositions (hopefully you have seen through our study of the Creed that it is not outdated at all.) It is true in the sense that "we" all are in this Creed together.
My faith has its ups and downs like that of everyone. I doubt and wonder what difference it all makes. There are ups and downs and hot spots and cold spots and boredom.
I'm not asked on a Sunday morning as of 10:45, "what do you believe?" I am not asked if what I am saying at this particular moment in my particular life is true. I don't sit down with a 3x5 index card and say, "Now, let's see. What do I believe today?" No, that's not what they're asking me. They're asking me, "Are you a member of a community which for millennium-and-a-half has said, "I believe in God..."
Reciting the Apostle's Creed is how we understand the true universality of faith across not only space, but time. We know that on a Sunday morning when we say the Apostle's Creed it could be said in Nigeria or the Philippines. Emperor Justinian in the 6th century and Thomas Aquinas in the 13th, and my parents and grandparents all affirmed this. The children of the future will affirm it also.
Someone in my office recently told me that because of all that is going on in their life, they just can't pray right now. I told this person, "Why don't you just let others pray for you for a while?" When we pray the Lord's Prayer or recite the Apostle's Creed together in church we may be saying it for someone who doesn't have the words of faith right now. We are saying what the church has believed for centuries, even though we might not be able to say it in our personal faith journey at this particular moment.
Before his death the great historian Jaraslov Pelikan was part of an interview with Steven J. Gould. Gould insisted with dogmatic fervor that he wasn't a believer, but he was a member of the Handel and Haydn Society in Boston. And so he sang all this ancient music.
Gould was asked about communication with other planets and other worlds, and how should we try to reach people who don't know our language or anything else. He said, "We should play the Bach B Minor Mass and say, in as many languages as we can, "This is the best we have ever done, and we would like you to hear it, and now we'd like to hear the best you have ever done." Gould would have wanted broadcast systems blaring across our solar system and beyond playing the B Minor Mass.
That is what we do with creeds as we recite them over time. We express the language of faith over the centuries. We say it in as many languages as we can, and we want you to hear some of the best we have ever done. One of the best is the Apostle's Creed. Amen.
Rev. Brent Barry, Pastor, NorthPark Presbyterian Church