I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy *catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen. (*catholic in lower case means “universal.”)
This is one of the first things I learned growing up Presbyterian and going to church just about every Sunday. When I was a kid, I learned it by rote. And lately you may have noticed a couple times at least, I catch myself messing it up.
Senior moments? Maybe…but it makes me wonder.
How often have we said it in church? How many hundreds of times in your life? Have we said it so many times that it’s rote: Do we even hear it anymore? And what are we saying?
We use it as our “Affirmation of Faith” where we—corporately, together— stand up and recite it. In the Presbyterian church, we use it so often (and a number of other creeds and statements of belief that are in our Book of Confessions) that I asked a retired professor Dr. Charles Courtney from Drew University to do some research on the Confessions for me, including the Apostles’ Creed. Here’s what he shares:
The later disproved legend was that the Apostles, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote this creed on the tenth day after the Ascension. It originated in Rome ca. 100 and became the common creed of Western Christendom when it took its present form ca. 700. Often used at baptism, the three articles were put to the candidate in the form of a question: “Do you believe?” After each affirmative answer, the candidate was immersed. Note that this bare-bones creed does not mention the ministry or teachings of Jesus. It’s just the “facts.”
Well, after my most recent stumbling through it, I remembered this Richard Rohr devotional about it from a couple years ago. And Richard Rohr is all about it, here. Go see what I mean.
The Apostles’ Creed gives us a lot to believe in and Charles even points out the omission. It’s a lot to live into as is, but I never thought much about this until now. Father Richard demands that we pull out the microscope and look closely at this:
“born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate…”
How many times do you think we’ve seen it/said it? How many times?
Look closely at the comma and where it falls. If you’re a Seinfeld fan, you may notice that comma basically “yadda-yadda’s” Jesus entire life and ministry. Right? Think about it.
Jesus’ entire life is packed into that comma!
Every teaching, preaching, parable, healing, miracle, and yes, his commas, too.
Hello, disciples! That is a huge wake-up call.
Trying to live this life, live into this Way, just trying to get through the day. That’s you and me. We spend our entire lives unpacking and living into that comma.
Right? What that looks like is up to you and me. Individually, walking the walk.
I had to fill out a form for the DMV yesterday. I’m sure you already know what I did—How many times have you written 2021 so far while you’re putting a date on something?
Which poses a whole other question: How many checks do you write anymore anyway?
Some meme was going around with a couple dinosaurs carving the wrong pre-historic era into a slate. No, this is not my forte. But still, I Googled to learn that the Paleolithic Period was when stone tools were developed, some 40,000 years ago—long, long, after the dinosaurs. I’ll leave you to Google how to label the dinosaur eras. I have no clue.
I had a nice vacation! It’s good to get away and recharge. I’m good at shutting it off. Spend some time in peace down the shore. You know, it’s nice.
Did you make any resolutions?
Every year somebody will post a meme on social—some snapshot of a packed parking lot—caption: “The gym this week.”
Less screen time? (now there’s an auto-app to monitor that on iPhone).
More alone time?
I’ve been exercising on my indoor trainer for the bike so I can get back the 5 pounds I put on during the holidays from Thanksgiving Chex mix to Christmas cookies. You know—it’s a mess. And it’s no resolution—I know better than that. But, I’m trying. I am gonna do better.
Gonna shake the Etch A Sketch (very old-school reference) and do better.
That’s it. There’s my one, and only resolution. Do better. Gonna keep following Jesus and do better.
If it were easy, I guess everybody’d be doing it. What do you think? Can we try?
Go ahead, Google Etch A Sketch. You won’t offend me. I already know I’m old.
Grace, Peace, and Happy New Year! Scott
ps. Confession: after all that, I saved this document as Jan. 12, 2021. Augh!