This summer, we have been looking at many different aspects, or parts, of prayer. We’ve looked at the Old Testament, the New Testament, written prayers, praying for ourselves, praying for others, for our community, for our world, and a history of prayer. But, there’s one aspect of prayer that we haven’t talked much about yet.
It’s the Apostles Creed.
It might seem a bit like an odd thing to talk about, because it’s not really written in the form of a prayer. But it’s still an important part of prayer, nonetheless. We’ll get to talking more about that in just a moment.
First, I’d like for us to recite it together. Here goes:
“I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth;
I believe in Jesus Christ, his one Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day, he rose again.
He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again 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.”
What just happened? What did we just do there?
We made a public confession of faith. We confessed what we believe, about God, about Christ, about the Holy Spirit, about the Church, about forgiveness, about the Resurrection, among other things.
See, church, the Apostles Creed is, at it’s very core, like I said moment ago, is a confession of faith. In other words, we are confessing what we believe as Christians.
It’s not a Methodist thing, or a Lutheran thing (Although Luther did preach on the Creed). It’s not a Catholic thing. It’s a Christian thing.
And while every Christian tradition today might say a slightly different version of it, the overall message of the Creed itself is the same. Regardless of what different denominations believe about grace, or election, or faith, or spiritual formation, or evangelism, or theological issues, this Creed has become the “standard” doctrinal statement of the Church catholic (little “c,” meaning universal) for centuries. The Apostles Creed itself was used in ancient times as a way of instructing new Christians about what the Church believed as they were preparing for their Baptism, and it’s divided into three parts:
God the Father
God the Son
God the Holy Spirit
The difference, was that for ancient Christians, they made this confession at the risk of serious persecution, or even death. Which is why we need to understand it as a confession. See, church, it’s more than just words on a page that we say, or something we mindlessly recite. We are confessing with our mouth, what we believe in our hearts, about God.
That’s what the ancients did.
They learned about this Creed, and recited it with their own lips, as a spiritual exercise.
Romans 10:9 says this:
“If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved…”
And that’s beautiful.
And also deeply profound.
The Creed is important, because not only is it short and easy to remember, and highlights the Christian faith, but also because it gives us the words to take to God in prayer. The Creed itself isn’t a prayer, but we can use it for prayer.
Think about it.
There’s really four parts of prayer:
While the Confession part of prayer usually involves confession of Sin, what’s wrong with reciting the Creed as a confession of faith? Because really, what we’re doing there is telling God what we believe about Him. And we’re not only affirming orthodox teaching that has gone before us for centuries.
We’re claiming it as our own:
We’re saying that we believe in God as Father, and Creator, and that we believe in Jesus Christ as God’s son and our Lord.
That we believe in the Virgin Birth.
We’re saying that we believe in the need for Christ’s suffering, death, and ascension.
That we believe that Christ will come again, as Scripture promises to judge the world.
We’re saying that we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy catholic (small “c” meaning universal) Church.
That we believe that the Church is made up of the “communion of saints.”
We’re saying that we believe in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and that we believe in eternal life.
And we’re doing it with our lips as well as with our hearts.
The Creed, then, is us, as the Church, the bride of Christ, full of saints and sinners alike, coming before the throne of God, making this confession before Him, telling Him that we believe in those things that we have seen in Scripture, in the Church, and in our own lives to be true.
At the same time, the Creed can be a tool for outreach.
Not only is it helpful to us in prayer, but we can use it for outreach.
Think about it.
Our focus as a church is about building genuine relationships with people outside the walls of our building.
Sharing in life with others.
Let’s face it, sometimes that’s hard.
You know what you believe, but you’re not sure how to say it, or phrase it.
I have good news for you: Church tradition has done the work for you.
If and when the situation presents itself, or, when you find yourself having a “God moment,” knowing what you believe as what’s found in the Creed can help you answer questions others might have about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
You can just say it:
“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.”
“I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.”
And so on.
Through the Apostles Creed, you can more effectively offer hope to those around you when the situation presents itself
The Apostle’s Creed doesn’t talk about Methodism specifically, or the idea of Christian Perfection (discipleship)
But it gets the conversation started.
And gives you confidence in what you believe and already know. Amen.
(This sermon was first preached at the Alexandria First Free Methodist Church in Alexandria, MN on 8/2/2015)