Grace and Peace from Our Lord Jesus Christ!
Last month I wrote to you about the first way we respond to the word in the service of worship. The very first thing that we normally do after hearing God’s word proclaimed is to sing a prayer of thanksgiving. I said then that all of the ways that we respond to the word within the order of worship are opportunities for us to respond to God with gratitude – not just the prayer of thanksgiving. One of the common ways to do so is for the whole congregation to read or recite aloud a profession of faith.
As Niagara Presbyterian Church we have been doing one of two things most Sundays with regard to the profession of faith. The first of these two things is the regular use of the so-called Apostles’ Creed. (It is not called the Apostles’ Creed because it was written by the apostles – in fact, it was not written by the apostles – but it is so-called because it is a summary of the apostles’ teaching). The second of these two things is that we have been progressing through other significant works included in the Book of Confessions. Thus far we have professed together the Nicene Creed, the Scots Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and are making our way through the Second Helvetic Confession. But I want to focus here on why we regularly use the Apostles’ Creed
in the order of worship sometime after hearing the sermon.
First, the Apostles’ Creed is part of our baptismal vows. Even if we have not thought about it this way, saying the Creed serves to renew our commitments to God and His people. Since so many people today view God and gathering with His people as optional, this is incredibly important. Thus let me encourage you to view reciting the Apostles’ Creed as a way to renew your baptismal vows to the true and living God.
Second, James K.A. Smith insightfully suggests that the
Apostles’ Creed serves the role that the pledge of allegiance does in America’s national liturgy. Regular recitation of the Creed in public worship encourages you to imagine yourself as a citizen of “one nation” in heaven and to long for the day when that nation will come down and replace the kingdoms of earth. Thus the people of God not only become a community when we gather together but an alternative commonwealth. And when you consider what we say in the words of the Creed we become a people with a history and tradition. It is because of this role that the Creed plays that we have often been standing for it in the worship service and in our Sunday School opening.
And let me briefly note a third reason for the regular use of the Apostles’ Creed. The Creed is a profession of faith. In this light, for example, the regular recitation of the Creed trains your imagination (before even thinking about it) to push back against rival demands for loyalty. After all, we are declaring our loyalty to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit when we profess the Creed.1
So the next time you are saying those familiar words or they spring to mind, consider the many ways God is using them to shape you as disciples of Jesus Christ.
1 James K.A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, p.107, 190-192.