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Credo

Written by Pastor Aaron Decker. Posted in Light and Life

The word which seems to jump out of the creed at the first moment it rolls off the tongue is "Believe." Indeed, the purpose of the creed seems to be an assertion of just what it is in which we believe. And in the earliest days of the creeds, their purpose was indeed an assertion of the true faith, set up against those who the Church labeled heretics, who held some other truths about God. Why does the Nicene Creed insist that Jesus was "begotten, not made?" Because a group of people in the early church believed Jesus was not God, but merely a being created "higher than the angels," and the church wanted to insist that Jesus was "not made," but fully God.

But in the history of the Church, the word "believe" in fact meant something quite different from what we tend to think of today. After all, while all the specifics of how exactly the Spirit "proceeds from the Father [and the Son]" weren't hammered out until the 11th century, there were very few people in the first millennium and a half of Christendom who did not, as we say, "believe in God." The existence of the divine was assumed, and only came into question after the brilliant thought of the Renaissance.

So if everyone believed in God, why say it? The church historian Diana Butler Bass suggests we translate the word as "belove." This sounds a little awkward to me, but I like the idea behind it. Theologian Marcus Borg suggests a simpler word: "Trust."

Think about these things for a moment. There's a very big difference between saying "I believe in God," and saying, "I love God, I am beloved by God, I trust God." What does it mean to assert that "we trust God" in the center of our worship?

Right now, I am sitting at the airport in Baltimore, MD, on the last leg of a trip home from a week of vacation. I am happy, relaxed, and believe it or not, eager to get back to work. At 9:00 tonight, I'll step on an airplane and fly to Boston. When I do that, it is an act of trust in the pilot, the airline mechanics and engineers, and countless other people who made the flight possible. I'll place my entire life at their hands. If I do not trust them, deeply, implicitly, I cannot walk onto the plane.

How strange it is to be able to easily develop such trust for a complete stranger, and yet have it be incredibly difficult to hold such trust in God. How many of us can say that we have eagerly responded to God's call with such a trusting step forward with the same frequency that we step into someone else's car? And what might it look like if we did?

We do not trust God perfectly. Not even Peter, Jesus's right-hand man, quite got it. He stepped out of the boat at Jesus's command, and began to walk on the surface of the sea-- but then began to sink. Like us. But speaking the creed as a central act of worship makes it an act of trust in God, and through it, we call ourselves to greater and greater trust each week, whether we can hang our faith on all the details or not.

This Sunday, as we gather for our Sunday worship, as we say those ancient words "I believe," you might imagine yourself truly, fully beloved by God. And you might envision stepping into God's call, and entrusting your entire life into His hands.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Aaron

Help me do more than just believe in you, God. Help me step out in faith at your call. Help me trust you. And when I cannot, help me take that first act of faith, and pray, "I believe." Amen.