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Love Poems

Written by Pastor Aaron Decker. Posted in Light and Life

On my bookshelf, there is a volume called “Creeds of the Churches,” one of those books we had to pick up for a seminary course in church history, but never really delved into.  The third edition has 748 pages, and is filled with statement after statement of Christian faith.  Ignoring those formulae taken directly from scripture, the oldest of these faithful assertions comes from the year 107, found in the writings of St. Ignatius of Antioch.  The most recent comes out of an ecumenical conversation on Church unity which took place in Lima, Peru in 1982.

In the past few weeks, I’ve mentioned the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed.  These three are the creeds which the Lutheran churches officially hold as historically faithful, true witnesses to orthodox Christian faith, tested and affirmed by centuries of faithful believers.  And yet, for hundreds of years after they were developed--and even today--new creeds are being written.  Even Lutherans have their own contributions to this ever increasing body of literature, if one considers the Augsburg Confession, Smalcald Articles, and other important documents of the Reformation.  These are all rather longer than the creeds, but they serve the same purpose, if not the same level of detail.

Why do we need more creeds?  One might say that we have an ill-fated desire to define our faith, against what someone else (who we’d label a heretic) believes.  There’s something too near-sighted about that view, though.  The fact is, Christians really are passionate about their God.  We know we can’t know everything about God, but that doesn’t stop us from trying.  In the same way that two people who love each other will always have new things to discover about the other, and will always keep striving after those things.  So, too, we yearn to know everything we can about God.

And so, as we live more and more deeply into our relationship with the Divine One, we find more and better words to describe the One we love.  One love letter won’t do it; we need to write more and more.  And discover more and more beautiful poetry that reveals the nature of our love, things that resonate with our own life experiences.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, my teenage years found me sitting in a traditional Lutheran pew reciting the traditional Apostles creed like a prayer around which the world revolved.  Today, that poetry seems flatter, and the Nicene creed speaks more beautifully to me.  Perhaps one day, I’ll need to look elsewhere.

If, like Immanuel member Ed Clarke, my teenage years found me serving the Navy in the Philippines, rebuilding towns and finding ways to work with the Japanese soldiers who once were our enemies but now were starving, I might have needed to find very different words to fit into my love letters to my God.  Amongst a gathering of faithful scientists, he has encountered a creed used by the Iona community which spoke to him--to that history and to his ever-inquiring mind--and which he’s shared with me a number of times:

We believe that God is present
in the darkness before dawn;
in the waiting and uncertainty
where fear and courage join hands,
conflict and caring link arms,
and the sun rises over barbed wire.

We believe in a with-us God
who sits down in our midst
to share our humanity.

We affirm a faith
that takes us beyond a safe place:
into action, into vulnerability
and onto the streets.

We commit ourselves to work for change
and put ourselves on the line;
to bear responsibility, take risks,
live powerfully
and face humiliation;
to stand with those on the edge;
to choose life and be used by the Spirit
for God’s new community of hope.

Amen 

I wonder, what poetry do you find captivates you most, as you speak your love letters to the one who made you, and who will never let you go?

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Aaron and Ed Clarke

Beloved One, may my mind, my heart, and my soul ever find new and more beautiful language with which to speak of you.  Amen.