Shortly, you hope, we will be saying the Nicene Creed. It’s something that we do every week after the sermon. The reason that we have it near the sermon is so that the congregation knows when a preacher goes off the rails. A preacher can’t say, “there is no Holy Ghost” without being made to look foolish when the congregation stands up and says, “And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and giver of life.” The Creed is more than just a safeguard against naughty priests and their wicked ways. It’s there to provide a framework for what we believe.
The word “believe” is Anglo-Saxon in origin and means “to hold something beloved”. To believe something means to regard it as precious. When we say, “I believe in God” we aren’t just saying “God exists” but that God's existence is fundamentally part of our lives. We should not be lukewarm about the pesence of God in our lives – it should make our hearts beat just that little bit quicker.
As you look through the Creed, you will see the phrase “I believe” three times, though it ought to be four. We say “I believe in One God, the Father Almighty” then we say, “and in one Lord Jesus Christ,” though we are really saying “and I believe in One Lord Jesus Christ.” We say “And I believe in the Holy Ghost…” and finally “And I believe One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.” Did you notice something different there?
We missed the word “in.” We believe in One God the Father and in One Lord Jesus Christ and in One Holy Ghost, but we believe One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Is there a difference? Does one little word really matter, or should we be worried? If we’re talking about belief, then every word does matter because we hold our Faith beloved! The “in” is missed because it is missing in the Latin version of the Creed and our prayer-book used the translation from the Latin and not Greek. It’s there in the original Greek, but the Latin misses it out – the meaning remains the same though. We do believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. We believe that there is only One Church, the ACC is one part of it; it is Holy because God has set it apart for His service; it is Catholic because it holds to the same Faith in Christ held by all Christians throughout all times and all places; it is Apostolic because it has been built upon the Apostles and Prophets from whom we derive our lineage of bishops and authority. We believe in this Church as much as we believe in God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. But is this the same thing as saying we believe that Church?
The Church bears witness to the facts of our religion. Our three creeds are statements of that religion and we must bear witness to that. However, the statements contained in those three creeds are huge. They are mind-blowing, difficult and life-changing statements with which we are familiar but not always very comfortable ourselves. They are statements that take a life-time to unravel and unpick, and then we will never fully understand them. Why? Because God is beyond all earthly thought. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.” He is not at our beck and call. He doesn’t have to pass His plans in front of us, for He is our Creator. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!”
The reality of God is beyond our understanding, and this is why we need to trust Him as there are no human words that He can use to tell us the truth. Human words are so limited in what they can convey. We must trust Him, we must believe Him, we must believe in Him.
This means that we have to believe the Church and believe in the Church. That’s hard to do sometimes because there are times when the Church doesn’t seem to get things right. Often, we Christians get called to account for the bad decisions that have been made by Church government. People fall away from God based on what the Church does and sometimes it’s not hard to see why. That’s the trouble when human beings are so fallible, make so many mistakes and sin. We have to learn to believe in the Church even when we don’t believe the Church, and somehow that’s what we have to tell other people. How on earth do we do that?
St Paul reminds us: “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.”
We have already been baptised into Our Lord. We are identified with Him in His death and we are identified with Him in His resurrection. We have to trust that. We have to live our lives with these facts, holding on to them tightly even when things get tough. We must believe, even when not believing seems easier. Our creeds are there for us to pray as well as remind ourselves what we believe. In saying our creed, we pray for God to fill us with faith, faith enough to help us to serve Him and find our lives in His life.
What do you believe in?