Repetitious Believing – The Nicene Creed, Part 1

I can believe a thousand different things by lunchtime on any given day. “I believe the world is round.” “I believe the sky is falling.” “I believe I’ll have the enchilada plate, thank you.”

Some of my beliefs are grounded in facts and reality. Others are based on fears, wounds, and losses. And still others arise from my own imagination, desires, and the reality I create in my head. If I am honest, I must also admit (confess) that sometimes my beliefs depend on where I am, who I am with, and the circumstances in which I find myself.

Some beliefs and truths, however, are so critical, so important, so integral to our existence and relationships that they are worth holding onto and repeating over and over. Take, for instance, the words “I love you.” How many times have we spoken those words to our children, our spouse, our parents, siblings, friends? Thousands? Hundreds of thousands? We say the same three words day after day; perhaps even several times per day. There’s not much novelty or innovation to them. They are the same old words that were said yesterday, last year, twenty years ago. Novelty and innovation, however, are not the issue.

With those three words we take a stand, make a commitment, and shape our life in a particular way. They profess unity, stability, and direction for our lives. Some words just have to be spoken. They not only express a reality, they help create a reality, and remind us of what is most real and important.

So it is that Sunday after Sunday we stand side by side and say, “We believe in one God….” They are the same old words that were said last week, last year, last century. The words originated more than 1500 years ago. With those words we declare a common faith and belief and join our voice to the ones next to us, to those around the world who, in whatever language they speak, worship and believe as do we, and to the generations of voices who have gone before us and who now sing with the angels, the archangels, and all the company of heaven.

Some will look at the division within the Church, East and West, Protestant and Catholic, liberal and conservative, and declare our faith and belief to be anything but common. The divisions are real. They do not, however, have to be the final reality. Perhaps that is why the last word of both the Nicene and Apostles’s Creeds is “amen.” The creeds are an expression and symbol of our faith and belief. They are equally a prayer that that faith and belief might become a lived reality. After all, theology can only be understood and lived when and as it is prayed. Through the creeds we are declaring what is and praying for what might be, the already and the not yet. We are like the one who said to Jesus, “I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

“The Creed belongs only to those who live it. Faith and love, theology and life, are inseparable…. If we do not love one another, we cannot love God and if we do not love God, we cannot make a true confession of faith.” (Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church, p. 215)

Questions for Reflection:

  • Often when we pray the liturgy we hear voices that are speaking faster or slower than others. Try this the next time you pray the Creed. Intentionally join your voice to the voice next to you. Listen and then adjust your cadence to mirror that of the person standing next to you. How does that feel? Do you experience anything new or different?
  • Do you simply recite the Creed? Do you pray the Creed? Do you live the Creed? Are these different? If so, in what ways? What implications do they have for your life and faith?
  • Consider Bishop Ware’s statement, “The Creed belongs only to those who live it.” What might you do or change that would help you live the Creed? How might living the Creed affect your relationships with others?

This article was originally written for Reflections Online and published by the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas. It is the first in a series on the Nicene Creed. You can find it here along with an interview with Bishop David Reed and the Creed in Photos.

17 thoughts on “Repetitious Believing – The Nicene Creed, Part 1

  1. Made me think Father Marsh, and I will try to join my voice with my neighbor next time I pray the creed!
    Will let you know how that works out!

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  2. Words have such immense power, and that’s why the scriptures say we must believe with our heart AND confess with our mouth. The routines we perform say a lot about our faith or lack of it. Thank you again for your thought-provoking writings.

    Shalom,
    Olive Twist

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    • Olive Twist, yes, words have great power; the power to create or destroy, to bless or curse. Our words reveal something about out inner being. I appreciate you reading and commenting on my blog. Thank you.

      Peace,
      Mike+

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  3. Faith and love, theology and life, are inseparable…. If we do not love one another, we cannot love God and if we do not love God, we cannot make a true confession of faith.” (Timothy Ware) … Beautiful quote thank you.

    Are you on Facebook?

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    • Leela, I am glad you like the quotation. It really grounds the Creed in daily life and relationships.

      Yes, I am on Facebook (Michael K. Marsh, Uvalde, Texas)

      Peace be with you,
      Mike+

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  10. I think that your opening two paragraphs really says so much. It seems that as we pray, recite and live (“PRL”) the Creed it all depends on where we are in our lives and where we are in our relationship with God. One day what speaks to me as I PRL the Creed may impact me or touch a part of my soul differently than it did the day, week, month or moment prior. As we live, as we love, as we grow closer in our relationship with God, we change. Our perspectives and beliefs change, but interestingly enough we remain sinners none-the-less. (I don’t view being a sinner as a negative but as a reason to continue in my practices to come closer to God.)

    I struggle with the separation of beliefs Christians experience and the animosity shown in groups and individually. It brings me to tears that we are separated by beliefs – beliefs and perceived realities which are all based upon our experiences and personal sins. Our convictions and faith are to unite us as one with God, but I see that it divides so many of us.

    I get confused with how some believe that we should all love their way, believe their way, praise their way. Your call to us, to recite the Creed with the same pace as our neighbor, is powerful as it gives us an opportunity to join in and unite in a common practice with our fellow Christians. That simple act could cause us to experience joy, pain, frustration, compassion, etc. I guess that it all depends on where our souls are at that moment in time.

    Thank goodness for Amen. I view it as a reminder for compassion and acceptance of others and to bring closure to how each of us may experience God. No matter where we are in our prayers, recitals and lives, Amen seems to give us a way to unite with each other.

    Thank you so much for sharing your faith with us all! It helps me dig deeper in my path as a Christian.

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    • EB, thank you for your thoughtful and insightful comments. I appreciate your honest and ongoing wrestling with and digging into the faith. I wonder sometimes if we impose on the creed a desire for uniformity rather than letting it call us into union, a place that needs diversity.

      May God bless you and your journey.
      Mike+

      Like

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