Speaking Ourselves into a New Reality
Many people, wise and experienced, will tell you that we actually act ourselves into new ways of thinking more successfully than we can think ourselves into new ways of acting. This is to say we can’t theorize ourselves into being better people and no amount of “the Think System” (sorry Music Man) actually makes you grow and improve.
I like the thought – I agree with the thought – and yet…. words are important. Thoughts are powerful. And our imagination shapes the way we see the world. It was many many moons ago that I first remember saying, “rhetoric shapes reality.” The way we speak and think about the world can alter what is real for us. Perception is more powerful than fact. And we need to acknowledge this as true, without abandoning the wisdom that we need to act our way into new ways of thinking, and hold these two ideas together as if they aren’t some tidy Either/Or but more a symbiotic process of reflection and practice that together transforms who we are and HOW WE ARE in the world.
I share this here because it gets right to the heart about why I said a fond farewell to weekly reciting of the Apostle’s Creed. I am a Presbyterian and we are a creedal/confessional people. We love our statements and affirmations of faith. We love to acknowledge that contextual people of God speak a gospel word to the world that is time sensitive and context bound and yet somehow simultaneously shared with the larger covenant people across space and time. And a time in worship of speaking together our faith lies at the heart of the Reformed Worship Tradition of which we are a part. We speak our faith as reminders to ourselves of what our foundation of faith is, as a proclamation of that faith to the larger community in which we are called to speak truth to power, and as commitment to this way of Christ as we have, are, and will experience it through the guidance of the Spirit and in our corporate witness as the Body of Christ.
The Apostle’s Creed is the most traditional of statements to use in worship. It was formed as liturgy (baptismal), it is known (nearly universal to the Western Church), and it reads just about the right length (after all worship has to be 59 minutes and 59 seconds or less).
But most of us realize in study of the document is that it misses a lot. It skips most of Jesus’ ministry for instance jumping from his birth to his death with a single comma representing everything in between. And it covers our life of faith with only the ambiguous words of “communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting,” It is clearly Trinitarian and its structure and formula has been very formative of many (most) of our faith statements since its adoption over a thousand years ago. I don’t suggest getting rid of it. I like it because its familiar and its solid and it has guided many generations of believer faithfully.
But it is only one voice in a chorus. That is what made me start to move around – to use the wealth of our Book of Confessions in our place of Affirmation during our worship service… until I settled in a new home. It’s not the most comfortable of homes. It’s not a nice solid foundation like the Apostle’s Creed. It’s challenging and prophetic and it spends as much time holding us accountable as affirming us… that is to say, it’s a lot like Jesus. What I have come to use almost every week and what our community proclaims together is a portion of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Brief Statement of Faith:
In a broken and fearful world the Spirit gives us courage to pray without ceasing, to witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior, to unmask idolatries in Church and culture, to hear the voices of peoples long silenced, and to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace. In gratitude to God, empowered by the Spirit, we strive to serve Christ in our daily tasks and to live holy and joyful lives, even as we watch for God’s new heaven and new earth, praying, “Come, Lord Jesus!”
If the words we speak shape our reality, could there be better words? Jesus proclaimed of himself that “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And again three chapters later to John the Baptists query if he was in fact the one to come, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them.” (Luke 4 and 7)
This is the reality to which we are called. Not an affirmation of the Lordship or Messiahship or Divinity of Christ (not that these are a problem, but they are a jumping off place, not a destination). For what we are called to, what we affirm and commit to, is joining the work of the one whom we name Lord, Messiah, and Christ. So we speak these words, these words that are probably rarely true of the way we lead our lives. And yet, we speak them as a calling of accountability and in the hopes of living more into making them a reality: we endeavor to live this life, the life of the one who was, and is, life itself. And somewhere in the speaking and the hearing and the endeavoring and the imagining… it will become so. And it will be very good in-deed.
So I hope you will join me in journeying over the next couple of weeks (I’m out of town for 4 days next week so I won’t get to it as quickly as I’d like) in going through these creedal lines one at a time. We will spend time wrestling with its calls on our life, and absorbing its proclamation into the marrow of our bones that the Spirit might “make it so” in our life together.
Thanks be to God, Amen.
Blogposts to come in this trajectory:
In a broken and fearful world the Spirit gives us courage to pray without ceasing,
To witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior
To unmask idolatries in Church and culture
To hear the voices of peoples long silence
To work with others for justice, freedom, and peace.
In gratitude to God, empowered by the Spirit, we strive
To serve Christ in our daily tasks and to live holy and joyful lives
Even as we watch for God’s new heaven and new earth, praying, “Come, Lord Jesus!”