by Greg Alms
At times, learning the creed can be seem a cumbersome repetitive task. Yes, it is a summary of our faith and, yes, it is helpful. But reciting, repeating and learning can seem dry and outdated to us. Even the content of the creed itself can appear old-fashioned. Static formulations of doctrine do not hold pizzazz or glamour today.
But maybe that is a good thing. Our culture today is nothing if not fast-paced and shallow. Twitter rolls on as short bursts of information come and go. Images on Instagram and Facebook flash before us and are forgotten. What is trending today is ancient history tomorrow. There is no time for reflection or assimilation of the data flung at us every waking hour. In our daily life and even more in our Christian life, there is a need for substance and depth, for material that has staying power.
The creed is just that. The Apostles’ Creed we receive in our Baptism and learn in the catechism is not some forgettable 140-character message. It is the very stuff of salvation taken from the Scriptures and given to us to hold onto. The creed reveals to us the Trinitarian God of creation who descended to the depths of the cross and is present in the holy Christian Church. It has the strength to sustain us in the midst of the difficulties of life. That’s why we learn it and memorize it and recite it over and over. It is an unchanging anchor for weak sinners.
However, the creed is not given only to recite and repeat. It is given to pray. This may seem strange. How can one pray a summary of doctrine? But praying the creed is more valuable and powerful than one might imagine. There is one moment that illustrates this well. It is the funeral service Lutherans use and a prayer embedded in that rite.
“Help us, we pray, in the midst of things we cannot understand, to believe and find comfort in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.”
There the true value of the creed shines. Enduring loss and pain, we find comfort in the sure promise of the words of the creed. They are the words of the Gospel itself. To learn and recite them is to grab hold of the very gifts of eternal life.