One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” – Mark 12:28 (NLT)
During a recent memorial service, a daughter shared her deceased father’s personal creed, which included maxims like:
“You should not confuse your career with your life.” “Nobody cares if you can’t dance well; just get up and dance.” “Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.”
She spoke with urgency, each word a raised fist against the heart attack that took her father, only to reveal that these pearls of wisdom were not original. He had lifted them from a sign at Jimmy Johns.
Although less flip and colloquial, religious creeds function much the same way: they are words we did not write, posted on the metaphorical walls of the church, passed down from our elders to focus our hearts on what matters most.
Some of us are suspicious of dogmatic “I believe” litanies, skeptical of any tool that might be used by the powerful to impose conformity and control. I appreciate the skepticism, but at their best, creeds and faith statements offer a collective raised fist to the machinations of death, injustice, and the empty promises of our world.
So if the dusty words of the Apostles Creed no longer ring true, or if they feel oppressive, it’s time for new statements. Not new credos of personal perspective, although they are important too, but new expressions of the shared bedrocks that ground us: Creator, Christ, Spirit, Love, Liberation, Community.
In the face of our current national and global crises, freshening up our statements of faith may sound like a superfluous, low priority exercise. However, faith is critical in urgent times. Defying dysfunction and evil begins with affirming God’s vision for all creation.
Belief fuels action. Our actions reflect our beliefs.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be faithful in action, O God my Rock.