This past Sunday I taught the youth confirmation class as we reflected upon the Nicene Creed. I'm happy to report that no one fell asleep. They had insightful questions and brought a good dose of curiosity. And, of course, we all wondered: "What difference does this make?" After all, I'm not sure many of us are losing sleep these days wondering about the hypostatic union of the divine and the human in Jesus Christ. More often than not, Episcopalians (with so many others), say: it's a mystery. But, in the 4th century, as Christianity was becoming a global and more dominant religion, people felt obligated to unify and define Christian thinking. I reminded the youth that for over 300 years, good and faithful followers of Jesus thought differently about who and how Jesus Christ was in this world of ours — and beyond it. Unity is more important than uniformity, we might say.
There is another creed that came before the Nicene Creed. It is evident in Paul's writings, and, we assume, predates Paul. The heart of that creed is found in Galatians 3:28: "There is no Jew or Greek, no slave or free, no male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus." You may, or may not know this, but that biblical verse, that early creed of the followers of Christ, is in our stained glass windows up near the high altar in our sanctuary. From the earliest days of Christianity, this simple belief transformed the way people lived their lives — oftentimes, bringing them in direct conflict with the world and culture around them. The earliest followers of Jesus included women in leadership (Luke 8) and sexual minorities as first converts (Acts 8); there was reconciliation across lines of division (Galatians 3), equal dignity across class and status (1 Cor. 12), and commitment to peace-making and mercy (Eph. 4:32). You can imagine what a difference it makes to believe that all are children of God, that we belong to one another through the power of Christ.
The Nicene Creed, or this ancient creed from Galatians 3:28, may not be the totality of your faith. That's okay. As I said to the youth at Confirmation class: a mature faith is always growing. And yet, a creed binds us together across space and time and gives direction and vision to our living and our lives. At the end of the day, this is true: our believing shapes our living. We extend welcome to our neighbors because we believe such hospitality is God's heart; we forgive because we believe forgiveness frees the wronged as much as the forgiven; we pour our lives into others because we believe that it is here that true life is found. If you're running low on trust, belief, faith these days — take heart, you are not alone. Let's lean on one another and maybe even let God... I'll let you finish the sentence. This I know: no matter what we believe, God still calls us each by name.
See you Sunday,