Pastor's Blog

When I was a kid growing up in the Catholic Church, one of the parts of the service was the recitation of the creed.  Everyone would recite the same words together every week in unison.  I remember hearing the sea of voices all speaking together, especially the deep rumbling of men’s voices.  It sounded so strong.

I never thought much about the words or what they meant.  I took the creed for granted.  And saying the creed aloud in unison was just “part of the service” – a mindless rote performance.

I memorized not only the creed, but the entire mass.  By the time I was in 6th grade, I could repeat not only what I was to say as part of the congregation but everything that the priest said, word perfect, throughout the entire mass.  Sometimes when I was bored I did just that, and I’d feel my dad give me a little squeeze on the shoulder to let me know that was not appreciated. 

Then I’d just recite it in my head.

This is the danger of liturgical worship – mindless memorizing and saying words that you know without thinking about what they mean.  The ritual of repeating familiar words dulls the edge of their meaning.  Saying takes the place of thinking – something Jesus condemned as “heaping up empty phrases” (Matthew 6.7).

Evangelicalism was refreshing for me in its spontaneity.  You had to think about what you were saying when you prayed (though I discovered evangelicals engage in “heaping up empty phrases” as well) and the preacher preached from the core of his being what he believed.  There was a fire in evangelicalism that was lacking in cold liturgical worship.

But in our spontaneity and our individualism, we evangelicals seem to have spun off in different directions and we aren’t sure what should unite us – or if unity is even important.  Quite often we evangelicals almost despise uniting with others, priding ourselves on our differences, our uniquenesses, happy to multiply enemies as we multiply our own ideas as “the only true faith”.  And our definition of the “true faith” gets ever smaller and ever tighter.

But now a monstrous beast seems to be rising (maybe several beasts!) to threaten the faith of Christ.  These beasts aren’t particular about your view of baptism or predestination or the timing of the second coming.  Does your faith oppose or support their political and economic and social goals or doesn’t it?  If not, you are marked out as an enemy of the common good to be converted or dispatched.  And my voice alone in the wilderness seems small and pathetic.

Perhaps the need for rumbling basses and melodious sopranos to unite around a creed has come around again – not mere mindless repetition of religious jargon, but the constant reminder of what we all stand for together – the reminder that though we may be out of breath from fleeing the threats of Jezebel, we are not alone.  We stand for heaven, and for the will of God to some day be done on earth as it is in heaven.  We stand together.

We must know what we believe,
and we must hold what we believe in common with others,
and we must know that we hold it in common,
and we must know with whom we hold it in common,
and we must be convinced that it is imperative that we do so.

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