When I woke up this morning, in a groggy state I realized it was Easter Sunday, and I started to think about the significance of the day with respect to my young faith. Then, I think because I was really only half awake, something from my old faith crept into my mind: the apostle’s creed.
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth
I believe in Jesus Christ, His only son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
On the third day, he rose again;
He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church,
The communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.
I think I’ve mentioned it here before, but it’s quite incredible to me that even though I haven’t been to a Lutheran service in years, if you say the first few words to me, I can instinctually and involuntarily recite the rest of the creed verbatim without hesitation. There’s something to be said for rote memorization as a ritual habit (there’s also something to be said about how effective “brainwashing” can really be, but that’s for another time).
At any rate, I find the apostle’s creed very interesting. It’s not really a prayer per say; it’s a statement of belief said from one person to another (or from a congregation to the Pastor). It’s a collective statement of facts, but it’s framed in such a way to address other people, and not God Himself. Originally, I thought that it was phrased this way to encourage the speaker to internalize the statements, like a mantra: if you say it enough times it becomes true. But after a little contemplation, I think it may be phrased that way to create a sense of collective worship.
Worship looks much different in a modern Christian church than it does in a traditional Lutheran church. When I say “worship” to a Christian friend, that word calls to mind having a band onstage that leads the congregation in song about the love and grace and hope and power of God. In a Lutheran service, the songs are much different, and largely celebrate the deeds of God and what it feels like to be His child. Lutheran hymns are also read out of a book and set to organ or piano, played by a single keyboardist, typically off to the side of the pulpit. I’m not saying necessarily that one is better than the other, because that would be just my opinion, but I will say that the Lutheran way of doing things makes it much harder for me to have a “religious” experience where I feel emotionally connected to the congregation and God. Reflecting back on it, I think that the apostle’s creed served two purposes: to help the congregation identify with each other under a unifying purpose, and to collectively state the belief in the factual power of God. That sounds like worship. I wish I’d known that all those years ago.
On today, Easter, I’d like to leave off with a prayer of worship myself:
Holy Father, today is a day for rejoicing! For today I am reminded on Your love, so deep that you gave up your only Son to earth, so that he could pay our debt of sin. I am grateful for your grace and power and unyielding faith in me, and I strive today to have that same unyielding faith in You.