Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Acorn 4

“I Believe…”

by Teresa Franklin

On Easter Sunday the people of Mount Hermon Church heard what three among us believe. Three members of the 2011 Confirmation Class, ages 11, 12 and 14, presented their personal statements of faith in worship. Then one was baptized; the other two were confirmed. During the celebration of the Sacrament of Baptism we took a moment to affirm our faith together as a congregation. We did so using the Apostles’ Creed, circa 710. It begins, “I believe in God…” Though the phrase is hundreds of years old, each of our young confessors on Easter morning chose to begin his or her personal statement the same way, “I believe…”

To dare to say what we believe, in the way our forebears meant it, is no insignificant matter. In contemporary English we can say, “We believe” without necessarily implying that we’re prepared to put our trust and confidence in that which we believe. (I can say sincerely, “I believe you,” when you claim to have gone to the DQ for an Oreo Blizzard without meaning that I’d stake my life on the truth of your claim.) Such was not the case with the Christians who first confessed the Faith. The Greek verb pisteuo, translated believe, as in John 9:38, “Lord, I believe,” most often carries the weight of conviction in addition to the intellectual assent of our English word believe.

So what do we mean when we gather in church and say, “We believe…”?

I can’t ask myself that question without acknowledging very quickly that Presbyterians, even PCUSA Presbyterians, have a wide range of beliefs. I doubt I could find two who agree completely just on the meaning of Baptism. (The Book of Order lists twelve!) Our personal beliefs are diverse, so what compels us to make a common confession?

I think it is precisely that diversity of opinion that motivated Christians to compose corporate confessions of faith. The creeds of various periods of history remind us of ideals for which Christians have had such reverence that they could not in good conscience ignore them, sidestep them, or fail to address them as the Body of Christ.

During the Easter Season, between Resurrection Sunday and Pentecost, Mount Hermon will consider the role of confession and creed in the expression of Christian faith - in scripture, in history, and in our current day. We’ll begin with the confession of Thomas from John 20:28, “My Lord and my God!” on Sunday, May 1. It is my hope that by exploring the confessions together we’ll come to better understand the essence of our faith: Who is God? Who are we “that God is mindful of (us)?” (Psalm 8:4) And why does it matter now?

Please join us on Sunday mornings, 10 o’clock for Adult Discussion and 11 o’clock for worship.