When the confirmation students (i.e. confirmands) first dissect the Apostles' Creed, the first question I ask them is just what a creed is anyways. Each Sunday, we recite one of three creeds. I usually introduce our recitation with the words "Let us confess our faith in the words of..." But creed (besides being a rock band from the 90s) is a word we don't usually use. So what's a creed? A creed is simply a group's statement about who God is and how God acts. In other words, a creed is what we teach, preach, and teach. It is a condensed explanation of the mystery of faith and who God is.
It wasn't long before creeds started to show up in the early church. Some creeds appear in Scripture. Deuteronomy 6:4 ("Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone") is a creed. It is a statement about God and who God is. "God is love" is another one. Creeds are everywhere and help us explore just who God is.
Our Apostles' Creed started to take shape in 215 AD/CE. During the 100s, the church was struggling with the mystery of God. Different views took shape and different kinds of Christianites developed. As the groups engaged, argued, and talked with each other, there arouse a desire to lay a foundation on what our faith says. A Roman named Hippolytus wrote a creed that looks a bit like our Apostle's Creed. Overtime it was refined and reshaped as new experiences, conversations, and controversies arose. A legend developed that each clause in the apostles' creed was composed by one of the original apostles. Our current version of the creed was mostly formalized by the year 800. The English translation we use in worship today was translated and composed in 1988 by "English Language Liturgical Consultation," a group representing english speaking churches and denominations Lutheran, Anglican, Roman Catholic, and more)from all over the world.
I was asked recently about why the current translation dropped the word "again," in line 12 of the creed ("and he [Jesus] will come to judge the living and the dead.") The word again was included in the Lutheran Book of Worship (LBW - the Green Book) from 1978. I wasn't able to discover the notes behind the translation choices but I believe the word "again" was dropped because of the flow of the text. That paragraph of the creed describes Jesus: where he came from, what happened to him, where he is now, and where he will be tomorrow. At the end of the paragraph, we hear how Jesus ascended to heaven (after Easter) and is sitting at the right hand of the Father. That is where Jesus sits, at the point of God's power, able to pierce into our lives, transforming us, so we can live into God's future. And that's what the last line of the paragraph is about: God's future. Jesus will come, from God's hand, to judge the living and the dead. An older translation of the Apostles' Creed, from 1941, highlights this point: "From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead." From Jesus' present location, God's future and Will will be done.
Of course, we know and experience Jesus in our lives right now. In holy communion, holy fellowship, and in the holy moments of our lives, we discover a Jesus who comes over and over again. And, through us, God blesses the world. Creeds aren't designed to wipe away God's mystery, making faith a set of thoughts we just agree to. Creeds highlight the mystery because God loves us, Christ walks with us, and the Spirit works through us, even when we're doubt and struggle to believe. That's an amazing mystery that can never be reduced. It can only be pointed to, celebrated, and leave us in awe.
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