During a Sunday celebration of The Holy Eucharist, a recitation of The Nicene Creed always follows the sermon. It is a blessing to the church to have its universal faith announced in unison every week. There are also creedal-like texts, here and there in scripture and the Christian tradition, that articulate the deposit of faith in short, memorable passages. Two such examples merit attention today, the first from the Psalter and the second from the Epistle to the Philippians.
God has noticed the affliction of his people and has heard their cries. God is the great liberator. Even of the Old Testament, we may say, “He that the Son sets free, is free indeed” (Jn. 8:36).
“Hear my teaching, O my people;
Incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.
That which we have heard and known,
and what our forefathers have told us,
we will not hide from their children.
We will recount to generations to come
the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the Lord,
and the wonderful works he has done. (Ps. 78: 1-4)
We are called to listen and then recite the mysteries of ancient times, praiseworthy deeds, and wonderful works. What are they?
He worked marvels in the sight of their forefathers,
in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.
He split open the sea and let them pass through;
he made the waters stand up like a wall.
He led them with a cloud by day,
and all night through with a glow of fire.
He split the hard rocks in the wilderness
and gave them drink as from the great deep. (Ps. 78:12-15)
This story is ever ancient, ever new. God liberates his people and gives them nourishment in the wilderness. So, Christ sets us free and says, offering bread and wine, “The Gifts of God for the People of God” (BCP, Holy Eucharist).
Our liberation has come at a high price, not to us, but to Christ, who humbled himself.
Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death —
even death on a cross.
Therefore God has highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee shall bend
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:6-11)
The humility and obedience and the death of Christ are the means by which he gathers all things in his exaltation. “For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven.” “For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again!”
This is the Christian story. God liberated the children of Israel from their captivity in Egypt and fed them with manna and gave them water from the rock. God in Christ frees us from sin, the flesh, and the devil, and sustains us with sacred bread and wine. God has done this at the cost of the humiliation and death of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Having gone even to the depths of hell, Christ rose victorious to the throne of heaven.
Tell the ancient story briefly and memorably. Christ frees you and feeds you by the sacrifice of his flesh and blood. What can you do, but love him?
Look It Up: The mystery of faith (BCP, p. 363)
Think About It: Creeds are Christian Shorthand.