Dearest Hope Family,
For these 10 months of the pandemic, for the increasing racial and social upheaval, for the season of political divisions, and for the prolonged holding patterns and confusion of 2020, I have often found myself longing for a map – some guide through the unpredictability of this year, this day, and tomorrow.
Perhaps you, too, sense the increasing urgency for such a map – to locate where we are currently in the vast landscape and to direct us forward and homeward, even to heaven where our tears will be wiped away, the curse is no more, and the presence of God will be personal and enjoyed fully!
Of course, there are a variety of maps: large-scale relief maps that mark every path, stream, feature, and detail and smaller-scale maps which leave out the detailed geography and simply show the trails and roads leading most directly from one place to another. Well-prepared travelers make use of both kinds.
For the Christian life in general and this season in particular, the Scriptures, with their million words and exhaustive details, are that large-scale relief map. But what about the small-scale? How can we connect trails and roads to our destination when the million-words and the exhaustive details overwhelm?
The Apostles’ Creed with its 109 words is the simplified, accessible, and small-scale map that overlooks some detail in order to highlight the essential, and its hundred words enable us to locate ourselves and to navigate where we are towards where we hope to be.
It is called the Apostles’ Creed not because, according to some legends, each of the 12 apostles contributed one of the 12 unique statements; rather, it teaches apostolic doctrine. The Creed summarizes the teaching of the Apostles. It distills the million words of the Bible into a hundred-word statement.
Luke Timothy Johnson, in his wonderful book, The Creed, reflects that the Creed is more than a statement for mindless, wrote recitation: “The creed does not propose a philosophy of life but tells a story with characters and a plot. It is a story about God and his world, about God’s investment in humans and their future . . . When Christians recite the creed on a Sunday morning, they tell themselves and each other a story that they already know but that bears such constant repetition, for it is a story unlike any other story, a story that we must speak to each other because so much of what we experience in the world seems to deny the reality or the power of that story.”
For the next 12 weeks of sermons until Palm Sunday and Easter, we are going to give ourselves to this story that “bears such constant repetition”. We are going to take this smaller-scale map into our hands and onto our lips so that we can navigate this strange world with the fixed points of God the Father’s gracious creation, God the Son’s gracious redemption, and God the Holy Spirit’s gracious sanctification.
It is my prayer that at the end and along the way, we can find ourselves agreeing with the apostle Paul, “I know whom I have believed!” – 2 Timothy 1:12b
Grace and peace,