According to an attractive legend, Jack Rogers writes, at Pentecost the apostles developed a creed that was their common statement of the essentials of the Christian faith. Each apostle, inspired by the gift of the Spirit, is claimed to have contributed a specific element. "Peter said, ‘I believe in God the Father almighty…maker of heaven and earth’…Andrew said, ‘and in Jesus Christ His Son…our only Lord’….James said, ‘Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit…born from the virgin Mary’….Simon said, ‘the remission of sins’…Thaddeaus said, ‘the resurrection of the flesh’…Matthais said, ‘eternal life.’"
Although the origins of this account lie in pious imagination rather than actual events, the legend does disclose a crucial feature of Christian witness from the earliest age: the importance given to maintaining continuity with the witness of those first apostles. The first appearance of the Apostles’ Creed as we know it today was in the eighth century, but its roots can be traced back to ancient baptismal formulas. Early on, most Christian baptisms were of adults. They would step toward the font (or the river) and be asked to offer a statement of faith. These baptismal creeds were often Trinitarian in nature, in response to Jesus’ Great Commission to baptize "in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" in Matthew 28.
In the third and fourth centuries, these creeds became more formalized. The Apostles’ Creed received a fixed form and peculiarly authoritative status throughout the church in Europe as a result of the efforts of Emperor Charlemagne (d. 814) to impose uniformity in liturgy and doctrine.*
We say this old and familiar creed on some Sundays, often without thinking. But what if we spent some intentional time with it, mining it for wisdom, asking questions about the claims it makes? What does it mean to say, "I believe in God, the Father, Almighty"? Who is that? What do we call God, and why does that matter? Each phrase leads us into important questions about God, Jesus, life, death, resurrection, and the church.
We will use the summer to have this conversation in worship, complemented by a sermon talkback time. After greeting people in the Courtyard, the preacher for the day will head into the Parlor to facilitate an informal conversation on the issues discussed in worship from 11:15am-12pm.
*Most of this background comes from the PC(USA) Book of Confessions: Study Edition. Jack Rogers wrote the introductory sections to each creed.