Monday, 12 December 2011

What we believe

I apologise now that this post is longer than many I have written. I won't be offended if you don't read to the end (apart from anything else, I won't know!)

I have often been struck, when reciting the creed that it jumps directly from Jesus' birth, to his death and resurrection. If this is the key statement of Christian belief, I wonder why it misses out the whole life of the person of Christ: Christian, after all means follower of Christ - and presumably that doesn't just mean to follow him in birth and death, but in the way his life was lived. 

Could it be that in writing the creed, the life of Jesus was just a bit too challenging for everyone to agree on? And ever since we have maintained our statement of beliefs as something which emphasises the divine person of Jesus, and limits his humanity, because to state our belief in what he said and did as a human, as one like us, means living life as something radically different to the dominant powers of the empire, an empire which it is all to easy to want to be a part of, an empire of domination, of exclusion and of wealth.

Since being here we have prayed the creed every evening, which has led me to reflect on what is my creed. I know it took years of church councils to agree on the text we have, and I am not setting myself up as an alternative authority, but here are some of the fruits of my thoughts, which I hope might generate some thoughts from others too.

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
I believe in God who is and only can be Love, and whose power is found in his willingness to be weak

Creator of heaven and earth,
Who as creator, rested on the seventh day to allow us to be co-creators with him. Our creator who created humanity as in his infinite Love he desired to exist in relationship with us

and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
And in Jesus Christ, his son, our brother, making us sons too; our Lord who washing his disciples feet identified himself not with the Lords but with the servants

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit of a God who wished to join us in our humanity

born of the Virgin Mary,
Born of an unwed teenage mother, the lowest of the low in society, born into an occupied territory under a violent regime

Who chose as his friends an unlikely mismatched group of individuals from whom he built a community, a group of people with problems and faults and failings but who, inspired by love, were capable of living and sharing God’s gift of love with others;
Who lived alongside  society’s outcasts, creating a new vision in which those who were excluded were drawn in and human constructed barriers between people were broken down by his very humanity;
Who offered an alternative way to build community and rediscover identity, by celebrating the vitality of diversity rather than uniting against difference;
Who spent time with the unloved, and the unlovely and the seemingly unlovable, showing through his own life and actions that God’s universal love includes them too;
Who offered freedom to those who were trapped: trapped by pain, or illness, or hunger; trapped by a litany of religious rules they could never live up to; trapped by the oppression of an occupying force, by the struggle of knowing how to respond and by the cycle of violence from which there can seem to be no way out; trapped by their own haunting past or fears of their future; and who, in his offer of freedom, brought comfort and a new hope; but also a new challenge to those who chose to follow his way.
Who followed a path of non-violent resistance to challenge the injustice and exclusion in society and in doing so was willing to be vulnerable and to live his life of love to the very end
Who called and challenged those who believed in him and followed him, to live as he lived, a call and challenge which continues to resound through the centuries to his followers of all times and places.

suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Suffered at the hands of an occupying force, and of religious leaders whose obsession with the rules of religion allowed them to forget the key principle of compassion, and of a crowd who were unable or unwilling to stand up against society’s prevailing view

was crucified, died and was buried;
Was crucified, the painful and humiliating death of those who challenged the reigning order, as he did, albeit non-violently,
died in isolation and abandonment and was buried

he descended into hell;
He descended into hell, thereby destroying the only remaining place where God had been absent and making his Love truly and eternally universal

on the third day he rose again from the dead;
On the third day he rose again from the dead, meeting his disciples, and us, in our daily realities and real lives

he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;
He ascended into heaven, And, the slaughtered lamb, is seated at the centre of the throne of God the Father all loving, fully revealing the true nature of God: revealed not in strength but in weakness, not in kingship but in suffering with the lowest in society.

from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead, not by human standards, but, in keeping with the true nature of a God who can only love, a judgement that says there is nothing you can do to make me love you more, and nothing you can do to make me love you less.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
I believe in the Holy Spirit, which burns as a fire or as an ember in every human being; a spirit of consolation but also an unsettling Spirit of challenge, calling each one to action in a life guided by love; a Spirit who pours out eternal love, in turn inspiring us to love one another

the holy catholic Church,
The holy catholic, universal Church, flawed and divided, which has often lost its way and yet has passed down God’s gospel of love through the generations, and is the community in which we are called to live out our lives of love together; to live out our faith which only makes sense in relationship with others

the communion of saints,
The communion of saints, all those, known and unknown, named and unnamed, who have tried to put into practice, however imperfectly, the little they have understood of the Gospel

the forgiveness of sins,
The unconditional forgiveness of all our sins by an eternally loving God, and the unsettling call to forgive others, even those who have caused our deepest, seemingly unhealable wounds,

the resurrection of the body,
The resurrection of the body, as a daily reality of transfiguration as we journey with a loving God who restores us at each fall

and life everlasting.
And eternal life, not as something to be looked forward to, but as something to be lived, here and now in the present moment, the only moment which truly counts, and one which should be lived to the full.