Why Do We Recite the Creed?

About a month ago, King’s Cross introduced the Apostle’s Creed to our regular Sunday Worship liturgy.

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic* church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Amen.
*the universal church of all times and all places

And while we are still adjusting to the new elements (we’ll figure out the projector issues… I promise) and service order (I’m sure it will feel very natural soon!), I’ve had a number of people ask me, “Why do we recite the creed?” It’s a very fair question, especially if you did not grow up reciting it at church every Sunday morning. I have many answers for this question but I’ll try to limit myself to just a few.

It gets into us and is formative for us as a church.

I believe the practice of reciting the creed is formative for us as a church. There is something in the practice of what we do that shapes us internally through repetition. If you’ve been worshiping with us for a while, perhaps lines from The Lord’s Prayer have made their way into your daily life? (e.g. “Lead me not into temptation…” or “[maybe a sigh here]… Thy will be done.”) In my early childhood, my parents put me in preschool at a neighborhood church and every morning we recited Psalm 23 in the King James Version—I had no idea what it meant! For example, the very first verse is, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” As a four year old, this was extremely confusing; why would I not want the shepherd? It wasn’t until high school that I found a translation that, instead of “I shall not want,” had, “I shall not be in want.”—and then another: “I have everything I need.” But as a child, I recited it anyway and while I may not have understood it and had merely recited itas an exercise, I cannot count the number of times this word has taken life in me and reminded me, “Even though I walk through the valley… I will not fear for you are with me.”

It is my hope that our regular practice of the creed will get into us to remind us daily of—and challenge us regularly in—our faith.

It is public witness

Not only is it something that forms us, it is also a very succinct proclamation of our faith. It expresses the content of our faith when many today may want to associate religion and faith as something that we feel or experience (it includes that, but it also has content). When the nation of Israel gathered for worship (and this continues today), they often rehearsed their faith together, “Hear Israel, the LORD your God, the LORD is one!” (Deut 6:4) not just to remind themselves but also so that the surrounding nations and peoples would know the LORD, the God of Israel. It is a practice that God’s people have rehearsed through the ages and is still a practice that continues today.

It reminds us of our corporate identity

The last reason I’ll highlight is that this practice, which has been exercised through the ages, reminds us that our faith is beyond us. We have the faith because God has sustained it in his church through his people by the Holy Spirit. We have the faith today because people have suffered for the Gospel in order that the message may come to us untarnished. It is a gift from the church to the church, and as we recite this creed, we join and identify with the historical church that has preserved, protected, and proclaimed this faith all over the world, throughout time, and in every language. Before we recite the creed, the presider of service often will likely say something to the effect of, “And now let us confess our faith together, joining with the church in all times and places.” It comes quick, but there’s a lot in that statement for us to chew on.

Again, this is by no means an exhaustive list of reasons, but it is my hope that as we grow as a church, that our worship would also grow in breadth and depth as we live into our identity as the Body of Christ.