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July 26, 2012

Over the centuries, this statement has usually been in question form, asked by the Church, meaning, “What do you believe about Jesus?” And the Church struggled over the years to provide specific answers. The early church actually developed many answers as they tried to understand who Jesus was in life, and how to explain his resurrection as first experienced by his disciples and later by others. The first “Christians” were Jewish and still worshiped in synagogues. So the earliest answers were related to their Jewish history, retelling their Jewish stories but now relating them to Jesus. That is why there are so many parallels to Old Testament stories in the Gospels. But by the second century, the Christian church was separated from its Jewish roots, and the church began to write new answers, often in the more philosophical terms of the Greek world, and there were many such attempts. An early and familiar one to us is known as the “Apostles Creed.” By the third and fourth centuries, the Church officially and formally created a statement of belief to replace the various prior ones, and we often repeat it as the “Nicene Creed.” And so people were told by the church what to believe about Jesus. And many people today still ask the question as, “What am I supposed to believe?”

But the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation changed the way people thought. People again began to ask questions. And many new creeds were written. Some of the more recent ones are also in the back of our hymnal. Several Protestant churches still require a creedal assent for membership. In that sense, the Methodist church is not creedal, for we encourage each person to discover and experience God individually, using written creeds as helpful statements in forming our understanding. We are even encouraged to write our own creeds.

But ultimately words and explanations about God are inadequate to explain the unexplainable. God cannot be contained in words. God is to be experienced within us. God is to be lived within us and in the relationships we have with other people. To some of us, God comes as a sudden blinding experience like that of Paul. To many others, there is a “slowly dawning recognition” of the presence of God in our lives and a realization of his steadfast love for each of us. In either case, our response is to accept that love and live our lives in service of others. As a follower of Jesus, our role is to be that of a servant.

So what I believe is not so much in what I say, but in how I live my life.

Loren Bullock
February 26, 2007

From → Beliefs

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