In the past post we covered the large chunk of readings that change from week to week in the Divine Service, the three Readings as well as the Gradual and the Verse. We can’t read the whole Bible in one service (that would make our service length rival those of the Eastern Orthodox ), so the Scriptures are broken up into manageable pieces.
Just as a reminder, I’m following Divine Service III (PDF) out of the Lutheran Service Book, one of the more traditional forms of Divine Service.
Creed comes from the Latin credo, “I believe.” With certain grammar constructions it can mean “I trust,” “I entrust,” or “I commit.” The verb possesses inflections which illustrate the depth of belief we are talking about.
Creeds are an invention of man and are thus naturally fallible. If we reject creeds because they are fallible, though, we should reject all human speech in worship and preaching that is not a direct scriptural quote. That would be an interesting feat, even in a liturgical setting: we’d have to ban pastors from preaching.
We accept creeds that agree with scripture. A creed condenses the information in our Bible into manageable and memorizable chunks. It can combat heresy. Some things are simply poison when they are believed, whether “there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet” or “indulgence is the highest form of ethics.” When you do “good deeds” in service to another god or in service to your self, what you believe is more important than what you do.
A creed spoken by people in worship brings everyone together in what they believe, no matter what they believe about temporal things. We are commanded, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers…” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18) Having a creed is a useful assist in the fulfillment of this command.
Examine the creeds, not only against what you believe, but against scripture.
Commonly one will find either the Nicene Creed or the Apostles Creed (p. 9-10 of DS III). They both are categorized into specific sections about God the Father, Jesus Christ his son, and the Holy Spirit, the triune form of God mentioned in Matthew 28:19. They are enough similar that when I was learning the Apostle’s Creed for confirmation class I would mix in some Nicene Creed. “And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, begotten of his Father before all worlds…” Oops.
In Luther’s Small Catechism we find further expositions worth memorizing on each article of the Apostles’ Creed. I’ve seen some worship services substitute the second article for one of the creeds.
A third creed we often say on Trinity Sunday, the first Sunday after Pentecost, is the Athanasian Creed.
These creeds date from 150-535 A.D., the Nicene and the Athanasian formed to combat specific heresies against who Christ is and how we are saved. There are still heterodox beliefs that familiarization (if not memorization) of the creeds can defend against. The LCMS web site has some good Frequently Asked Questions about the creeds.
With these words I know that my parents and grandparents, as well as those I have worshiped with, have confessed the same things I have, and that all of us will be with God in paradise, body and soul, at the time of God’s choosing.
In the next post we’ll briefly hit the sermon and move on to probably the first part of the liturgy I really learned as a kid, the Offertory. If the length is right I’ll close with the Prayer of the Church.