I am not a big fan of creeds. I can respect their historical relevance, appreciate their effort to express something of eternal value, and even trust some of their words. But, on the whole, I think creeds fail, and fail miserably. They simply do not lift us up to higher ground. They do not bring out our best. They inspire nothing but rote religion, and scalpel edged divisions.
On the whole the Church has spent extraordinary time, energy, funds and faith on battling out the meaning of the phrases of creeds. Any attempt to alter a creed, let alone compose a new one, is met with utter disdain. It seems, only old words, spoken or written by the faithful of the long ago, are thought to contain the Holy Spirit.
For me, the bottom line is that I much prefer deeds to creeds. There are many who talk a good line, but few who manage to walk it. Most of all, I think it unwise to try and get us to speak as clones, or pack our collective faith into a single suitcase. It may be impressive to hear a crowd chant a creed, but what power does it really unleash – primarily, I suspect, arrogance and self-righteousness.
I cannot express what I believe. I can point at it, like a child seeing a firefly. I can offer a glimpse or glance, or even tell a story which might contain a morsel of the essence of my faith. But…there is no way I can put into words what it is I find moving, transforming, or which animates my being.
The song, the poem, the work of art, the tenderly gardened flower, the harvesting of that which will feed us, may each reveal a facet of faith, but this puzzle will always have more than one missing piece.
I am comfortable with awe, being moved to tears, or left dumbstruck. I think the raw wonder or grief witnessed on a face says more than words could ever speak. We look down in humility. We look up in reverence. We gaze through a veil of tears. Our eyes speak for us, and the tears speak a sacred language – surprisingly well understood all around the world.
I think the Quakers have it right when it comes to quiet and silence. They speak only when and if they have something of substance or significance to say – moved by the Spirit. Even then, inspired by the Spirit, we never manage to fully capture our beliefs in mere words, nor can anyone else fully grasp what it is we each believe.
O, Lord of Lent, free us to shut our mouths and open our souls, and write creeds with our lives. Amen.
Reverend William R. Grimbol has spent the past 30+ years helping people create and develop strong spiritual connections with loved ones and God. He is also a published author, with over a dozen books to his credit.