As part of the continual process of looking for a job in ministry, I am regularly called upon to provide a “Statement of Faith.” These statements, generally speaking, are ridiculously boring. They cater to the lowest common denominator of Reformed theology, in the Presbyterian Church anyway, because the people writing them are trying to get a job, not say anything creative or interesting.
It’s exactly like when your boss asks you, “How do you feel about working here?” Under no circumstances would you say how you actually feel working there. We all know that. Similarly, under no circumstances are these statements of faith actually statements of the faith that a person holds. Maybe cognitively for a few, but certainly not functionally. They are robotic recapitulations of the Apostle’s Creed mixed in with the least controversial things said by people like John Calvin. They are what you believe filtered through what you think will help you get a job.
I need to update my Statement of Faith in the eternal quest for employment, and I find them very hard to write. Just for the heck of it, I sat down and went through the Apostle’s Creed (the ecumenical version) and wrote my own credo, following along with the Apostle’s Creed thought by thought. If I dig down to what I can actually say about the things the Apostle’s Creed brings up, this is what I find:
In the midst of my doubts, I behave as if God exists -
God who is like a parent, and a river, and a wild animal, and a storm, and a fire, and a voice, and a quark, among many other things;
God from whom all being and non-being arises.
I imagine that I relate to Jesus, who is all of God and all of us
and I commit myself, as much as I can, to his way of life, to the best of my understanding.
I understand him to have been born like any person
but that he was inhabited, from the beginning, by the presence of God
in a way that people around him found shocking and inspiring and frightening.
(I believe we say far too little about his life and teaching)
I understand him to have suffered the violence of the religious and political authorities,
just as vulnerable people who tell the truth and serve the poor often do,
and that he was tortured to death.
(If there ever was a Hell, I trust that Jesus went there, emptied it, and turned the lights off on his way out)
I trust the story of the first disciples, men and women,
who experienced the personal presence of Jesus even after his death,
and in reading their interpretations of this experience, I see that it could not adequately be described, but feel that their subsequent behavior is compelling evidence that it was nonetheless both real and repeatable.
If there is a kind of existence that is particular to God, then I think Jesus shares that existence
and because of that, I guess, and hope, that Jesus-followers can somehow share that kind of existence as well.
(It is also quite possible that when we say God, what we mean is an essential experience of our own existence, one which transcends our usual perceptions and alters us, or creates greater wholeness in us, which we inadequately characterize as a separate being.)
I trust in the continuing presence of God in our lives, and that what the first disciples experienced, that presence which transcends words and concepts, can be experienced still.
I think that it is a worthwhile and powerful thing to gather together in community,
seeking to live in the presence of God and to be changed by it,
and that the community may very well be best understood as the resurrected body of Christ,
as each of us participates in the life and action of Christ in the world.
I am convinced that no wrong we do is able to separate us from this God-life, and that forgiveness is one path to reconcile ourselves with God and with each other.
In imagining the experience of Christ’s life that the first disciples had,
even after Jesus was tortured to death for all to see,
and trying to behave in a way similar to Jesus and his first followers, as well as wise and courageous people since,
I hope that I am able to experience Christ’s life in a similar way.
I imagine that one aspect of the experience of this God-life is to no longer feel the passage of time and the anxious consciousness of our mortality, and to find that greater breadth and depth of life unfolds around us,
and in us, and through us.
I have had enough glimpses of this experience myself that I still seek it.
I hope that in some or even all of these things that I am correct, but I think that even if I am not correct, my life is nonetheless enriched and enlivened by the practice of living, playing and working with others who are also seeking this God-life that Jesus embodies.
What would your credo be?