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Nicene Creed

Insights from Pastor Steve

“This is Most Certainly True”

 

Every Sunday we recite together these words, “I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord” sometimes only by habit, but always a good habit.

The words come to us with a history of much conflict and dispute.

The Third Century Roman theologian Hippolytus (170-235) was one of the earliest to proclaim the Son (Logos) and the Father are One, an early affirmation of the nature of God as Trinity. Trinity. Some years later, Arius, a priest from Alexandria, Egypt, disagreed, asserting God was responsible for creation therefore was older than Jesus, so God and Jesus couldn’t be One, Jesus was created by God. His assertion was given the name Arianism.

Athanasius, a deacon also from Alexandria disagreed with Arius, insisting God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit were One, one God yet distinct from each other. Emperor Constantine wanted order in his Roman Empire, and an end to the Christian schism over “Arianism,” so he convened the Council of Nicaea in 325, inviting 1700 bishops and deacons to attend. Between 250 and 318 accepted the invitation.

“Division in the church is worse than war,” he said to the gathered Council. The attending bishops and deacons were in awe of him and all but two signed the agreement settling the Christological debate over the nature of God: Arius was wrong, Jesus was divine, One with God the Father.

But the controversy hadn’t ended. According to historian Will Durant, “More Christians were slaughtered by Christians in the two years (342-3) following than all the persecutions of Christians by pagans in the history of Rome.”

Another Council was called in 381, The Council of Constantinople, and amongst the decrees issued was one affirming the Nicene form as the completely reliable witness of the authentic faith. God is One, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Nicene Creed printed in our hymnal today is much like the one approved in 381.

Disagreement over the divinity of Jesus continued and was one of the factors leading to the emergence of Islam, writes Diarmaind MacCulloch. “Reading the Qu’ran” one discovers that “Muhammad’s initial mission may have been to restore monotheism concentrated on the Jewish temple which Christians had compromised.”

The Hebrew word for “believe” can be translated as “considering what someone is telling as being the truth, without necessarily having proof or empirical evidence.”  “Christianity is a way of thinking about God, about human beings, about the world and history,” writes Louis Wilken as quoted by Stanley Hauerwas. When we are reciting the creed, we are agreeing it to be true for us.

Explaining the second article of the Creed, Martin Luther says this truth is all about me. Jesus has “redeemed me,” “purchased and freed me”  “from sin and death” “so I may belong to him, live under him in his kingdom and serve him in eternal righteousness, innocence and blessedness.”  “An exchange has taken place, my sin, brokenness, utter lostness and death has been exchanged such that I now have his blessedness, joy, holiness and life.” (By Heart, Conversations with Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, p.91, Augsburg Fortress)

Luther concludes his writing affirming: “This is most certainly true.” Maureen and I agree; we love church. In church we are blessed with strangers who become family; in church we find and share joy; in church we are in touch with holiness through the hymns, lessons, prayers, sermon, offerings, bread and wine of communion, and in church is where we come alive for the days and weeks that follow.