Our theme for October is “Why I Believe.”
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
I never payed any attention to the words of the Apostles’ Creed. I spoke them, recited them, at least once a month growing up, but these were borrowed words and they were not mine. They were a boring litany, and I never felt more like part of a cult than when we stood in church to monotone these lines. These were not as exciting as a personal testimony, often tales of far-away miracles in far-away lands. Nor were they as provocative as the sermon or as engaging as the songs. These words were borrowed words, and while I confessed them, they were not mine.
In college, I discovered a God who cared for me. It took a while for me to meet him. Some black nights I stared at the ceiling and tried to keep my screams muffled so as not to wake my roommate. Where are you? Why can’t I feel you here anymore? Where have you gone? Are you even real? The night closed in and, as the cliche goes, the silence was deafening. Nothing. I heard nothing.
I went on a trip. I went to Egypt, Jordan, and Israel. I heard whispers there, whispers that were in fact quite loud: whispers of God’s presence, of his love, of his peace. I heard the Word come alive and saw the places where it moved. I felt wind on my face, climbed mountains real and metaphorical, and heard a loud whisper. I gasped for breath and drank lukewarm water. In those places, faith became the step-it-out reality that it really is, and the dust I took back on my boots reminded me of the whisper every time I slipped them on. That whisper was an answer to my bootless cries just months earlier. I’m here. I love you. I’m here.
Four years later, I stood up with everyone else at Pillar Church to recite the Apostles’ Creed. I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. These were borrowed words and they were not mine. They were ours. We spoke them loudly and together, in full voice. And in that moment, as I listened, as I heard, I realized something: my words were almost always questions, filled with doubt. My words were feeble and inadequate. My words were Where are you? and Are you even real? But these words were strong and sure, and others said them with me. Not only the others in the pews with me that Sunday morning but the others in fifth-century Egypt and the others in twenty-first century Iraq and the others in rural Tennessee.
These were borrowed words and they were not mine. They were ours. They are mine.