Last night, Skip and I led our 2015 confirmation class in a rehearsal for the service this Sunday. We have six confirmands this year—young men and women who have impressed me time and again with their thoughtfulness, kindness, and dedication to this endeavor. They come to church for class on Sunday nights for two years in order to learn, question, and grow their faith and the promises made for them at their baptism. It’s a serious commitment, for a serious act.
During rehearsal, we were going over one of the more important parts of the service: the Apostle’s Creed. We ask that they all memorize the Creed. I remember when I was at my own confirmation rehearsal, and I was terrified of making a mistake in front of the whole congregation. Luckily for our confirmands, they say the Creed with the whole congregation (and they’re going to be facing the altar, so any mistakes will go unnoticed).
As we were practicing, I managed to flub a few words—the consequences of having memorized several different translations! I told the ninth-graders that if I messed up a little, they were clearly allowed to, as well. But it made me think a little bit more about the Creed. It’s one of those things that I’ve been able to do from rote since my own confirmation, and as such it’s one of those things that I’ve stopped carefully considering every time I say it.
If it’s ok for me (or the confirmands) to get a few words wrong, clearly the power of the Creed doesn’t lie in the specific words used. It’s so much more than words and memorization. It’s a statement of faith, and as such, has to come from a deeper place than just my brain.
I once read in a biography of C. S. Lewis that, when he was joining the Anglican Church, he wasn’t sure he would be able to honestly recite the Creed. Intellectually, he rebelled against some of the statements in it but still wanted to join the church. The priest had a simple solution: he didn’t have to say the Creed, but he was welcome to sing the Creed instead.
Lewis thought that this was something he could do without feeling hypocritical. Singing (and poetry) has a way of digging into that deeper place, getting past facts and into truths. And when we get to the heart of matter–for Lewis, for me, or for the confirmands—it’s about the truth that the Creed gives us. That we are created, redeemed, and made holy by the very God that calls us to our profession of faith.
In confirmation, we repeat the promises made at a baptism: to live among God’s faithful people, to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper, to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, to serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.
But, and (in my opinion) more importantly, we also repeat the promise that they are a child of God, who will never lose the love and comfort that this entails. The Creed is an important part of this service, not because it is some type of test of what we believe, but because it is a full-bodied celebration of the fact that we are God’s, and we know that truth deep in our core.