Today’s Reading: “I believe in God, The Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord. Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary. Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day, He rose again. He ascended into heaven. He is seated at the right hand of the Father, and He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit. The holy catholic Church, the communion of saints.”
Sadly, there are way too many examples over the last two thousand years where the Church of Jesus Christ has presented itself poorly to the world, not truly representing the Master as He should be presented. One example of this poor representation is when well-meaning Christians go around pointing our judgmental finger at those in the world who have yet to come to Christ, calling ourselves saints while we are labeling others as sinners.
You see, when The Apostles’ Creed identifies “the communion of saints,” it is not attempting to draw a line in the sand, separating sinner from saint, for in truth, all of us who have given our hearts to Jesus are still, in our flesh, sinners. The reason the New Testament, and The Creed, use the word saint when talking about Jesus-followers is all because of what the Master has done on the cross and nothing else!
This is where Protestants believe a bit differently than our Catholic brothers and sisters. Sainthood, for example, is an honest attempt in identifying men and women who have lived a life of Kingdom purpose. For that, I can appreciate the work of the Catholic church in helping us look and learn from the lives of those godly men and women who have gone before us. But quite honestly, the New Testament seems to call all those who follow Jesus, from the youngest to the oldest, from the best-est to the worst-est, saints in the sight of God. And in an equal way, I believe the New Testament also identifies all of us saints as sinners still in need of a Savior.
So, going forward, I propose that you and I focus on the more important word found in this portion of The Creed…
As I see it, this might be one of the richest words found in this ancient text. For if you and I, as followers of Christ can be found in true communion with both Jesus and each other, we will be well on our way to becoming the answer to Jesus’ prayer found in John 17:
I’m praying not only for them (the first-century disciples), but also for those who will believe in Me because of them and their witness about Me. The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—just as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, so they might be one heart and mind with Us. Then the world might believe that You, in fact, sent Me. The same glory You gave Me, I gave them, so they’ll be as unified and together as We are—I in them and You in Me. Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, and give the godless world evidence that You’ve sent Me and loved them in the same way You’ve loved Me. (John 17: 20-23 MsgB)
Henri Nouwen does an excellent job of describing this “one heart and mind” that Jesus prays for by identifying three key action words that should describe our day-to-day life as Christians. In his book, A Spirituality of Living, Nouwen discusses, in length, how the three life-giving spiritual disciplines of solitude, community, and ministry were first found in the life and ministry of Jesus…
“Now it happened in those days that Jesus went onto the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. When day came, He summoned His disciples and picked out twelve of them and called them apostles…He then came down with them and stopped at a piece of level ground where there was a large gathering of His disciples. There was a great crowd of people from all parts of Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear Him and be cured of their diseases. And people tormented by unclean spirits were also cured. Everyone in the crowd was trying to touch Him because power came out of Him that cured them all (Luke 6: 12-19). This is a beautiful story that moves from night to morning to afternoon. Jesus spent the night in solitude with God. In the morning, He gathered His apostles around Him and formed community. In the afternoon, with His apostles, He went out and preached the Word and healed the sick. Notice the order – from solitude to community to ministry. The night is for solitude; the morning for community; the afternoon for ministry. So often in ministry, I have wanted to do it by myself. If it didn’t work, I went to others and said, ‘Please!’ searching for a community to help me. If that didn’t work, maybe I’d start praying. But the order that Jesus teaches us is the reverse. It begins by being with God in solitude; then it creates a fellowship, a community of people with whom the mission is being lived; and finally this community goes out together to heal and to proclaim good news. I believe you can look at (these) three disciplines by which we create space for God. If we create space in which God can act and speak, something surprising will happen. You and I are called to these disciplines if we want to be disciples.”
Here at The Contemplative Activist, we’ve taken Henri Nouwen’s terminology for Jesus’ three key disciplines (solitude, community, and ministry) and simplified them into a memorable trio of 3-C’s, we call…
Communion with Christ. “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11: 28-30 MsgB)
Community with others. “Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence. This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” (Matthew 22: 37-40 MsgB)
Commission into our world. “God authorized and commanded Me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 18-20 MsgB)
As Nouwen suggests, if you and I can mature in these three core disciplines, I believe we’ll be well on our way to living out, in our generation, the communion of saints, for the greater glory of God.
Care to join me?
My prayer: Jesus, please forgive us when we, Your Church, represent You in a way that truly doesn’t reflect Your heart toward the world. Holy Spirit, indwell us and empower us to return to the basic disciplines we find in the life of the Master, so that as we live a simple common life composed of Communion, Community & Commission, we’ll become that communion of saints You prayed for so very long ago. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: So, how have I attempted to live out the 3-C’s, but, like Henri Nouwen, was practicing them in reverse order? What might it look like to restore these three key disciplines to my life and practice them in the correct order, so that Communion with Christ leads to Community with others, and then together, we all go out in the Commission into our world?
So, what are you experiencing today as we are Contemplating The Creed?
Over a seven-week period, you and I will take a deeper look at The Apostles Creed. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Contemplating the Creed home page for ease of use.
If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!