The Holy Christian Church

by Penrod

What do I think when I say: “I believe in the Holy Christian Church?” What do others think? What do you think? I expect there would be a variety of responses ranging from blank minds to particular churches. Some people say they believe in the Holy Christian Church and are unsure what they mean, some say it and are unsure whether they believe in it, others may know exactly what they mean, and others may despise people who make this affirmation.

This particular affirmation, this “I believe…”, is only one of a number of assertions in the creed. Much of the time I think it is better not to think too much about these assertions. At times I think it may be better not to make any absolute assertions like these. Creeds make trouble. They divide peoples and nations; churches and families. It is almost inevitable that an attaching party going to war will claim a creedal justification.

So maybe I’m just asking for trouble when I assert the “Apostles’ Creed” claiming thereby that it is the truth of God. Perhaps I should be silent. Should I walk out of church so I don’t add to the problem? Should I try to help people in my church realize that we are asking for trouble when we assert that our creedal affirmations are the truth of God? Get them to see that too many groups of people are making such claims and it spells trouble?

Nevertheless, I say the words of the Apostles’ Creed, almost daily even outside church. It’s a mantra which I think has constructive value in my life. Letting go and doing something automatic and reassuring is good for a Pilgrim facing another day.

It comes to mind that I could say the words “I believe in the holy Christian Church” and mean them if I thought, not of Luther’s Church, nor the Greek Church, nor the Roman Church, nor the Covenant Church (though I cherish its freedom and my friendships in it), and so forth, but rather of the people who formed the community of followers of Jesus in Jerusalem following Pentecost.

Think of those folks. “…they shared their food gladly and generously; they praised God and were looked up to by everyone” (Acts 2:47, The Jerusalem Bible). How great! I’ve thought about that and asked, “Why would people universally look up to them and speak well of them?” I can think of some reasons why people would not. People would not think well of them if they were pressuring them to convert. Most people don’t like that. I don’t. I would not speak well of them if they made moral judgments about the people around them. I dislike it when someone presses upon me that their state of affairs, or their religion, or some goodness they have makes them superior. I can’t imagine everyone, as the narrative reports, finding that attractive—coercive, perhaps, even convincing for one reason or another, but not attractive, not creating an impulse to think well of them.

What does this leave? What were they like? The stories in Acts reveal that they went about in good spirits, nor complaining, lending a helping hand where they could, always considering the other, whether insider or outsider, better than themselves, and praising God rather than themselves. They were so secure living in the love of God that they had no need for competitive comparisons. I am sure they were filled with good humor and playfulness. Therefore, they were respected and loved and all thought well of them. That sounds like the Holy Christian Church to me. I can believe in and pray for that.

Penrod says that, in thinking about him, one should think first of Booth Tarkington's Penrod, the boy writer, and then of the mighty pen of Martin Luther with its power like unto the rod of Aaron.

See all articles by Penrod