Every Sunday in our liturgy, we confess a creed. Most of the time we confess the Nicene Creed, but for baptisms we confess the Apostles’ Creed. This is a new practice for many in our church, and sometimes people wonder why we do it. Is it to remind ourselves of some facts that we may have forgotten over the past week? “Oh, that’s right! Jesus was raised on the third day… I always forget that one…”
Obviously that’s kind of silly, but it’s a good question: why do we confess a Creed every Sunday in worship?
The Apostles’ Creed is so named because it is derived from the very ancient “rule of faith” that the earliest Christians confessed. The rule of faith was a distillation of the faith of the apostles that they handed down as the proclaimed the gospel and established churches, which is ultimately rooted in the word of the risen Christ himself.
One function of confessing the creed is educational. It formed the core of the catechesis (instruction) given to new Christians on the contours of the faith. The trinitarian confession of faith was memorized and understood so that it could never be lost or forgotten.
We say that our worship is essentially a formational encounter with God in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit every Sunday, and confessing the creed is part of this formation, this education in the faith.
But what’s even more interesting is that confessing the creed is sacramental. The early Christians confessed the rule of faith (early creed) during the baptismal rite itself, like a pledge of allegiance, like marriage vows. They are words that perform, not just inform.
So when we confess the creed on Sundays, we are performing a sacramental action, not just an informational recitation. In confessing the creed, we are cooperating with God as he connects us with the church across time and space. It connects us to the word of the gospel given by Christ to the apostles.
Confessing the creed participates in the life the creed speaks of. To say “I believe…” is not so much to confess individual confidence in historical facts, but to confess corporate belonging and participation in the Church of Jesus Christ, across time and space. We perform our belonging to the communion of saints throughout the world and throughout the ages who belong to Christ and participate in the life of God by the power of the Holy Spirit.
That’s (part of) why we confess a creed every week.