"Unapologetic Theology: A Christian Voice in a Pluralistic Conversation" is the title of a book by my beloved theology professor and friend, the late William C. Placher. It is also now the title of this blog, a place where I hope to add a Christian voice -- God knows, not "the" Christian voice, but "a" Christian voice and not just any old voice, but a distinctly Christian voice -- to the pluralistic conversation going on about just about everything.
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Children's Creed: What More Needs to be Said?
One of the joys of my ministry is
leading children's chapel for our Day School every other Wednesday (Rev. Cathy
and I take turns).
About 11:30 each Wednesday, the
children - about a 190 of them, ranging in age from 18 months to five years of
age - file in with their teachers, take their places in the pews in the
Historic Church, and wait for Mrs. Thomas, the Day School Director, to start
The service is simple: Mrs. Thomas
welcomes everyone, brings us to order with a short prayer, and introduces Rev.
Cathy or me.
We give a short message based on
the theme of the week ("David the Shepherd," "Mary and Joseph Go
to Bethlehem," "Jesus is Born," "Jesus as a Little
Boy" and so on.)
After the homily, we stand and say
what's called "The Children's Creed."
in God above,
in Jesus' love
His Spirit too,
tell me what to do.
that I can be
That's 35 words.
Now as you know, it's the custom
in most Episcopal Churches to stand after the sermon and say the Nicene Creed.
The Nicene Creed, dating from
about the mid-4th Century, is a classic summary of orthodox Christianity. It is
a bedrock statement of our faith and a reminder of what unites Christians
worldwide and throughout time. Its importance in Christianity is impossible to
It is also 134 words long.
And (unlike saying the Apostle's
Creed in question and answer format in the context of the Baptismal Covenant as
is our norm at the 9:00 service), the Nicene Creed is all about what we believe
- what we give our assent to, put our faith in - while saying absolutely
nothing about the consequences of that belief, what we DO with what we believe,
or why those beliefs matter.
Here's the thing:
If our criteria is Jesus'
criteria: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and
strength, and love your neighbor as yourself,"
if our "mission
statement" or reason for being church is Jesus' mission statement -
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor," (see Luke 4)
then my question is,
"Is the Nicene Creed
an improvement over the Children's Creed?"
I may not be on very solid
ecclesial (Church) grounds here, but I daresay I'm on solid Biblical grounds:
"People were also bringing
babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw
this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said,
"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the
kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom
of God like a little child will never enter it." (Luke 18)
"Why do you call me 'Lord,
Lord,' but do not do
what I say?" (Luke 6)
"Dear friends, let us love
one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God
and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is
love." (I John 4)
Now lest someone accuse me of
advocating "dumbing down" Christianity: I know full well the need for
us to grow in faith and in spiritual and theological maturity - to wean
ourselves from the milk of the basics and grow into the meat and potatoes, the
"full stature" of Christ. For Christ's sake (really!) I'm a
philosophy major; I appreciate the intellectual life; I believe strongly in
lifelong Christian education; my blog isn't about cooking,
family life, social justice, sports, or comedy, it's a theological blog; I wish
everyone was reading Bonheoffer, Kierkegaard and George Lindbeck and William Placher and even the
contemporary brilliant-but-nearly-impenetrable theologian Peter Rollins.
But I'm quite serious: Sunday by
Sunday, why shouldn't we (at least occasionally and perhaps regularly) stand
and say the Children's Creed instead of the Nicene Creed?
What would be lost?
What would be gained?
Because really: someone has to tell
me how we're going to improve on:
No one can -- and I certainly don't want to try -- to unpack every tweet the person currently holding the office of President of the United States sends out.
No one has the time to respond to every one of his tweets on just one issue. Although I wish I had the time on the issue of the Executive Orders recently issued in regard to refugees.
But every so often I feel I MUST respond to at least SOME of those tweets, lest I grow accustomed to them as normal. And I refuse to normalize the abnormal.
Take one of Saturday's tweets, for example: in response to Judge Robart's temporarily stopping an Executive Orders, there was this:
“What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into U.S.?”
Let's unpack: "What is our country coming to..." Does that lament sound familiar? Ask yourself: who often says it, where do you hear it from the most? Is it a positive, hopeful line of thinking? I wil…
A sermon preached January 29, 2017 The Rev. John Ohmer, Rector The Falls Church Episcopal
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the p…
Rev. John Ohmer, Rector The Falls Church Episcopal Falls
Church, Virginia James
7:24-37 In case you’re confused by the service leaflet,
where it says Kelly is supposed to be preaching today, well, she was, and she
was planning to. But yesterday she came down with the stomach flu, and of
course we encouraged her to stay home until she’s 100%. (And to think I came this close to getting out of having to preach on a couple of very tough passages…) (Kelly’s sermon, by the way, was written well ahead
of time and is, as we have already come to expect, excellent. And inspiring – I
was inspired reading it.* Hard copies are available, and will be made available
on line.) What you’re going to get from me today is a little
different than a normal sermon. Today I want to tell you a story – a bit of my own
family history -- and then read you a poem. And then show you how I think that
story and the poem relate to today’s lessons and to current events. …