Need a Creed?
At New Covenant, we aren’t into creeds. This is important to our identity — choosing no defining formula for what we all believe. But it does complicate our ability to articulate who we are. What is the essence of our Fellowship? Is it possible to describe ourselves by what we embrace, rather than by what we do not?
Our Advent focus on Mary’s song, the Magnificat, has raised a fascinating possibility: Might the words of this Hebrew prophet capture and communicate the truths we together hold dear?
Context: Mary’s exultation is expressed in the communion of two unlikely individuals: a long-married barren woman in her sixth month and a not-yet-married virgin teenager imperceptibly (to the human eye) pregnant. Women on the fringes of polite society. Does this resonate at NCF? Unusual relationships across age-barriers. People who don’t always fit society’s norm of proper order or gender and role expectations. Um, definitely!
With all my heart I glorify the Lord!
In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.
He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant.
Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored
because the mighty one has done great things for me.
Holy is his name.
Mary’s experience with God was intense, affecting the very depths of who she was, forever changing her status in the world. We feel it, don’t we? Our relationship to God, through Jesus, is intensely personal, transforming our whole lives. Our own story, our testimony if you will, of how God has looked upon us in our lowly state and granted us favor, done mighty life-changing things for us.
Such that we burst into song. Often. At New Covenant, we sing a lot. Almost two-thirds of our Sunday service is spent singing, the teaching sandwiched in between. If the talking part goes long, we are reluctant to drop a song from the anticipated final set, preferring to delay lunch a few minutes rather than miss an opportunity to raise our voices.
He shows mercy to everyone,
from one generation to the next,
who honors him as God.
The generational aspect of God’s revelation and faithfulness is core to our New Covenant experience. Our worship team, tech crew, nursery and teachers are a mix of teenagers, adults, and the young-at-heart ministering together. Cross-generational relationships undergird our faith journey, where babies and great-grandparents can worship side by side.
He has shown strength with his arm.
He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.
He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
and lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty-handed.
Revolution. Overturning the social order. Working for justice — with our words, our actions, our money. Hosting Daily Bread Soup Kitchen for seven years until they could get their own facility. Supporting food pantries. Starting and maintaining a Christian County Health Center to catch those who fall through widening cracks. Housing the C-U Men’s Shelter. Supporting ministries working for justice and dispersing mercy locally, nationally, and around the world. The woman chosen to mother God’s son proclaims God’s character, an identity we yearn to reflect.
He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
remembering his mercy,
just as he promised to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.”
Jesus was born king of the Jews, inheriting the throne of his ancestor David, to rule over Jacob’s house forever. (Luke 1:32-22) This promise to the Jewish people — in which Jesus fulfills all Torah, and becomes a blessing to all the nations — informs our reading and understanding of the Hebrew and Christian Bible. Matzo on the communion tables, celebrating Passover Seders, lighting Hanukkah candles, and partnering with our local Rabbi engage faith and practice. As a predominantly Gentile congregation, we are grateful to be grafted in, to hear our favorite Pharisee Paul explain the prophesies that inclusion was God’s plan from the beginning.
Can we embrace a creed at New Covenant? Probably not. Though close, even the Magnificat wouldn’t fit everyone. Because Mary’s Spirit-filled prophecy (not quite a compilation of beliefs) is one excerpt from an amazing breadth of scripture, balanced by the witness of the whole of creation, in the context of community and history and revelation through the Holy Spirit of God into our time and place.
Humbling. Not that we are better than a creed. But that God is bigger.
And we realize that we are but dust.
And to dust we shall return.
The free gift of God becomes for us eternal life.