Transcendent Unity: Finding Hope in Our Common Confession

Two modern cultural creations illuminate strangely hidden secrets to the meaning of life. Those two creations are football and Seinfeld.

Before anyone blows a gasket because the pastor purports to worship at the House of Heinz or Monk’s Coffee Shop, please rest easy. I’m not giving up the Bible for Seinfeld on DVD (although season 4 is pretty amazing). However, we discover fascinating connections to scripture and life in some of our significant cultural phenomena.

We’ll tackle football another day (along with terrible puns). Today, we focus on the Theology of George Costanza.

In one Seinfeld episode, Jerry and Elaine connive to set up George with a date (no easy task for Costanza). In the conversation, George says, “Is she smarter than me? I don’t want anyone smarter than me!”

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HOW COULD SHE BE SMARTER THAN YOU???

I declare myself the anti-Costanza. I DO want someone smarter than me, and hopefully express gratitude daily that I found a wife who is smarter than me. Perhaps this explains my egalitarian views on marriage (and no, I do not feel that it is a “false gospel” to declare my wife =/>).

It only benefits me to gain wisdom from Tracy, and she shared a bit of wisdom with our church a few weeks ago that is worth sharing.

Perhaps I am compelled to post this due to the…um…”fellowship” of a church basketball game last night. A certain pastor (who could that be?) let his competitive nature get the best of him in a ball game with other Christians.

Names removed to protect the not-so-innocent.

Perhaps the organic formation of a community Thanksgiving service of churches on our street moves me to this. We will celebrate next Wednesday at 7pm at St. Michael Lutheran. This began with a couple of ministers having a conversation, and has now morphed into a service of sharing between the Baptists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Methodists.

Perhaps it is just that the Thanksgiving spirit–as in, the one that compels me not to shop or put up decorations or sing carols until after Thanksgiving Day–drives me to this post.

But I just have to share the excellent worship focus that Tracy offered in worship several weeks ago. It is rooted in the not-so-Baptist practice of reciting a creed, and one that focuses on what unites us. It stretches us to consider why we can gather with other Christians, no matter our denominational or theological differences, and worship in Spirit and in truth.

Whatever the reason, I am renewed by the need to find a spirit of worship and cooperation, and my wife expresses this in a much “smarter” way that is worth sharing:

A few months ago, the young adult group studied the book of 1 John, and we talked about the difference between doctrine and faith.  We got a little overwhelmed with the number of questions over which Christian denominations, churches, and individuals often fiercely disagree.

How should the church be governed?  What do our worship services look like?  How should people be baptized?  What instruments should we use in worship?  Can we clap?  What should our buildings look like?  What roles are appropriate for women in church?  How often should we serve communion?  Should we use real wine or grape juice?   Do we stand, kneel, or sit when we pray?  The list goes on and on.  There are so many doctrinal differences, sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in how much we disagree.  We can forget that as Christians, the faith that we have in common is far more powerful and significant than any of our differences.

During Tom’s years in seminary, we attended a Presbyterian church.  As you may know, the Presbyterian denomination uses more corporate prayers, songs, and creeds than we normally use in the Baptist tradition.  Every week that we attended Sampson’s Mills Presbyterian, we recited the apostle’s creed, which is the oldest statement of faith in Christian tradition.  Its exact origin is not precisely known, but it was probably developed sometime between the second and fifth centuries.  For me back then, the apostle’s creed was often just a bunch of words, and I didn’t always think about its meaning or significance.

A few years after moving to North Carolina, we visited Pittsburgh and attended a service at Sampson’s Mills.  At the time, I happened to be feeling discouraged by some divisive issues in our home community, which had spilled over into our church.  I was growing weary of all the fussing and bickering between my friends, and for the moment, I was glad to have a break from it all.  

That morning, when everyone stood to recite the apostle’s creed, I was surprised to feel a sudden flood of emotion that almost brought me to tears.  I was struck by the power that I felt in hearing everyone say what they agreed upon about their faith.  I realized that THIS is what brings us together.  THIS is why we’re here.  Ephesians 2:8 tells us that it by grace that we are saved through FAITH.  The rest can be worked out.  We can agree to disagree on issues of doctrine, but issues of FAITH make us brothers and sisters in Christ. Ephesians 4:4-6 says, “4 There is one body and one Spirit,just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

I don’t want to say it every Sunday, because I don’t want to strip it of its significance.  But at this time, I would like to invite you to join me in saying the apostle’s creed, to remind us of our unity in the grace that God has given us through faith.  The text will be on the screen.

I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his 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.  

On the third day he rose again from the dead.  He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.  

From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.  

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of believers, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.  Amen.     

-Written by Tracy LeGrand

Today, we remember the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and the sharp division that existed in this nation upon his death. We remember the loss of C.S. Lewis, the challenging and sometimes divisive Christian author/theologian that presses us to consider Christ from a variety of perspectives. We remember Aldous Huxley, an author that warned us of what might happen by allowing fear and paranoia over our differences to overcome us, rather than celebrating our common humanity.

Yes, today is a very good day to remember the Christ that unites, and the things that we hold most dearly in spite of our political, philosophical and theological differences. We celebrate that we can often live, work and worship together with those with whom we may never agree in every aspect of faith and practice. We give thanks for a Christ that redeems us from our hot-headed judgments and even our stupidity, to remind us that Jesus is Lord over and above all things.

How glad I am that I married someone smarter than I. And thank God that she pushes me and others to understanding that goes well beyond football and Seinfeld.

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