rome

Finlandia – A Simple Song that Could End Tribalism and American Discord

Recently, on a visit to Michigan, I attended a Catholic church. During the service, the entire congregation recited the Nicene Creed. As a Methodist, I have also recited this creed many times in my life. As I recited it along with the other attendees, the words rang clearly to me. I marveled at its elegant simplicity and its clear explanation of what we, as Christians, believe. It is a summary of our Christian faith.

The Origin of the Creed

As a student of theology, I knew more and began to reflect on how the creed came to be. In 325 AD, a group of 150 bishops gathered in Nicaea, an important town in ancient Greece. They had come from all of the various places where Christianity existed—Alexandria in Africa, Rome and Athens, and the various outposts of Europe. From throughout the Roman empire, they came.

Years earlier, in 313, Emperor Constantine won a great victory, which he credited to Jesus. After the battle, Constantine declared Christianity as the state religion of Rome, effectively moving Christianity from the catacombs of society to an approved state religion.

In 325, Constantine heard about a great divide in the church over the divinity of Jesus. Seeing that this divide was threatening to split the church, Constantine asked the bishops to convene and hammer out a solution.

Two Sides

On one side were the traditionalists, who viewed Jesus as divine and part of the substance of God. The other side were the backers of Arian from Alexandria, who believed Jesus was less than divine—perhaps a semi-God. For days, both sides presented their views, sometimes amiably and sometimes with rancor. The Arian’s were particularly aggressive in presenting their views.

However, the traditionalists won out, and with their victory came the creation of a creed that explained our belief structure centered on a triune God, or three persons in one. One of the key Bible verses that turned the tide was John 1:1 which says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The author of John used the word “Word” (or “Logos” in ancient Greek) to describe Jesus. If you, therefore, read this verse with Jesus in place of the word “Word,” you can see how this group arrived at the answer that Jesus both was God and is with God.

The New Creed

Over the next fifty years or so, there were still minor disputes, so another group of bishops met in Constantinople in 381 to build upon the original creed. This new creed—while not theologically different—filled in a lot of the blanks. Scholars call this second creed the “Nicene-Constantinople Creed.” Outside of the scholastic world it is still shortened to and called the Nicene Creed. The version completed in 381 AD is the one we still use today.

One important thing to note is that ALL Christian Churches use this creed: Western Catholics, all Protestant denominations, and Eastern Orthodox churches as well. It is one of the few documents on which every denomination agrees.

The Debates

Later, in the twelfth century, a minor debate arose as to the source of the Holy Spirit. Does it come from both Jesus and God or God alone? This controversy is called the Filoque debate. While never fully resolved, the Western church believes that the Spirit emanates from both. The Eastern church believes the Spirit emanates only from God.

From my viewpoint, the creed is an impressive construction that has clearly stood the test of time.

Many of the bishops traveled great distances to participate in these meetings; some for months. And consider the enormity of this task without the literary capabilities that exist today. These early Christians performed a marvelous, God-inspired task.

Reading was hard in the fourth century.

Only a very small portion of the population could read and write. Most documents were written without spaces between words. While most books of the Bible already existed, the New Testament did not yet exist in today’s form and would not for almost another century after the creation of the creed.

The work was hard, but it produced a document that has survived close to two millennium and is universally accepted by all Christians. Given the many denominations of Christianity, this is no small feat!

Below is the English version of the modern Nicene Creed, or the profession of faith of all Christians. It is amazing to think that these words were so skillfully crafted so many years ago.

Nicene Creed (English Version)

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Dr. Bruce L. Hartman is the author of Jesus & Co. and Your Faith Has Made You Well.

Photo by Melanie van Leeuwen on Unsplash

We love to give exposure to budding photographers

rome

The Nicene Creed, a Universal Statement of Faith

Recently, on a visit to Michigan, I attended a Catholic church. During the service, the entire congregation recited the Nicene Creed. As a Methodist, I have also recited this creed many times in my life. As I recited it along with the other attendees, the words rang clearly to me. I marveled at its elegant simplicity and its clear explanation of what we, as Christians, believe. It is a summary of our Christian faith.

The Origin of the Creed

As a student of theology, I knew more and began to reflect on how the creed came to be. In 325 AD, a group of 150 bishops gathered in Nicaea, an important town in ancient Greece. They had come from all of the various places where Christianity existed—Alexandria in Africa, Rome and Athens, and the various outposts of Europe. From throughout the Roman empire they came.

Years earlier, in 313, Emperor Constantine won a great victory, which he credited to Jesus. After the battle, Constantine declared Christianity as the state religion of Rome, effectively moving Christianity from the catacombs of society to an approved state religion.

In 325, Constantine heard about a great divide in the church over the divinity of Jesus. Seeing that this divide was threatening to split the church, Constantine asked the bishops to convene and hammer out a solution.

Two Sides

On one side were the traditionalists, who viewed Jesus as divine and part of the substance of God. The other side were the backers of Arian from Alexandria, who believed Jesus was less than divine—perhaps a semi-God. For days, both sides presented their views, sometimes amiably and sometimes with rancor. The Arian’s were particularly aggressive in presenting their views.

However, the traditionalists won out, and with their victory came the creation of a creed that explained our belief structure centered on a triune God, or three persons in one. One of the key Bible verses that turned the tide was John 1:1 which says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The author of John used the word “Word” (or “Logos” in ancient Greek) to describe Jesus. If you therefore read this verse with Jesus in place of the word “Word,” you can see how this group arrived at the answer that Jesus both was God and is with God.

The New Creed

Over the next fifty years or so, there were still minor disputes, so another group of bishops met in Constantinople in 381 to build upon the original creed. This new creed—while not theologically different—filled in a lot of the blanks. Scholars call this second creed the “Nicene-Constantinople Creed.” Outside of the scholastic world it is still shortened to and called the Nicene Creed. The version completed in 381 AD is the one we still use today.

One important thing to note is that ALL Christian Churches use this creed: Western Catholics, all Protestant denominations, and Eastern Orthodox churches as well. It is one of the few documents on which every denomination agrees.

The Debates

Later, in the twelfth century, a minor debate arose as to the source of the Holy Spirit. Does it come from both Jesus and God or God alone? This controversy is called the Filoque debate. While never fully resolved, the Western church believes that the Spirit emanates from both. The Eastern church believes the Spirit emanates only from God.

From my viewpoint, the creed is an impressive construction that has clearly stood the test of time.

Many of the bishops traveled great distances to participate in these meetings; some for months. And consider the enormity of this task without the literary capabilities that exist today. These early Christians performed a marvelous, God-inspired task.

Reading was hard in the fourth century.

Only a very small portion of the population could read and write. Most documents were written without spaces between words. While most books of the Bible already existed, the New Testament did not yet exist in today’s form and would not for almost another century after the creation of the creed.

The work was hard, but it produced a document that has survived close to two millennium and is universally accepted by all Christians. Given the many denominations of Christianity, this is no small feat!

Below is the English version of the modern Nicene Creed, or the profession of faith of all Christians. It is amazing to think that these words were so skillfully crafted so many years ago.

Nicene Creed (English Version)

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Dr. Bruce L. Hartman is the author of Jesus & Co. and Your Faith Has Made You Well.

Photo by Melanie van Leeuwen on Unsplash

We love to give exposure to budding photographers

body of christ

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”

Matthew 26:26

THE BODY OF CHRIST, HIS SACRIFICE

During the Holy period of Passover, Jesus arranged for a final supper with his disciples in an upper room of an inn in Jerusalem. It was the final meal before Jesus would begin the process of creating Easter. At one point Jesus said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” None of the twelve he was dining with had any idea of what was to occur over the next several hours and days or why Jesus said these soon-to-be remarkable words. Certainly, this request would have seemed odd to the unsuspecting twelve and, while sitting there with Jesus, they could not have imagined the importance of what Jesus was offering or the sacrifice he was going to make to support this powerful statement.

Sacrifice

Two millennia later, we know the story of what occurred after this Thursday night dinner. Jesus would visit the garden of Gethsemane to pray and then would be arrested and handed over to the local authorities. Pontius Pilate would reluctantly sentence Jesus to death—a painful crucifixion upon a cross near the entrance into Jerusalem called Golgotha. He would rise on the third day following his death.

Jesus knowingly sacrificed his earthly body for all humanity. He gave up his temporary worldly vessel in an event that would become a hallmark for all Christians.

Today, we get to join in this act of sacrifice by way of the Holy Communion. Every Catholic Mass ends with the taking of the bread. Monthly, Protestants take the sacrament as well. It is a sacred rite for all denominations—a common bond shared by all Christians. When we take this blessed bread, we at once perform a mutual act of obedience. It is one that recognizes Jesus’s sacrifice and, in turn, compels us to consider our following of the Lord.

Jesus’s request to the disciples was a test of obedience—a simple request to follow. But it was not just for the original twelve disciples; it was for all who would follow the “Take and Eat” act through all future generations.

In very human terms, what Jesus did that night was a lonely and difficult journey of sacrifice. We, at least, know the end of this story and the act’s value to humankind. The original twelve who heard this command could only guess at what Jesus was talking about. Today, when we take this bread, we are agreeing to follow.

Imitating Jesus

Dietrich Bonhoeffer described this following by saying, “Any single act of Christian obedience is far more valuable than one hundred sermons.” The price we pay in following and taking the bread is the price of action. For if Jesus was willing to sacrifice, what are we willing to do in return?

It might be with a gift of money, holding a door, or going out our way to provide for the poor. Any act that imitates Jesus moves us closer to becoming like him.

We can wonder what the twelve thought that night and into Good Friday and then through Easter morning. There was certainly doubt in the ensuing weeks. One—Judas—in a spirit of remorse, gave back the ill-gotten coins he had received for betraying Jesus, by throwing them on the floor. The others all eventually righted themselves and acted by following Jesus’s example.

The New Leader

Peter became the new leader and guided this small band throughout the balance of his life. As a street preacher, he converted many in Judea. One account, in the Book of Acts, says he converted three thousand new believers from one sermon. He, himself, died on a cross in 66 AD.

Tradition has Andrew going to modern day Russia, Turkey, and Greece to spread the good news of Jesus. He was reputed to have been crucified in Greece as well.

Thomas went to the lands east of Syria. Today, he is credited with being the founder of the Marthoma Christian sect in India. He died after being pierced with spears by four soldiers.

Phillip had a strong ministry in Carthage and, after converting a local Roman Proconsul’s wife, was arrested and put to death.

James and John, whom Jesus referred to as “the sons of thunder” because of their loud and boisterous nature, became known later as the “sons of love,” recognizing their softened approach.

There are similar stories for the other Apostles as well. After a period of confusion following Jesus’s death, the twelve did not return to their old lives as fishermen or tax collectors or zealots; history has them continuing to follow the ways of Christ. They continued to “Take and eat, this is my body.” in remembrance of Christ.

Living Through Actions

Today, it is unlikely we’ll be crucified or eaten by lions in the coliseum because we follow the teachings of Jesus. For most Christians in America, those days are behind us. Our task as followers is that of discipleship. Discipleship isn’t lived through words but through actions—actions that imitate Jesus and help our neighbors.

When we take the bread and eat in remembrance of Christ, we are sharing in a many-centuries act of discipleship also performed by the twelve Apostles, Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, Saint Francis of Assisi, and many others. It is a way of remembering the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made for us.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Dr. Bruce L. Hartman is the author of Jesus & Co. and Your Faith Has Made You Well.

Photo by Robert Nyman on Unsplash

We love to give exposure to budding photographers

Freely You Have Received; Freely Give.

“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Genesis 1:27-28

FREELY YOU HAVE RECEIVED; FREELY GIVE

Jesus is walking on the border between Galilee and Samaria and comes across an outpost that holds a leper colony. He enters this village of castoffs and hears from ten men, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (Luke 17:13) Ten men that have been forced to live away from their families and friends.

Because of the devastating nature of leprosy and the lack of modern medical treatment in the first century, people who contracted this disease had to leave their homes. From a precautionary standpoint during the 1st century, any person who had any skin ailment would be considered a leper.

Ironically this leper outpost was on the border that separated two very different worlds. For the most part Galilee was populated by the remnants of Judah, one of twelve tribes who’d settled in Judea. And Samaria was the area that was inhabited by those who had separated from Judah after the death of King Solomon many centuries earlier, the Samaritans, also consisting of part of the original twelve tribes of Israel.

A large gulf therefore existed between these two communities. But in the leper colony both remnants of the original twelve tribes existed side by side, connected by a terrible disease.

The belief in Palestine at that time was that leprosy was caused by God, and the leper was considered unclean both physically and spiritually. The disease itself is horrifying, with boils, disfigurement, and nerve pain being the common symptoms. Most people would be separated from their families for the balance of their lives. Today, the bacteria that causes leprosy is easily treated and has become rare in the developed world. In the United States around one hundred cases occur each year.

These people in the first century, however, knew they were doomed to live a life apart from others, never to be able to hold their children or eat with their families. They knew they would suffer for long periods, as the disease was chronic. The plea of these ten men to Jesus was one of desperation.

Jesus takes pity on them and cleanses them, but he also tells them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” (Luke 17:14) A practical command, so that they can become reunited with their own communities by receiving the priest’s acknowledgment they are now cleansed.

One of the men, from Samaria, went back to Jesus, praising God and fell at Jesus’s feet. Knowing the gift he’d been given, he was overwhelmed with being released from a life of captivity caused by a terrible disease.

Seeing this Jesus asks, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they?  Was none of them found to return and give praise to God (Luke 17: 17–19)

We can wonder about the other nine, but the deeper story lies with the one who returned. A remarkable contrast to the nine. We notice that Jesus says to him, “your faith has made you well.” For the others the healing was supernatural, but for the lone person who returned, his faith in God seems to have effected a more profound cure. He was a desperate person, who certainly prayed, and through Jesus had the prayer answered, but also, his return to give thanks, his recognition of how he got healed, show us that he will remember how it happened.

Silent moments

During his time of trouble and isolation, it would have been easy to say to the leper, “Get up and dust yourself off.” Many of us have heard this encouragement. But it isn’t so easy to do. Perhaps we have had a major financial setback or are struggling with a relationship. In those silent moments by ourselves, we twist, and we turn, searching for answers. We head down various mental paths and look in each corner. Perhaps we cry out or silently yell that it’s not fair. And it probably isn’t. It is true we should just get up, dust ourselves off, and go on. But it isn’t that easy for everyone.

Others may say, “Just have faith.” But these journeys help us have faith. They allow us to cross off what doesn’t work. They allow us to let our heart catch up with our intellectual knowledge.

“Our faith will make us well. But we have to first move to that place where we can get up and be on our way.”

Jesus says, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” Jesus has to say that, because it is right. Pursuing a life of faith will make us well. But we must first move to that place where we can get up and go on our way. It is at this point where we must decide that our progress must be forward. It’s the faith that we can hang on to after we have investigated every facet of faith, but the investigation process itself can be revealing and strengthen our faith. When this strengthening has occurred that we can truly get up and go on our way.

“The journey with Jesus in the inner building of our self will reveal and teach us to have faith.”

With Jesus in our hearts, we can have confidence that our journey will be well. Regardless of our inner investigation, all paths will lead back to faith. All thoughts of ill will disappear. All thoughts of self-pity will wither away. We will return. The journey with Jesus in the inner building of our self will reveal and teach us to have faith. Jesus will be with us on this journey regardless of our despair. And when we are done, we will be able to get up and go on our way.

For the leper life had been hard; he pressed on in his search and called out to Jesus. Perhaps at the moment of his darkest night, he was healed, not just by Jesus, but also by his faith in Jesus. Now he becomes a person who was healed in a moment. In his thankfulness, we can now see a committed heart that will be generous.

Jesus provides us with grace and a newness in our lives.

A heightened sense of empathy for our neighbor and a redirection of how we look at life. Scarcity and want ebb in this new life. Peace is found through the desire for those things that aren’t of this world. The leper was not only cleansed, but his faith healed him at a deeper level, for which he showed thankfulness and the acknowledgment of where the healing came from: his faith.

This faith will also generate a generosity that is real. A giving back to help others out of our own bounty. Generosity is one of the fruits of the spirit. An indication that our faith and healing are real.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Author of Jesus & Co. and Your Faith Has Made You Well

“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Genesis 1:27-28

LOOKING AT OURSELVES AS GOD SEES US

People suffer not just from bad decision making, but also from bad self-images. They feel they aren’t good enough, not even for God. They have been tricked in the past by viewing themselves in false comparisons to other people. Perhaps they have been told they are overweight or not pretty, or in some other way just don’t rate. This path of believing the negative things others say, or the ones we say to ourselves, is just as destructive as the lives of those who never question themselves at all, but have taken the wrong path.

Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. When we believe what others say, we can be hard critics of ourselves, and lose sight of the beauty of being made in God’s image. In Genesis 1:27–28 it says, So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” When Jesus says, “Follow me,” some people don’t assume he means them. But certainly, he does! They, too, are made in the image of God. Oftentimes a significant life event is required to muster up the strength to know there is another path. A path of believing that we are worthy.

This path to no longer being blind requires a giving up of yourself. In the Gospel there is no better example of this then John the Baptist. In John 3:30, John the Baptist says, “He must increase but I must decrease.” A powerful statement from a man who was already recognized by his community as a major religious figure. At the time of this statement, John and Jesus had an overlapping ministry, but John was willing to give his up to not distract from Jesus’ message of the good news. He knew he was like the best man at a wedding and was more than willing to relinquish his fame.

Those who are no longer blind have had to agree to the same submission. Listening to the words that God speaks about us being created in the image of God erases what the world says about us. We are all worthy and His promises are for us. Believing this means walking away from ourselves and towards walking with Jesus. Ironically in this act of submission we become freed, no longer wedded to the world or what the world tells us.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

christian sky

How many times in our lives do we stand at a place where all things seem lost? These times of distress are inevitable and will visit all, both the weak and the mighty.

truck driving

The giving in to the compelling spirit of God and satisfying our own yearning, can and will place us at a crossroad. The path we take can heal us, but sometimes comes at a high earthly cost.

Exhausted Majority

The giving in to the compelling spirit of God and satisfying our own yearning, can and will place us at a crossroad. The path we take can heal us, but sometimes comes at a high earthly cost.

end of watch

The giving in to the compelling spirit of God and satisfying our own yearning, can and will place us at a crossroad. The path we take can heal us, but sometimes comes at a high earthly cost.

mister rogers

The giving in to the compelling spirit of God and satisfying our own yearning, can and will place us at a crossroad. The path we take can heal us, but sometimes comes at a high earthly cost.