Knowing and Being Known

I have sought to avoid rote repetition of prayers, Scriptures, and creeds and desire that my use of such instruments of worship and communion with the Lord would be done with intention and mindfulness.

One thing that comes to my attention as I speak the Apostle’s Creed is the order of some of the affirmations. In particular, one that God has brought to my attention is this final series of statements….

“I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic (universal) church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.”

One phrase especially had captured my focus for months…the placement of “ forgiveness of sins” AFTER “the communion of the saints.” It had seemed to me that one could not enjoy the communion of the saints UNLESS one had forgiven and been forgiven by God and others.

As I considered the order in this series, belief in the Holy Spirit being a very intimate and personal affirmation of one’s initiation into the Kingdom of God, it is a statement of assurance of one’s relationship with Christ. Then, belief in the holy catholic church affirms one’s desire and commitment to be in community with other believers bound in worship and in service to Christ in the world, as encouraged in the Scriptures. “The communion of the saints” describes an even larger, broader, more complete relationship with believers, including those saints already in the eternal Heavenly presence of the Lord and angelic hosts who are part of the “great cloud of witnesses” with whom we are in union. THEN, comes “the forgiveness of sins.”

Our initial awareness of our sinfulness, our inability to overcome our “Sin” nature in our own strength, and our need for a savior leads us to humbly confess and seek forgiveness from God. The presence of the Holy Spirit then places boundaries around our mind, heart, will, and conscience in relationship to God and others, believers and unbelievers alike, so that we begin to be further convicted regularly about any “sins” of thought, word, or deed that we experience, either as a perpetrator or as a victim of others. That refining work of the Holy Spirit is an ongoing activity for us for the rest of one’s life. And, as I found out last year, that work of forgiveness may even involve consideration of our attitude toward those saints in heaven who have preceded us. The Lord specifically showed me that I had a level of unforgiveness still in my heart toward someone whose death came as a surprise to me, especially when God, knowing the tepidness of my compassion, asked me point blank, “How are you going to feel when you see him in heaven?” God knows when one’s heart’s hidden pain and desires are still present, even when we are unaware or in denial. The need for forgiveness of sins perceived as having been done against us or shame over sins against others extends even to those beyond this life. This further confirms for me, too, the reality of our “knowing even as we are known” by God and one another beyond this life into eternity.

The fact that “forgiveness of sins” precedes “resurrection of the body” suggests that our work of forgiveness, though it may need to extend toward those beyond this life, it needs to occur within us while we are yet here on the earth and not be carried with us before the throne of God. If we indeed believe in “the life everlasting,”
there is a narrow gate and a straight path we walk to get there and it includes heart checks along the way to know our own selves as our hearts are known by God so that we arrive in purity and joy.

Lord, till the soil of our souls. Keep it soft and pliable. Sow the seeds of righteousness through the work of your Holy Spirit in us that we might stand redeemed and unashamed, having forgiven others, fully and unconditionally, as we ourselves have been forgiven by You, Precious Redeemer, Lord snd Master. Amen.

The Apostles Creed

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker 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, dead, and buried;*
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

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