Do you know what the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed is? I bet you don’t.
In short, it’s the creed that formerly established — for the church — the concept of Trinity. You know, that Father-Son-Holy Spirit thing that all of us Christians have to know, comprehend and thoroughly understand (I hope you caught what I did there…)?
The Holy Spirit part is currently the subject of a sermon series I’m following on YouTube.
Yeah, I know. YouTube.
YouTube. Home to cranks and creatives, the know-it-alls and the brainless. That website where you learn how to do anything. Whether you want to really know or not.
A treasure trove of information and inaccuracies. Concepts and conspiracies. Passion projects and piracy. That wretched place is giving me the church sermons I didn’t know I needed.
You’re not a church of the 21st century if your weekly sermons are not on YouTube, to be real millennial of me. That’s where I’ve found Alfred Street Baptist Church, based in Alexandria, VA. Entitled “The Holy Spirit”, Reverend Dr. Howard-John Wesley gives his congregation what he calls “Holy Spirit 101”. In the 50 or so minutes of his second sermon, part of a five-part series, Rev. Wesley gives his congregation not only encouragement but also a history lesson behind the Holy Spirit. Why moments, people, places and faces in the Book of Acts and beyond are so important to understanding why Jesus told his disciples to embrace the Holy Spirit before they headed out on their journey to establish the church.
To the core of me, I’m a nerd. I love to know why clocks tick and sonics go boom. As a person new to the Christian faith, I often get frustrated when I try to understand all the tenants of my faith. A Episcopalian will tell me one thing, a Baptist will tell me another. Apostolics tell me this, Presbyterians, or “Presbys” as I like to call them, tell me that. It’s hard. Especially when we all are reading from the same source material, the Bible, but we all have different interpretations when it comes to the context of some the concepts that cause our deepest disagreements.
I’ve sat in a room full of people arguing about the Bible and, in truth, it made my head ring.
Even before I became a Christian, I knew what the Trinity was. Not what it was. I’m probably safe to argue that even those playing longer in the Christian game don’t really know the ins and out either. Because as we argue about our faith, as we are trying to figure all of this out, the peoples of the first church did too.
After Jesus died and resurrected, there were many questions about who exactly Jesus was. Was he God 2.0? Was he God the Second? Was he God? If he was God, then how could he die on the cross?
So two councils were created to figure all of this out. After conferencing, what we know as Holy Trinity — as an affirmation — was established. And through that creed, we can find several passages in the Bible that can support that idea.
Mind-blowing stuff, right?
So imagine getting this kind of history lesson before you really dive into the concept of the Holy Spirit and why the Holy Spirit so important to who you are?
Oh and then about that Holy Spirit situation too. Because different denominations have different ideas about how the Holy Spirit manifests through us. If your cousin Tasha goes to that Pentecostal church down the street, then she probably has a different image of the Holy Spirit than your co-worker Dan, who goes to that Lutheran church off the highway.
All over the place, right?
Well imagine how all of this feels to someone who is just starting their journey with their faith. What can you understand? On base, what do you understand. What is there to understand? You just have to believe, right?
While, yes, “by faith and not by works alone” but if don’t know what you’re believing, can you truly believe?
I often have to tell myself that I don’t know everything. In truth, I’ll never know everything. Only God does that. But it’s frustrating when you’re trying to better understand what made you a better person. What redeems you, challenges you. Who you call to when things are tough. Who you thank when you’re just happy to be alive. Who saved your life. Who forgives you. Who died on a cross. Who resurrected. Who influences you. Who lives with you.
The Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
So when it all comes together, and that ah-ha moment happens, you are thankful for the knowledge you just received and the power it gives you to continue to live your new life.
Because the last thing you want to do is overwhelm a new Christian so much that he or she feels “not close enough” to God. I’ve seen it happen.
I was that person.
Eventually you get to the point where you just have to buckle down and learn on your own. It’s better, though, to learn in community. Because truth of the matter is that the questions you ask are the ones on their hearts too.
So it becomes a cool moment when you bridge Bible verses together. It’s dope when you can say “oh, that reminds me of something from Acts!”. No, you may not be able to recite it and you may not know exactly what chapter it’s in but you know it’s there.
Because when the puzzle starts to come together, the image it creates is as beautiful as God intended.
But you have to know Him before you can know that.
This is part of my attempt to write every day in July. You can follow the series here.