Beliefs Below the Frost Line

This experience used to be exceptional, but with the aging of our population in general, and the noticeable aging of the church in particular, it is now pretty commonplace. You are talking to a relative, friend, or someone of the church family who suffers from Alzheimer’s or a form of dementia. There are dangling conversations laying in a pile around you like discarded pages of tablet with starts of notes that could not be finished. There are flashes of recognition, but only flashes. Then the leader in the worship service where the two of you sit, or a voice on a TV tuned to the TBN network, or maybe you yourself spontaneously, offer up the words of a familiar hymn, “Amazing Grace” for example, or “I Come to the Garden Alone”. And that person who a moment ago seemed so entirely disconnected and adrift begins to sing along, singing the verses perfectly from a memory lodged somewhere deep but sure. The first time I heard a musician speak about “hymns below the frost line” I knew exactly what she meant.

I have begun to wonder if there might be beliefs below the frost line too: beliefs stored in some deep, protected place that could be summoned to consciousness even when most other memories refuse to come forth. I know music adds power to words that makes them stick, but are there spoken beliefs, perhaps reinforced by being said out loud in unison with others over and over again, that could lodge themselves deep into our spirits so that they are available to us in the times of testing, whether persecution or illness, stress of body or stress of mind?

I believe there are such words and that a prime example would be that collection of beliefs known as the Apostles Creed. In one form or another the creed has been passed from one Christian generation to another for more than 1800 years. It was and still is passed along with a reputation as a list of essentials. It is worth noticing what it leaves out. That may be the hardest part for some of us. But it is especially worth noticing for those beliefs to which it gives preference and prominence. It is as if we are being told, when all other beliefs fall from favor, popularity, or even the capacity for recall, cling to these beliefs!

For the next several weeks I will be preaching a series of sermons on the Apostles Creed. I look forward to your participation. Share with me your questions, stories, artifacts related to the elements of the creed just as you did for the baseball series. Join in the adult class of Sunday School at 9:00 a.m. as we go into depth on the beliefs of the creed. Lend your voice to the choir or hands to the bell choir as they reinforce the power of the Apostles Creed through music. Together we will store the essentials of our faith in a place of safe keeping and enduring access.

I believe (Sept 18)… in God the Father Almighty (Sept 25)… Creator of heaven and earth (Oct 2)… in Jesus Christ, his only son, our lord (Oct 9)… born of the Virgin Mary (Oct 16)… was crucified, died, and was buried (Oct 23)… he descended into hell (Oct 30)… on the third day he arose again (Nov 6)… is seated at the right hand of the Father (Nov 13)… he will come again to judge (Nov 20)… in the Holy Spirit (Nov 27)… the holy catholic church (Dec 4)… the communion of saints (Dec 11)… the forgiveness of sins (Dec 24)… resurrection and the life everlasting (Dec 25).

Pastor Lew

 

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