Say YES to the Vows
My Mom was raised Lutheran, my Dad Catholic. My Dad converted to the Lutheran faith when I was a baby. Our family attended a small A-framed church in a neighboring city for many years as I was growing up. My town, like many southern towns, was too small to have its own Lutheran church. I will always love this part of my spiritual heritage as it was here that I first met Christ.
Today, my husband and I attend a thriving non-denominational church in a much larger city. Our church fits me well as I am a demonstrative, outspoken, and charismatic type person who is very comfortable with a lively rock-band style of worship, casual dress and drinking coffee during the service. But being completely truthful, there is a part of the quiet reverence found in a Lutheran church service that I miss. I remember fondly worshipping Jesus at our little church with my entire family sitting together in one pew. This was long before the days of Children’s Church. My brother and sisters and I all learned to sit quietly for the 60-minute service. If we didn’t, we could expect to be pinched or taken screaming to the ladies’ room for an attitude adjustment. 😊 Sadly, and on many more than one occasion, Mom had to haul me out of the sanctuary with me screaming, “Help me!”
In these services, the Lutheran minster spoke softly and wore a crisply-pressed robe and starched white collar. The minister wore, depending on the liturgical season, various colored stoles around his neck. I remember that at Easter he wore a light green stole with a lily entwined about an ornate cross. It was beautiful! The church’s adult choir sang from the loft behind the congregation. My Dad sang in this choir. I would close my eyes and listen to his big booming baritone voice. I would imagine that it was a heavenly choir of angels I heard singing. I also remember fondly the midnight candlelight Christmas Eve services. I loved the reverence and ceremony of taking Holy Communion. The pastor gave each person communion and blessed each and every partaker with, “The body of Christ given for you,” or “The blood of Christ shed for you!” These were powerful proclamations made over each and every believer! But my favorite memory, and the part of the liturgical style of worship that I miss the most, was our weekly recitation of our faith. As a church, we would recite the Apostle’s Creed. The sound of the whole church proclaiming in unison what we believed gave me chills even as a child. It still does today!
For my non-liturgical friends, please let me explain. The Apostle’s Creed is a short, 105-word statement summarizing the basic truths of the Christian faith. I do not remember exactly where it came in the service, but each week, the whole congregation would stand and state what we believed. We did not have to read it – it was already buried in our hearts! In unison, and in one accord, we declared loudly the truths and bedrock of our faith that we Christians knew and agreed upon. As a very small child, and before I could read, I could say the creed. The version I remember went like this:
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 Christian church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
An impressive summation of faith, don’t you agree? Now don’t let its name fool you. It was probably not written by the Apostles. Instead, it probably matured over time in the early Christian church. No one is quite sure when it was written, but it is believed to be the oldest written creed in Christendom, dating to a time earlier than 250 AD. Its words are timeless! Each line is a perfect depiction of the “Way.” To say it to oneself is reassuring, but to say it with other believers is faith building! It is unifying as it strings our hearts together with God’s. In this public proclamation of our beliefs, we see the bonds form between all of us who profess Christ. With it, denominational lines fade. It is a foretaste of heaven, where God’s eternal truths are all that matter. In heaven, there are no denominational platforms and no racial injustice. In heaven, there is just one unified bride of Christ worshipping on its knees and getting ready for the Marriage Feast! Hallelujah!
Married couples have a creed, so to speak, in the form of their wedding vows. In their vows, and in the presence of a community of family and friends, they declare present and future love for each other. There is a problem, though, in that most couples only say their vows once. They say them when dressed in their finest clothes and with a million wedding details dancing around in their heads: How does the cake look? Will my aunt and uncle get along with everyone else or cause a scene? Will there be enough food at the reception? Will the weather hold up for outdoor pictures? Will I be able to breathe in this tight dress, or will I suffocate? You know what I’m talking about. These are the standard wedding jitters. And in the midst of the hoopla of getting married, the vows sometimes get overlooked. I repeat. The vows get overlooked.
Jody and I ask every couple that sits on the couch in our living room what exactly did they vow or promise to each other on their wedding day? Many remember none of it. Some state that they “wrote their own vows,” but don’t remember “the specifics.” Some women remember whether or not they put in the, “to obey” line, but just as many do not remember anything about what they said other than, “I do!”
I believe that the wedding should revolve around the pivotal vows that the couple first make to God and then to each other. The vows should be the foundation of a Gospel-centered marriage. As Christians, the vows are the covenant we make with God. We should not take them lightly. God surely doesn’t take them lightly. We make a promise that includes serious words like “sickness or health” and “til death do we part.” Sometimes, couples give no thought to their significance. No wonder the divorce rate among Christians is no lower than the divorce rate among non-Christians. The wedding industry has been successful in unseating the primary reason for a wedding- the exchanging of vows! Thanks to commercialism, weddings are now all about saying “yes to the dress.” We seem to have forgotten the covenant.
So is commercialism the culprit or do we just have poor memories. Is that why we can’t remember the well thought out, time honored vows we made? I wonder if this is the reason the apostles and the early leaders of the Christian church started saying a summation of our beliefs in the Apostles Creed when they gathered with believers. Were they afraid that the early church would forget and lose the TRUTH of Jesus in the midst of crazy everyday life? I think so. Therefore, I think it would be behoove us to have the same fear and reverence with our marriage vows and remind ourselves of them daily. How did you like the word “behoove?” I am feeling a bit high church 😊. Seriously, we may need to use this same strategy. In the interest of preserving marriage we may need a daily recitation and come up with a way to renew our marriage vows. A Marriage Creed, if you will. Maybe each morning, we could say something like this to our spouse:
I promise to love (insert spouses name) in both word and action today.
I promise to never leave you.
I will always be on your side.
I will love you in happy times and when our life is hard,
when you are under the weather and when you are well,
during times of plenty and times when there is more month than there is money,
when our children are obedient and when they are not.
I am committed to playing a role in your sanctification and I am excited about this task.
I believe in the man/woman God has designed you to be!
I am committed to praying for you today.
Let us practice repentance and forgiveness today so that no sin will exist between us.
Please remember my love, that nothing can separate us from each other or from God.
Our hearts are sealed together with His until we step into glory.
I think this type of a public or private creed would continue to bind our hearts to God’s heart and remind our sin-filled minds the truth in our vows. It would also put Satan on notice that this was not a relationship he could touch. So - he should flee! I believe this marriage creed would be hard to say if there was sin in your heart or if your relationship with God was not right. So another benefit of the creed be about bringing swift repentance in your life and your marriage. It may seem crazy, but I really like this idea. Consider that the Apostle’s creed, supporting the holy Word of God, has kept the principles of the Christian faith intact over the past 2 thousand years. A marriage creed may be exactly what we need to protect Christian marriages moving forward! It is worth prayerful reflection.
Stay washed in the Word, friend! Grab your spouse’s hand and renew those vows each and every day! Thank you for reading!
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Before you rush off, listen to the song linked below. It is “We Believe” by the Newsboys.
This group sings of the foundations of our faith. I pray it blesses your heart as it has blessed mine!