Columns, Grace Notes

This I believe

The Lutheran congregation to which I belong is currently using a multi-cultural liturgy at the Sunday morning worship service. The liturgy has become familiar to congregation members since its introduction several years ago, as we have been using it annually for several weeks at a time.

The version of the Apostles’ Creed that is confessed as part of this liturgy is one that was developed for use by the Masai by Fr. Vincent Donovan, an American Catholic priest and missionary to Tanzania from 1955 to 1973. His method (outside the norm for his time) of bringing Christianity to the Masai was to incorporate Christianity into the Masai culture through concepts and images that the Masai could understand and with which they could identify. He was not attempting to have the Christianity of the Masai people mirror the Western model of Christian faith.

Jean Johansson

The text of Fr. Donovan’s Masai Creed may seem culturally strange to Lutherans in the United States.

The text of Fr. Donovan’s Masai Creed (reprinted at the bottom of this column) may seem culturally strange to Lutherans in the United States (e.g., from the Second Article, “He was buried in the grave, and the hyenas did not touch him”). I think he did a rather astounding job of making the words of the Apostles’ Creed come alive not only to members of a tribe in Tanzania, but also to members of my small Lutheran congregation in Minneapolis.

The words are so unlike the traditional Apostles’ Creed text that it is not possible for me to absentmindedly recite the words (a danger with the Apostles’ Creed text I first heard as an infant). Saying the Masai Creed, the images evoked naturally lead me to think about what I am confessing, and to acknowledge that, yes, this truly is what I believe.

The phrase from the Masai Creed that describe the events of Jesus’ life as showing that “… the meaning of religion is love” articulates a true definition of religion. This kind of love is a discipline, seeking to serve “the other.” I don’t see how we can go wrong, really, if that is how we live out our faith, rather than expending energy judging what is right and what is wrong, what is correct and what is incorrect, who is in and who is out, with little thought for the welfare of our neighbor.

What makes a statement of faith?

This week I received a copy of the Twin Cities Christian Directory. I came across the seven sentences that comprise the publishing organization’s statement of faith on a page near the front of the directory. One sentence reads, “We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost: of them that are saved unto the resurrection of life, and of them that are lost to the resurrection of damnation.” I am a Lutheran Christian, and I am much more comfortable with confessing my faith in the words of the Masai Creed, coming down on the side of love, and leaving the judgment to God.

Masai Creed

(based on the Apostles’ Creed)

We believe in the one High God, who out of love created the beautiful world and everything good in it. He created Man and wanted Man to be happy in the world. God loves the world and every nation and tribe on the Earth. We have known this High God in darkness, and now we know Him in the light. God promised in the book of His word, the Bible, that He would save the world and all the nations and tribes.

We believe that God made good His promise by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, a man in the flesh, a Jew by tribe, born poor in a little village, who left His home and was always on safari doing good, curing people by the power of God, teaching about God and man, showing the meaning of religion is love. He was rejected by his people, tortured and nailed hands and feet to a cross, and died. He lay buried in the grave, but the hyenas did not touch him, and on the third day, He rose from the grave. He ascended to the skies. He is the Lord.

We believe that all our sins are forgiven through Him. All who have faith in Him must be sorry for their sins, be baptized in the Holy Spirit of God, live the rules of love and share the bread together in love, to announce the Good News to others until Jesus comes again. We are waiting for Him. He is alive. He lives. This we believe. Amen.

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