Depending on the order of service followed, the creed can come before the sermon or after. I have arbitrarily put it before the sermon for this blogging exercise.
A creed is a statement of faith that a person, group, or larger community makes. Credo (Latin) is translated “I believe.” There are three ecumenical creeds, generally recognized by the Church catholic: Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed, and Athanasian Creed. The creeds function as public statements of faith which the congregation and the individual affirm and believe. Thus, they positively state doctrine for building up the common faith, and they negatively reject any false teachings related to the covered topics. By speaking the creeds each week, we not only join most Christians everywhere who confess the faith, but we also join the church throughout the ages in that same confession of faith.
Historically, the Apostles Creed was used for baptismal services, and the creed was either in the form of questions and answers (“Do you believe…?” followed by “Yes, I believe…”), or now the more common statement of belief (“I believe in God the Father…”). Thus, often the Apostles Creed is associated with the non-communion services. The Apostles Creed is spoken in the first person singular (“I believe…”).
The Nicene Creed (actually Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed, combining the Nicene Council of 325 and refined and the third article was expanded by the Council of Constantinople in 381) focuses on the second person of the Trinity, the Son, in opposition to the Arian heresy. Not surprisingly, the Nicene Creed has been associated with the Lord’s Supper, and so used on communion Sundays. This creed was also written in the first person plural form (“We believe…”), but was changed in the late middle ages to first person singular (“I believe…”) for liturgical purposes, which is also reflected in the German translation and some English translations. TLH, LW, and LSB (hymnals of the LCMS) use the singular form, whereas LBW and ELW (hymnals of the ELCA) use the plural form.
The Athanasian Creed (not written by Athanasius) is a much longer statement of faith, and typically only used on Trinity Sunday (this year, June 19). Most recently this creed the view is that the creed comes from the Gallic church in the late fifth century. It begins with the words, “Whoever wants to be saved must, above all, hold the catholic faith…” The largest portion of the creed centers on the second person of the Trinity.
Sometimes we become immune to the creed statements. But I encourage all of us to examine the texts, then joyfully state them as summaries of public Christian doctrine and of personal faith.