As some of you know, I attend a Christian Church twice every Sunday, and have done for my whole life. In the morning service, the Eucharist, the congregation says the Nicene Creed together, and in the evening, at Evensong, we say the Apostles Creed. Both are firm statements of belief, repeatedly using the words ‘I believe’, or ‘We believe’. At 220 words and 110 words respectively, both are longer than our TOTJO Creed (109 words), yet I can reel them off without even having to think about it. At that point in the service I switch off and go onto complete autopilot and daydream about other things…the traffic sounds outside…what I’m going to have for lunch…the outrageous length of the sermon that has just been preached…
I used to berate myself a little for not knowing our TOTJO Creed off by heart. I thought that as a member of Clergy, I was a bit of a failure for always wanting to double-check each line first. But, when I got to the end of the Creed at Church last Sunday morning and realised that I’d been lost in a daydream about kittens and butterflies the whole way through (okay, not really, but lost in a some daydream or other anyway!) I wondered whether maybe it isn’t such a good thing to be able to recite a Creed without any thought or concentration.
After all, it’s an affirmation of faith, but does it really count as such as there is no mental affirmation actually occurring? Without thought and consideration, they’re just empty words...we might as well be reciting the telephone directory.
Our TOTJO Creed is a beautiful thing. It takes its inspiration from the Prayer of St Francis of Assisi, which – yes – is a Christian prayer. But, I have been to Assisi on what was essentially a educational pilgrimage of St Francis, and what was very apparent was that he was completely in touch with nature and the world around him, and that he dedicated his life to service to nature and fellow man. He may be a Christian Saint, but he embodied much of the Jedi ideal also.
If you’ve worked through the Initiate’s Programme you will have, at some point in your time here (perhaps very recently for some, or many years ago for others), broken down our Creed line-by-line and examined the meaning that it holds for you. You may have revisited the exercise since then, or you may not. In truth, this exercise should be mentally undertaken every single time we read or recite the Creed. It’s not some trivial ramble. It’s the cornerstone of the Jedi faith (as defined by TOTJO).
It’s hard to try to get ‘back to basics’ with the Creed without accidentally preaching what I think it means, how I interpret it, they ways in which I believe it to underpin what we do here at the Temple. But whilst I don’t want to try to pin down the finer details for you, I would say that the Creed is like our mission statement. As a community, and as individuals.
There is a famous line in the fictional Star Wars Universe (Episode III) – “Only a Sith deals in absolutes”. Whilst I personally don’t base my faith around Star Wars, it’s a concept that gets discussed here from time to time – the idea that a Jedi does not deal in absolutes, that a Jedi sees shades of grey, rather than only black and white…
But, our Creed does deal in absolutes. It speaks of what “I am” and what “I shall” do – not what I might be from time to time and what I might do when it’s convenient for me.
We all make mistakes. Frequently. And many of us get distracted from our goals – from what we intend to do, or what we know we ought to do. The Creed can read a little like a standard for perfection, and it might seem a daunting sometimes. I’m certainly not saying that when we read the Creed, we should use it as a Jedi checklist or grading paper, where only a 100% score earns you the title of Jedi.
But, as you look at or read each line, you should give it your full attention and resolve to try to keep each promise that you are making as it progresses. Don’t let the Creed become routine, monotonous or distant. Allow yourself to be excited at the statements that you are making – to always read it as someone re-affirming, re-pledging, their faith and their mission.
The Creed has a wonderful power to both further solidify the basic foundations of your faith and your Jedi path, and also to challenge and stretch you in ways that little else can. You just have to remember to allow yourself to be open to it.
I am a Jedi, an instrument of peace;
Where there is hatred I shall bring love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
I am a Jedi.
I shall never seek so much to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
The Force is with me always, for I am a Jedi.