Years ago, I helped teach an adult Sunday School class on the Apostles’ Creed. I shared this story that has been passed down in my family. Here is a lightly edited transcript of the story.
I want to begin this class with a story about a family song. Some of you may not be very familiar with the history of the Korean War, but it would be enough to say that it was a war that tore families apart. My grandfather came from a wealthy family in the northernmost part of Korea, before there was a North and South Korea. My grandfather’s family literally had everything taken away from them when the Communists came. Before they knew it, tensions had gotten so bad between the northern and southern regions of Korea that there was a boundary line where no one could cross back and forth. Like a bloody version of capture the flag, if anyone even dared to take a step across that boundary line, they’d be gunned down.
As my grandfather’s family realized that there was no hope left for them in North Korea, my grandfather and his younger brother decided, at the behest of their ill mother, to cross the boundary to go to South Korea in hopes of a better life. And as the story goes, when my grandfather and his younger brother made it right to an unmanned portion of that boundary line, my grandfather gathered up the courage and made it across while his younger brother stayed behind and returned to their sick mother. My grandfather made it across to South Korea safe and sound.
For many, many years, my grandfather had no idea whether his family survived, whether they were dead or alive. Fast forward a couple of years. Late one afternoon, my grandfather decides to take a stroll on the hill country of South Korea, just to clear his mind. And on his walk, he begins to hear the faint sounds of someone playing a musical instrument, which I suppose was not totally out of the ordinary. But then he slowly realizes that this tune wasn’t a tune that just some stranger would have known. This was a tune that was passed down for generations in his family. Only a family member would have known this song.
Excited but confused, he tries to find the source of the song. And as he fumbles through the darkness, he finally finds the person playing the tune. And lo and behold, it’s his younger brother that he left at the border so many years ago. Apparently, his younger brother had also decided to make that same treacherous journey across the border several years after my grandfather did. And the one thing that brought these two brothers together at that moment was this family song. This family song allowed them to recognize that they weren’t just strangers, but that they were family members, even though they couldn’t see each other.
I want us to think about this idea of a family song as we think about the Apostles’ Creed. The Apostles’ Creed isn’t just a lifeless repetition of words that we say every week at church. The Apostles’ Creed is, as it were, sort of like a family song. It’s a family song that’s been passed down for millennia in the family of God. It’s the thing that binds us as Christians together of all times in all places. And like my grandfather’s family song, it’s something that we have to help us recognize who is a brother who is a sister in Christ. If we understood that fact, we wouldn’t be able to help but have our hearts swell every time we read these words. Can you just imagine the emotions that my grandfather and his brother had when they reunited that one fateful night? May it be that we have that same sort of swelling of emotion whenever we are brought together and confess these truths, not only as brothers and sisters in this room, but also with those around the world and across the span of time and space, as we’re knit together by the redemption we have in Christ.