Journey to Detroit and #GA221 via Heidelberg
Beginning Sunday, June 16, 2013 (Father’s Day) for 52 weekends leading up to the convening of the 221st General Assembly on June 14, 2014, join me here as we reflect together on the Heidelberg Catechism and comb the riches of our Reformed Christian faith.
LINK TO HEIDELBERG CATECHISM TEXT
REFERENCES FOR THIS JOURNEY
The Holy Bible: New American Standard Bible and New Revised Standard Version
Craig Barnes, Body and Soul: Reclaiming the Heidelberg Catechism. Grand Rapids, MI and Louisville, KY: Faith Alive Resources and Congregational Ministries Publishing, 2012
Lyle Bierma, An Introduction to the Heidelberg Catechism: Sources, History, and Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005
Idem., The Theology of the Heidelberg Catechism: A Reformation Synthesis. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2013. (I’m grateful to Lyle for providing advanced copies of chapters 2-5 in the meantime as the expected release date is August)
Eberhard Busch, Drawn to Freedom: Christian Faith Today in Conversation with the Heidelberg Catechism. Translated by William H. Rader. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2010.
Caspar Olevianus, A Firm Foundation: An Aid to Interpreting the Heidelberg Catechism. Translated and edited by Lyle Bierma. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1995.
Zacharius Ursinus, The Commentary of Dr. Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism. Translated by G.W. Williard. 1852. Reprint, Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co, 1985.
Lord's Day 1 (Q/A 1 and 2): THE HEART OF THE MATTER
A. That I am not my own,^1 but belong— body and soul, in life and in death—^2 to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.^3 He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,^4 and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.^5 He also watches over me in such a way^6 that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven;^7 in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.^8 Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life^9 and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.^10^1 1 Cor. 6:19 ^2 Rom. 14:8 ^3 1 Cor. 3:23 ^4 1 Pet. 1:18; 1 John 1:7; 2:2 ^5 1 John 3:8 ^6 John 6:39 ^7 Matt. 10:30;Luke 21:18 ^8 Rom. 8:28 ^9 2 Cor. 1:22;5:5; Eph. 1:14;Rom. 8:16 ^10 Rom. 8:14 2 Q. What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?
A. Three things:^1 first, how great my sin and misery are;^2 second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery;^3 third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.^4^1 Luke 24:47;1 Cor. 6:11;Tit. 3:3 ^2 John 9:41; John 15:[6-]7 ^3 John 17:3 ^4 Eph. 5:10
"The Heart of the Matter"There’s a popular theory that in times of wild economic consumption zombie movies and television shows make a comeback and in times of economic desperation vampires are the preferred genres. In both cases, there’s a numbing effect on the soul, a bloodletting and a blood-thirsting, the sucking away of life and vitality. I’ve gotten into the AMC hit series, The Walking Dead, featuring a global apocalypse pitting viral-infected humans turn zombies and a community of survivors. One thing zombies don’t have are hearts.
Lord’s Day 2 (Q/A 3-5): MIRROR, MIRROR
A. Christ teaches us this in summary in Matthew 22:37-40: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. “And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”5 Q. Can you live up to all this perfectly?
A. No.^1 I have a natural tendency to hate God and my neighbor.^2^1 Rom. 3:10; 3:23; 1 John 1:8 ^2 Rom. 8:7; Eph. 2:3
"Mirror, Mirror"In the 140,000 miles I’ve traveled thus far as General Assembly moderator, I carry in my briefcase a framed drawing that my eldest son gave to me one Father’s Day depicting he and I holding each other’s hands. Within this frame, I placed photos of both of my sons, and four trading cards they gave to me from their prized Pokemon card collection. This frame of mementos, together with a card from my wife that remains in my carrying case, accompanies me in hotels, meeting halls, church sanctuaries, assembly meetings, countless airports and rental cars. They speak to me when I can’t FaceTime or Skype with my family; they tether me to home.
Lord’s Day 3 (Q/A 6-8): OUR COMMON LOT
“Our Common Lot”Last week was busy with laws in legislative halls and the U.S. Supreme Court. Historic immigration reform legislation was being debated in Congress. The Texas State Senate was embroiled in procedural gymnastics (complete with a 13-hour filibuster) that made any parliamentarian heart’s delight as a bill regarding abortion headed for a showdown. The U.S. Supreme Court handed down rulings related to the Voting Rights Act, the Defense of Marriage Act, and the status of same-gender marriage in the state of California. My Facebook and Twitter feeds were buzzing, several folks describing the week as a “roller-coaster,” no doubt as each of these legislative and judicial moves were celebrated by many and bemoaned by many, depending on one’s perspective.
Lord’s Day 4 (Q/A 9-11): SERIOUS FREEDOM...SERIOUSLY
Lord’s Day 5 (Q/A 12-15): JUSTICE
Lord’s Day 5 (Q/A 12-15)
As a parent, watching children grow up and reflecting upon my own growing up years, I’ve become more aware of the delicate balance of parenting that requires gentle discipline, firm instruction with gracious freedom; both sets are needed for healthy upbringing. I’ve seen examples of children who have grown up in environments of opposite extremes. An extremely harsh, authoritative parent who casts correction and instruction without affirmation, acceptance and grace results in a fearful child who grows up ashamed, fearful, and, in time, rebellious – when freedom from the harsh parent is found. The other extreme of an overly permissive parenting – where a child is constantly soothed, affirmed, allowed to be as free as the blowing wind. I’ve seen many children in our neighborhood where these kinds of children have no respect for their parents, grandparents, often shouting at their elders. In both sets, a rebellious heart results.
Lord’s Day 6 (Q/A 16-19): GOD'S NEWS: ALWAYS GOOD, FOREVER PERSONAL, ETERNALLY EFFECTIVE
Lord’s Day 6 (Q/A 16-19) “God’s News: Always Good, Forever Personal, Eternally Effective”
A Saturday Night Live! Segment parodied headline news shows where an anchor sits at a desk as various news items flash on every part of the screen: a scrolling marquee at the bottom of TV screens with brief blurb items of world and national disasters, the Dow Jones and NASDAQ totals in the upper-right hand corner, the local time for each time zone imaginable on the lower-right hand corner, the current weather and the weather forecast for the next week in whatever available space there was, with the eyeball of the news anchor somewhere peeking through this inundation of news feeds and information.
Lord’s Day 7 (Q/A 20-23): DIAGRAMMING SENTENCES: THE GOSPEL AND ITS WITNESS
A. No. Only those are saved who through true faith are grafted into Christ and accept all his benefits.^1^1 John 1:12; 3:36; Isa. 53:11, Ps. 2:11[-12]; Rom. 11:17, 19; Heb. 4:2; 10:39 21 Q. What is true faith? A. True faith is not only a sure knowledge by which I hold as true all that God has revealed to us in Scripture;^1 it is also a wholehearted trust,^2 which the Holy Spirit^3 creates in me by the gospel,^4 that God has freely granted not only to others but to me also, forgiveness of sins, eternal righteousness, and salvation.^5 These are gifts of sheer grace, granted solely by Christ’s merit.^6 ^1 Heb. 11:1, 3;James 2:19 ^2 Rom. 4:16[-25]; James 1:6; Rom. 5:1;Rom. 10[:9-10] ^3 2 Cor. 4[:6, 13];Eph. 2[:8, 18];Matt. 16:17;John 3:[5-]13;Gal. 5:22; Phil. 1:29 ^4 Rom. 1:16;10:17 ^5 Heb. 2[:9-11]; Rom. 1[:16];Heb. 10:38;Hab. 2:4;Matt. 9:2;Eph. 2:7-9;Rom. 5:1 ^6 Eph. 2[:8]; Rom. 3:24-25;Gal. 2:16 22 Q. What then must a Christian believe?
A. All that is promised us in the gospel,^1 a summary of which is taught us in the articles of our universal and undisputed Christian faith.
Lord’s Day 7 (Q/A 20-23)
“Diagramming Sentences: The Gospel and Its Witness”
Lord’s Day 8 (Q/A 24-25): 1 ACT, 3 SCENES
A. Into three parts: God the Father and our creation; God the Son and our deliverance; and God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification.25 Q. Since there is only one divine being,^1 why do you speak of three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
A. Because that is how God has revealed himself in his Word:^2 these three distinct persons are one, true, eternal God.^1 Deut. 6:4 ^2 Isa. 61:1; Ps. 110:1; Matt. 3:16-17; Matt. 28:19; 1 John 5:7[-8]
Lord’s Day 8 (Q/A 24-25)
“1 Act, 3 Scenes”Two lessons in marriage, parenting, and the dynamic of presence-absence. Andrew (my youngest son): Mom, can you buy me the new Pokemon cards? Grace (my wife): No, you already have a whole stack that you got on your birthday. (Andrew leaves saddened. Goes to next room where I am working) Andrew: My handsome, cool dad, how are you? Can you buy me the new Pokemon cards?
Lord's Day 9 (Q/A 26): THE PRODIGAL FATHER
LORD’S DAY 9 (Q/A 26) “The Prodigal Father”
Lord’s Day 10 (Q/A 27-28): GOD AT THE ALTAR, ALTERING US
27 Q. What do you understand by the providence of God?
A. The almighty and ever present power of God^1 by which God upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them^2 that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink,^3 health and sickness,^4 prosperity and poverty—^5 all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.
^1 Acts 17:25[-28] ^2 Heb.
Lord’s Day 11 (Q/A 29-30): THE AXIS MUNDI
29 Q. Why is the Son of God called “Jesus,” meaning “savior”?
A. Because he saves us from our sins,^1 and because salvation should not be sought and cannot be found in anyone else.^2
Lord’s Day 12 (Q/A 31-32): ELECTIONS
31 Q. Why is he called “Christ,” meaning “anointed”?
A. Because he has been ordained by God the Father and has been anointed with the Holy Spirit^1 to be our chief prophet and teacher^2 who fully reveals to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our deliverance;^3 our only high priest^4 who has delivered us by the one sacrifice of his body, and who continually pleads our cause with the Father;^5 and our eternal king who governs us by his Word and Spirit, and who guards us and keeps us in the freedom he has won for us.^6
Lord’s Day 13 (Q/A 33-34): BEING A CHILD
33 Q. Why is he called God’s “only begotten Son” when we also are God’s children?
A. Because Christ alone is the eternal, natural Son of God.^1 We, however, are adopted children of God— adopted by grace through Christ.^2
^1 John 1:29;Heb.
Lord's Day 14 (Q/A 35-36): NOT FAD, NOT COOL, BUT TRUE
35 Q. What does it mean that he “was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary”?
A. That the eternal Son of God, who is^1and remains true and eternal God,^2 took to himself, through the working of the Holy Spirit,^3 from the flesh and blood of the virgin Mary, a truly human nature^4 so that he might also become David’s true descendant,^5 like his brothers and sisters in every way^6 except for sin.^7
^1 John 1:1;17:5; Rom.
Lord's Day 15 (Q/A 37-39): ALL AGAINST ONE, ONE FOR ALL
37 Q. What do you understand by the word “suffered”?
A. That during his whole life on earth, but especially at the end, Christ sustained in body and soul the wrath of God against the sin of the whole human race.^1
This he did in order that, by his suffering as the only atoning sacrifice,^2 he might deliver us, body and soul, from eternal condemnation, and gain for us God’s grace, righteousness, and eternal life.
^1 1 Pet.
Lord's Day 16 (Q/A 40-44): TO HELL, IN HELL AND BACK
40 Q. Why did Christ have to suffer death?
A. Because God’s justice and truth require it: ^1 nothing else could pay for our sins except the death of the Son of God.^2
Lord's Day 17 (Q/A 45): DIVINE INTERVENTION
45 Q. How does Christ’s resurrection benefit us?
A. First, by his resurrection he has overcome death, so that he might make us share in the righteousness he obtained for us by his death.^1
Second, by his power we too are already raised to a new life.^2
Third, Christ’s resurrection is a sure pledge to us of our blessed resurrection.^3
^1 1 Cor.
Lord's Day 18 (Q/A 46-49): OUR LIFELINE
46 Q. What do you mean by saying, “He ascended to heaven”?
A. That Christ, while his disciples watched, was taken up from the earth into heaven^1 and remains there on our behalf^2 until he comes again to judge the living and the dead.^3
^1 Acts 1:9; Matt.
Lord's Day 19 (Q/A 50-52): SUPERLATIVE OF SUPERLATIVES
50 Q. Why the next words: “and is seated at the right hand of God”?
A. Because Christ ascended to heaven to show there that he is head of his church,^1 the one through whom the Father rules all things.^2
Lord's Day 20 (Q/A 53): HING, PIVOT, FULCRUM – ON THE HOLY SPIRIT
53 Q. What do you believe concerning “the Holy Spirit”?
A. First, that the Spirit, with the Father and the Son, is eternal God.^1
Second, that the Spirit is given also to me,^2 so that, through true faith, he makes me share in Christ and all his benefits,^3 comforts me,^4 and will remain with me forever.^5
Lord's Day 21 (Q/A 54-56): A DIVIDED COMMUNITY, A UNITED COMMUNITY
54 Q. What do you believe concerning “the holy catholic church”?
A. I believe that the Son of God^1 through his Spirit and Word,^2 out of the entire human race,^3 from the beginning of the world to its end,^4 gathers, protects, and preserves for himself,^5 a community chosen for eternal life^6 and united in true faith.^7 And of this community I am^8 and always will be^9 a living member.
^1 John 10:11 ^2 Isa.
Lord's Day 22 (Q/A 57 & 58): IN THE NOW AND WHAT WILL BE
57 Q. How does “the resurrection of the body comfort you?
A. Not only will my soul be taken immediately after this life to Christ its head,^1 but also my very flesh will be raised by the power of Christ, reunited with my soul, and made like Christ’s glorious body.^2
^1Luke 23:43; Phil.
Lord's Day 23 (Q/A 59-61): TRUE FREEDOM
59 Q. What good does it do you, however, to believe all this?
A. In Christ I am righteous before God and heir to life everlasting.^1
Lord's Day 24 (Q/A 62-64): THE ANTIDOTE FOR EGO, VITAMIN FOR THE HEART
62 Q. Why can’t our good works be our righteousness before God, or at least a part of our righteousness?
A. Because the righteousness which can pass God’s judgment must be entirely perfect and must in every way measure up to the divine law.^1 But even our best works in this life are imperfect and stained with sin.^2
Lord's Day 25 (Q/A 65-68): PROOFS, PLEDGES, PROMISE: DIVINE-HUMAN ENGAGEMENT
65 Q. It is through faith alone that we share in Christ and all his benefits: where then does that faith come from?
A. The Holy Spirit produces it in our hearts^1 by the preaching of the holy gospel, and confirms it by the use of the holy sacraments.^2