Lord’s Day 34 (Q/A 92-95): WHERE IS YOUR HEART?

92   Q.  What is God’s law?

A.   God spoke all these words:

THE FIRST COMMANDMENT

“I am the Lord your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt,
out of the house of slavery;
you shall have no other gods before me.”

THE SECOND COMMANDMENT

“You shall not make for yourself an idol,
whether in form of anything that is in heaven above,
or that is on the earth beneath,
or that is in the water under the earth.
You shall not bow down to them or worship them;
for I the Lord your God am a jealous God,
punishing children for the iniquity of parents,
to the third and fourth generation
of those who reject me,
but showing love to the thousandth generation of those
who love me and keep my commandments.”

THE THIRD COMMANDMENT

“You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God,
for the Lord will not acquit anyone
who misuses his name.”

THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT

“Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
Six days you shall labor and do all your work.
But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God;
you shall not do any work—
you, your son or your daughter,
your male or female slave,
your livestock,
or the alien resident in your towns.
For in six days the Lord made
the heaven and earth, the sea,
and all that is in them,
but rested the seventh day;
therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day
and consecrated it.”

THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT

“Honor your father and your mother,
so that your days may be long
in the land that the Lord your God is giving to you.”

THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT

“You shall not murder.”

THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT

“You shall not commit adultery.”

THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT

“You shall not steal.”

THE NINTH COMMANDMENT

“You shall not bear false witness
against your neighbor.”

THE TENTH COMMANDMENT

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house;
you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife,
or male or female slave,
or ox, or donkey,
or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”^1

^1 Exod. 20[:1-17]; Deut. 5[:6-21]

93   Q.  How are these commandments divided?

A.   Into two tables.^1
The first has four commandments,
teaching us how we ought to live in relation to God.
The second has six commandments,
teaching us what we owe our neighbor.^2

^1 Exod. 34:28; Deut. 4:13; 10:3-4
^2 Matt. 22:37-39

94   Q.  What does the Lord require
in the first commandment?

A.   That I, not wanting to endanger my own salvation,
avoid and shun
all idolatry,^1 sorcery, superstitious rites,^2
and prayer to saints or to other creatures.^3

That I rightly know the only true God,^4
trust him alone,^5
and look to God for every good thing^6
humbly^7 and patiently,^8
and love,^9 fear,^10 and honor^11 God
with all my heart.

In short,
that I give up anything
rather than go against God’s will in any way.^12

^1 1 Cor. 6:9-10;10:7,14
^2 Lev. 19:31; Deut. 18:11
^3 Matt. 4:10; Rev. 19:10; 22:[8]-9
^4 John 17:3
^5 Jer. 17:5
^6 Ps. 104: 27-30; Isa. 45:7; James 1:17
^7 1 Pet. 5:5-6
^8 Heb. 10:36; Col. 1:11; Rom. 5:3-4; 1 Cor. 10:10; Phil. 2:14
^9 Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37
^10 Deut. 6:2; Ps. 111:10; Prov. 1:7; 9:10; Matt. 10:28
^11 Matt. 4:10; Deut. 10:20
^12 Matt. 5:29-30; 10:37; Acts 5:29

95   Q.  What is idolatry?

A.   Idolatry is
having or inventing something in which one trusts
in place of or alongside of the only true God,
who has revealed himself in the Word.^1

^1 Eph. 5:5; 1 Chron. 16:26; Phil. 3:19; Gal. 4:8; Eph. 2:12; 1 John 2:23; 2 John 9; John 5:23


 

LORD’S DAY 34 (Q/A 92-95)
“Where is your heart?”

The ancient church prepared catechumens (candidates for baptism) by traditioning them (yes, the verb of “tradition”). From the Latin “traditio” meaning to pass on or pass to, traditioning exhibited dynamic, living faith. The opposite is traditionalism – stagnant, unreflective state of being and doing for the sake of itself.

Traditioning involved the elements of belonging, behavior, belief. (see Alan Kreider’s The Change of Conversion and the Origin of Christendom).  The sequencing of those elements showed the theological emphasis of a particular community. Those who placed belief first placed doctrinal apprehension as a primary criteria for whether you belonged. Placing belonging first expressed to baptismal candidates that they already belonged to the community, and that the process of preparation was a way to learn doctrine and live it out in your life (behavior).

In any case, whatever sequence there was, there was overlapping of each and all. One can never carefully delineate when one has moved from one stage to the next. Is behavior learned as baptismal candidates observe worship, participate in it, and serve alongside community members in mission? And/or does theological discourse and learning shape behavior and critique behavior.

What framed the traditioning process was the so-called “rule of faith” (Latin regula fidei). The rule of faith, like the measuring rod of a ruler, provided the basic foundation for what is traditioned. The rule of faith was composed of:

-The Apostles’ Creed

-The Ten Commandments

-The Lord’s Prayer

Each of these were to be memorized. The community took care to teach the meaning of these articles of the faith. Culminating on Holy Saturday at the Great Prayer Vigil of Easter, regarded as the holiest day in the liturgical calendar, baptismal candidates would “return” (Latin redditio) the faith by reciting the Apostles’ Creed, essentially giving back what they had received.

The Apostles’ Creed as we’ve seen in prior sections of the Catechism is a summary of the Gospel. The Creed is about the triune God, it’s a very brief biography of what the triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – has revealed and given to us as attested to by the Scriptures. The Gospel is the Good News that the triune God has self-given and self-revealed as the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit.

The Lord’s Prayer is love language – we are apprenticed to pray with the Lord Jesus Christ, who Himself continually joins with us and who intercedes for us, “Our Father…”

The Lord’s Prayer, too, is Gospel. Jesus Christ teaches His disciples to commune with the heavenly Father, with words that He Himself prays. The Lord’s Prayer brings us into the community of the triune God.

The Ten Commandments express the ethics of the kingdom, the way of being in the family of God and in the community of believers. The Ten Commandments show what matters, both in the positive and negative aspects. In living out both the prescriptions and proscriptions of the Ten Commandments, we express the new life we have been given in Christ. Note that the Ten Commandments are in the section on gratitude in the Catechism. In some worship liturgies in the Reformed traditions, the gathered worshipping assembly recites the Ten Commandments as a means to be drawn to the realization that we are  unable and unwilling to follow the Ten Commandments, that we break them all the time, leading the gathered people to a time of prayer of confession, receiving the assurance that in Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection we have been forgiven and set free to love and serve. In these instances, the Ten Commandments act as a “tutor” or “schoolmaster” (Galatians 3:24), showing our inability to follow God’s desires and God’s will, and needing Christ to set us free to live and to love.

But the Ten Commandments are also the Good News, but put into statutes and ordinances, at first glance, appearing as legislative language.  I can hear my parents and grandparents say adamantly in my youthful days of being hard-headed and stubborn, “I’m telling you because I love you.”

That’s what the Ten Commandments are – they are God’s words as Q/A 92 says.

Q/A 93 speaks of the double commandments of loving God and loving neighbor, the so-called vertical and horizontal relationships; to love God necessarily means one must love neighbor, and loving neighbor is an expression of loving God. Q/A 94 and 95 says what it’s all about – it’s about regarding God above all else; note, it’s not putting God first, as if God were some primus inter pares (first among equals), or at the top of the list, or first-seed.  God is par excellence, there is no one and nothing else but God and God alone. God has the preeminent place…or at least God ought to.

This means in every aspect and facet of our lives, in every part of our decision-making, our relationships…on the micro- and macro- levels.

The Ten Commandments are the Good News in that they come from the very heart of God. The Ten Commandments are direct expressions of God’s own character: God’s truthfulness, trustworthiness, passionate love for us and the world, seeking wholeness in our relating to God and to one another where far too often they are fraught with brokenness, hurt and woundedness.

God spoke them to and through ancient prophets and communities. That almighty God would care to speak to us, would impart His heart, His desire to us…that’s the self-revealing and self-giving of God.

No wonder, then, that the biggest chapter in the Scriptures is Psalm 119 – the sung poetry of 176 verses praising the Lord God Almighty for His statutes, ordinances, testimonies, commandments and law.

As we are traditioned and traditioning, offer and receive the Ten Commandments.

In it, receive God’s own heart as the Holy Spirit causes the Commandments to metabolize into your heart and soul, and where your life pulsates after the very heart of God.

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