Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?
A. That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who with his precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, wherefore by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him.
Heidelberg Catechism, Q/A 1 (c. AD 1559)
I’ve probably written elsewhere on this blog that I believe this question and answer to the Heidelberg Catechism to be one of the finest pieces of creedal writing I have read. It’s perfection may be found in its precision and beauty of word choice, but also it’s comprehensiveness. In a single question and answer, one paragraph, almost the entirety of the Christian experience is summarized. Quite simply put: I am God’s.
I often turn to this section of the Catechism in times of trial and suffering. It came to mind again last night when I took the call that informed me of the death of my Grandmother. She was having what would have been a fairly routine surgery for someone like me, but at 90 years of age and with heart-issues she didn’t survive the surgery. Going into the procedure, I feared that this would be the case. But it’s reality as a possibility really only occurred to me fully when I actually got the call. With her death an entire generation of our family has come to an end. It’s a startling realization.
Yet, there is comfort in the truth of Scripture encapsulated so beautifully in the words of the Catechism: in life and in death we are, soul and body, God’s.
Some ministers look on Creeds and Catechisms as a bother, an archive of what the Church used to believe. I emphatically do not adhere to that view. I find the Confessions of our Church (all of them) to reliable guides to what the Scripture reveals to us of God, of ourselves, and of the world into which we have been brought. The Confessions are the foundation, subject to the Scriptures, of the church and that we have for so long marginalized and ignored them is at least part of the reason that we are, in R R Reno’s words, a diminished choice.
Never let anyone tell you that Creeds, Confessions, and Catechisms get in the way of ministry. Nothing could be further from the truth–they are bedrock or better yet, the rich soil from which true ministry is nourished.