As we approach Reformation Day on October 31, it’s fitting for us to pause again and reflect on our spiritual heritage. As a Christian Reformed church, 12th Avenue Church has roots in the 16th century Reformation that officially began with Martin Luther’s nailing of the 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Church door on All Hallows Eve of 1517. As a church from the Reformed tradition, the CRC embraced the Three Forms of Unity that unite Reformed churches around the world. Besides the Belgic Confession and the Canons of Dort, our most beloved articulation of our faith is the Heidelberg Catechism.
Those of you that are older remember mid-week catechism classes where you were asked to memorize significant portions of the Heidelberg Catechism. Your profession of faith before the elders largely involved your ability to recite this confession from your heart. My father-in-law told me that during his profession of faith interview, the elders purposely tried to stump him!
Those of you that are younger have had a different experience with the catechism. You may have been asked to memorize portions of it, but the emphasis today is more on applying the facts of our faith to our daily lives. When it was my turn to go through catechism class, I approached the Heidelberg Catechism from a somewhat unique perspective. Growing up in Ann Arbor, there were no CSI schools in town, so many of us CRC kids attended St. Paul’s Lutheran School. I actually learned Martin Luther’s Small Catechism before I learned the Heidelberg Catechism. We CRC kids even sat in on the St. Paul’s members’ confirmation class held right in our 8th grade classroom. When I started 9th grade catechism, I was very curious to find out the similarities and differences between the catechisms of Luther and Heidelberg. I found the similarities and differences to be fascinating. I didn’t approach the catechism as a boring book that was irrelevant to my life as many teens do. My appreciation for the Heidelberg Catechism has only grown since I’ve become an adult. The catechism gives us such a helpful summary of basic Christian beliefs and presents them in such a personal way.
I’m excited about the fact that people are becoming more interested in the Heidelberg Catechism in the 21st century. Cutting edge pastors have shared how the catechism’s format and content have proven very engaging to postmodern young adults. The catechism has even been translated into major world languages like Spanish, Russian, and Hindi. Right now Back to God Ministries has volunteers who are working on an Arabic translation so that the Muslim world can be exposed to the tremendous truths of our confession!
I am looking forward to preaching the Heidelberg Catechism at 12th Avenue Church throughout the fall, Advent, and new year. In my opening sermon of the series, I shared with you a helpful resource on the catechism that I’m using: Kevin DeYoung’s The Good News We Almost Forgot. I wholeheartedly agree with Kevin’s assessment of the catechism: “The Catechism can help show you the main attractions others have discovered in the Bible and lead you to the best, most important truths of our faith. As the saying goes…, you can see farther when standing on the shoulders of giants. And the Heidelberg Catechism is a giant of mind-sharpening, Christ-worshiping, soul-inspiring devotion. Stand on its shoulders and see more of Christ who saves us from our guilt by His grace and makes us, through His Spirit, wholeheartedly willing and ready to live for Him.”
May the Lord bless us richly as we mine the Heidelberg Catechism’s treasures together.