This past Sunday marked the beginning of a New Year. 2015. The year in which Marty McFly arrived in the 1989 movie “Back to the Future II”. Hovering skateboards, clothes that dry themselves and the Cubs winning the World Series. Cool huh?
There are always a lot of new things starting up in the New Year. Calendars, class schedules, resolutions.… gym memberships. One of the “new” things starting up in 2015 at Bluff Park Community Church is actually a very “old” thing. Throughout this past year, we have been going through the “New City Catechism” during our time of gathered worship on Sunday evenings. This is a newer catechism written in partnership by The Gospel Coalition and Tim Keller. It is a teaching tool by the church, for the church. And our church has benefitted greatly over this past year from the Biblical truth summarized within this particular catechism’s 52 questions and answers.
The history of the church is actually full of these catechisms and creeds, many of which are full of deep, rich, beautiful truth. Because of this, they are of great value to the church today and should be picked up, dusted off and reclaimed.
With this in mind, we as a church are starting 2015 by going back to 1563, the year the Heidelberg Catechism was officially published, again, “by the church, for the church”. Throughout this year we will use the Heidelberg Catechism as our “Public Confession of Faith” during gathered worship.
This will likely be a strange practice (especially within a non-denominational church!) for many coming from the present-day practice of Evangelical Christianity. But historically the usage of these catechisms and creeds have been a normative and helpful part of the training of disciples within the church.
Pastor and Gospel Coalition author Kevin DeYoung has written a great devotional resource on the Heidelberg Catechism entitled “The Good News We Almost Forgot: Rediscovering the Gospel in a 16th Century Catechism”. The following is a helpful excerpt written by Kevin from the book’s introduction.
No doubt, the church in the West has many new things to learn. But for the most part, everything we need to learn is what we’ve already forgotten. The chief theological task now facing the Western church is not to reinvent or to be relevant but to remember. We must remember the old, old story. We must remember the faith once delivered to the saints. We must remember the truths that spark reformation, revival, and regeneration.
And because we want to remember all this, we must also remember – if we are fortunate enough to have ever heard of them in the first place – our creeds, confessions and catechisms.
Your reaction to that last sentence probably falls in one of three categories. Some people, especially the young, believe it or not, will think, “Cool. Ancient faith. I’m into creeds and confessions.” Others will think, “Wait a minute, don’t Catholics have catechisms? I have no creed but the Bible, thank you very much.” And yet others – the hardest soil of all – want nothing more than to be done with all this catechism business. “Been there, done that. Bor-ing. I’ve seen people who knew their creeds backwards and forward and didn’t make them missional, passionate, or even very nice.”
To all three groups I simply say, “Come and see.” Come and see what vintage faith is really about. Come and see if the cool breeze from centuries gone by can awaken your lumbering faith. Whether you’ve grown up with confessions and catechisms or they sound like something from another spiritual planet, I say, “Come and see.” Come and see Christ in the unlikeliest of places – in a manger, in Nazareth, or even in Heidelberg.