When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God.”
Those Lutherans are on to something. God really does seem to come at this on the front end with some works and law, and then does the covenant switcheroo.
See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.
Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.
So begins the Heidelberg Catechism, a 16th-century document written under extraordinary circumstances. Long story short, after the counter Reformation, different “princes” over different regions were allowed to declare what “denomination” their region would be. The problem for Frederick III? His region was split pretty evenly between Lutherans and Calvinists. And so, he brought together some people from different traditions, and had them write a document they all agreed upon. The Heidelberg was born.
This document is one of the main doctrinal statements of my denomination, the Reformed Church in America (RCA), and my church. I’ve read little bits and pieces of it in the past, but I recently sat down and read the whole thing. And I was pretty surprised.
[Today’s guest post is written by one of my dearest friends and biggest theological influences, Austin Ricketts (pictured above). I’m trying to talk him into letting me post more of his stuff here. We’ll see. I hope you enjoy what he has on tap for us today.]
“Yet even now,” declares the LORD,
“Return to Me with all your heart,
And with fasting, weeping and mourning;
And rend your heart and not your garments.”
Now return to the LORD your God,
For He is gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness
And relenting of evil.
For many (probably most) Protestants in America, Ash Wednesday is just a silly Catholic ritual. I would rather not start a debate about the historical fact that, without the silly Catholic ritual of the Eucharist or the silly Catholic ritual of Baptism, Protestants would not have the Bible that they have, nor the orthodox doctrines of the Trinity and Christ.