In praise of catechisms and liturgy…

This year at church we’re hoping to work through Kevin DeYoung’s “The Good News We Almost Forgot” with our students. It’s basically an accessible commentary on the Heidelberg catechism. Coming from a church background that never used catechisms, I didn’t really know what to expect…

Check this out, the first question and answer of the Heidelberg catechism:

1.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 Saviour 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 with Him.

…honestly? I was somewhat blown away when I read this. Why doesn’t my church ‘do’ catechisms? Why don’t I ‘do’ catechisms? I hadn’t realised what I was missing…

I was similarly staggered when, going to the traditional 8am Communion Service at church yesterday, I heard the liturgy for the first time since I became a Christian (10 years ago…). I’m sure I’ve recited the creed a couple of times, and prayed the ‘prayer of humble access’, but going to a whole service of spoken Biblical truth was a really special experience. It was particularly conspicuous for me that I left feeling like I’d ‘met with God’ and ‘received from’ Him – all the jargon terms we (closet and not-so-closet) charismatics tend to use to describe the effect of sung worship – and we hadn’t sung one hymn. I’m not advocating scrapping singing, or instituting loads of liturgy in every service – I muttered my way through plenty of liturgy before I became a Christian without ever really believing it, and it definitely has the potential to reinforce sterile ritualism. But I do think it would be awesome if evangelicals put more effort into reclaiming some of the clear, beautiful statements of the gospel that we have in the liturgy.

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