What is your only comfort in life and in death?
That I belong, both body and soul and in life and in death, not to myself, but to my faithful savior Jesus Christ, who has totally paid for all my sins with his precious blood and completely liberated me from the power of the devil, and who takes care of me so well that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven. In fact, everything must work together for my salvation. Besides this, by his Holy Spirit he also assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready to live for him from now on.
This beautiful statement is the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism. It is always something I share with confirmands in one of their first confirmation classes, and so I’m reflecting on it once again.
Because the Heidelberg Catechism is the foundational document of the German Reformed movement, it is an important touchstone for me to introduce. It was completed in 1563, and is second only to the Bible itself in its influence in our history. For countless generations, it was the confirmation curriculum for German Reformed protestants.
Today, the Heidelberg Catechism is seen largely as a historical document in the United Church of Christ. I’m sure there are many people who have grown up in First UCC who are not familiar with the catechism. This is largely because we are a “United and Uniting” denomination that has been working diligently toward bringing Christians together by focusing on our common ground.
Before the UCC, the German Reformed and German Evangelical churches were brought together in a merged denomination called the Evangelical and Reformed Church in 1934. The Reformed favored the Heidelberg Catechism, while the Evangelical were just as heavily influenced by the Evangelical Catechism. Because of this merger, and even more so after the larger merger that created the United Church of Christ, the Heidelberg Catechism became less central in our Christian Formation.
Question 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism is so perfectly representative of our denomination’s historic theology, I am passionate about resurrecting its influence in our congregation.