45   Q.   How does Christ’s resurrection
benefit us?

A.    First, by his resurrection he has overcome death,
so that he might make us share in the righteousness
he obtained for us by his death.^1

Second, by his power we too
are already raised to a new life.^2

Third, Christ’s resurrection
is a sure pledge to us of our blessed resurrection.^3

^1 1 Cor. 15:17, 54-55; Rom. 4:25; 1 Pet. 1:3, 21
^2Rom. 6:4; Col. 3:1-5; Eph. 2:5
^3 1 Cor. 15:12; Rom. 8:11

LORD’S DAY 17 (Q/A 45)
“Divine Intervention

Episcopalian priest, Fleming Rutledge, described Christ’s resurrection that first Easter morning as:

Jesus’ rising was the undoing of death.  Jesus ruined death’s plans, and interrupted it with the freshness of life, a loud interruption that pronounced the end to sin’s long hold upon God’s people.  He, in effect, looked at sin and death in between the eyes, grabbed held of its fangs of fatality, and squashed them to pieces and said, “No more.”

German theologian Jürgen Moltmann observed that:

[t]he Easter faith recognizes that the raising of the crucified Christ from the dead provides the great alternative to this world of death. This faith sees the raising of Christ as God’s protest against death, and against all the people who for death.” Therefore “Easter is a feast, and it is as the feat of freedom that it is celebrated. For with Easter begins the laughter of the redeemed, the dance of the liberated and the creative play of fantasy. …Easter is at one and the same time God’s protest against  death, and the feast of freedom from death…Resistance is the protest of those who hope, and hope is the feast of the people who resist.

These days in our country, news headlines have been about the government shutdown and the looming debt ceiling deadline. At a recent gathering of the Cincinnati Presbytery, we prayed for reconciliation in the midst of intractableness and intransigence in Washington D.C. The power, possibilities, and promise unleashed with the stone being rolled away on that first Easter morning enables what seems impossible to become possible and become reality – even hardened hearts and stubborn wills.

Sharing in Christ’s righteousness. Raised to new life. Our blessed resurrection.

These are the benefits, the outcomes, the results.

By Christ’s death. By Christ’s resurrection. By his power.

These are the works of Jesus Christ – what He alone has done and what He alone is able to do.

For us, the recipients/beneficiaries, it’s a covenant of grace. It’s all gift for us.

For Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior, Son of God – it’s a covenant of works. For Him, it’s work, it’s carrying out the desire of the triune God for the world to be reconciled, to be redeemed, to be loved when we won’t love one another, love God, or love ourselves.

The third paragraph of Q/A 45 described Christ’s resurrection as a “sure pledge.”  If we needed any more guarantee or promise of God being with us and for us…Christ’s rising from the grave is that pledge.

Wherever and whenever we experience despair, hopelessness, injustice, war and rumors of war, grief, anger, division, brokenness, the pervasive and pernicious effects of sin, violence, lies, apathy, indifference, temptation, and all the shadows of death – and even death itself – the risen Christ stands as the steadfast companion.

Many baptismal fonts around the world, and many church sanctuaries are built in the shape of an octagon. This ancient form expressed the belief that the first Easter morning was both the first day and the eighth day of the week; that just as creation was the first day of the week, Christ’s rising was the eighth day, ushering a new creation.  In descending into the baptismal waters, the Spirit of Christ joins us to His death; in ascending from the baptismal waters, the Spirit of Christ joins us to His rising. The baptismal waters are both tomb and womb.

As baptized ones, as the baptized community, we testify of the new creation emerging, giving evidence of it when we prostrate in prayer, when we sing praise to God, when we gather for worship, when we light a candle and open the Scriptures, when we teach a child the ways of Jesus, when we pick up the placard and join others in protesting racism, when we cry and weep with mourners, when we engage in the heavy-lifting of peacemaking and reconciliation, when we confess and repent.

And we do so, and are enabled to do so, because the power of God raised Jesus the Christ from the dead.

Lord’s Day 16 (Q/A 40-44): TO HELL, IN HELL AND BACK

40   Q.   Why did Christ have to suffer death?

A.    Because God’s justice and truth require it: ^1
nothing else could pay for our sins
except the death of the Son of God.^2

^1 Gen. 2:17
^2 Heb. 2:9,15; Phil. 2:8

41   Q.   Why was he “buried”?

A.    His burial testifies
that he really died.^1

^1 Acts 13:29; Matt. 27:60;Luke 23:50[-53]; John 19:38[-42]

42   Q.   Since Christ has died for us,
               why do we still have to die?

A.    Our death does not pay the debt of our sins.
Rather, it puts an end to our sinning
and is our entrance into eternal life.^1

^1 John 5:24; Phil. 1:23; Rom. 7:24 [21-25]

43   Q.   What further benefit do we receive
                from Christ’s sacrifice and death on the cross?

A.    By Christ’s power
our old selves are crucified, put to death, and buried with him,^1
so that the evil desires of the flesh
may no longer rule us,^2
but that instead we may offer ourselves
as a sacrifice of gratitude to him.^3

^1 Rom. 6:6-8, 11-12;Col. 2[:11-12]
^2 Rom. 6:12
^3 Rom. 12:1


44   Q.   Why does the creed add,
                “He descended to hell”?

A.    To assure me during attacks of deepest dread and temptation
that Christ my Lord,
by suffering unspeakable anguish, pain, and terror of soul,
on the cross but also earlier,
has delivered me from hellish anguish and torment.^1

^1 Isa.53:10; Matt. 27:46



LORD’S DAY 16 (Q/A 40-44)
To Hell, In Hell, and Back”

The cartoon robot character, Buzz Lightyear, in the movie, The Toy Story, pretends to fly “to infinity and beyond.”

There’s no pretending when we are confronted with real pain and struggle – of the physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, congregational, organizational, communal, national – sometimes those  pains and struggles seem like “to infinity and beyond.”  The deep and pervasive effects of sin, violence, war, illness…even death itself, or even sojourning through the valleys of the shadows of death, have a quality to it that obscures light, life and joy.

Christian Wiman, in his recent pastoral-poetic-prophetic memoir and reflection, My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer, as he invites us to walk with him in and through the struggle of a living hell – a cancer that leaves him to prepare for a needed bone marrow transplant, which chemotherapy has rendered his body enervated, emaciated. His is a serious, thoughtful, no-holds barred wrestling with God, the bright abyss, where he and we are brought to the very precipice of faith, looking down and ahead and seeing nothing, wondering if there is anyone or anything ahead and below.

Wiman says this about Christianity:

I’m a Christian not because of the resurrection (I wrestle with this), and not
because I think Christianity contains more truth than other religions (I think
God reveals himself, or herself, in many forms, some not religious), and not
simply because it was the religion in which I was raised (this has been a
high barrier). I am a Christian because of that moment on the cross when
Jesus, drinking the very dregs of human bitterness, cries out, My God, my
God, why hast thou forsaken me?.  .  . I’m suggesting that Christ’s suffering
shatters the iron walls around human suffering, that Christ’s compassion
makes extreme human compassion—to the point of death, even—possible.
Human love can reach right into death, then, but not if it is merely human
love. (p.155, emphasis not mine)

His confession is similar to that of Simone Weil or Dietrich Bonhoeffer, or even the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk (my favorite prophet, who I characterize as Job minus the three meddling friends), who find comfort and consolation in the God who knows us, who desires and who, in fact, to be in our life, to be in our places, to be in our hellish moments.

Q/A 40 through 44 are powerful assertions of what God does with our Good Fridays. God as Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit doesn’t run away from our sin, doesn’t discard us, doesn’t flee from us, but comes toward us and becomes as one of us. Jesus Christ comes as one of us, and to have his existence with us as full and authentic, Jesus experiences our hell, becomes one with us in the hell of this world, feeling it, carrying it in his heart and soul, receiving the effects of it…and the ultimate consequence of it: death itself. The Son of God going to the depth and darkness of death itself, the Creed and the ancient ecumenical Church saw this as so critical to assert that Christ really, truly, fully died. “He descended into hell” re-iterates His death. He experienced death, the pain that accompanied it, and the anguish that embraced His heart and His soul.

Recall that this Catechism began in Q/A 1 to reassure us as followers of Jesus Christ that our comfort in life and in death, in body and in soul, is that we belong to our faithful Savior and Lord.  Q/A 40 through 44 drives home that point. In every single moment, in our waking and in our sleeping, in our living days and in our mini-deaths, and even when death knocks on the doorsteps of our homes, we are not alone.  In the deepest and darkest despair of the hellish moments and torments of our individual and corporate lives, the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is not an abstraction; He is not a theory, an idea, a philosophy, or a stand-offish Sovereign.  Here we have hanging on Calvary’s cross is the Son of God – God in flesh and blood – who takes on hell, who lives in our hell, who knows it inside and out – but who in the end is not consumed by it, not vanquished by it, but who, as Fleming Rutledge says, looked at the “fangs of death” and rendered it powerless.  And because of Him, we are not left alone, and we are finally rescued from it all.

Lord’s Day 15 (Q/A 37-39): ALL AGAINST ONE, ONE FOR ALL

37   Q.   What do you understand
by the word “suffered”?

A.    That during his whole life on earth,
but especially at the end,
Christ sustained
in body and soul
the wrath of God against the sin of the whole human race.^1

This he did in order that,
by his suffering as the only atoning sacrifice,^2
he might deliver us, body and soul,
from eternal condemnation,
and gain for us
God’s grace,
and eternal life.

^1 1 Pet. 2:24;3:18;Isa. 53:12
^2 1 John 2:2; 4:10;Rom. 3:25

38   Q.   Why did he suffer
“under Pontius Pilate” as judge?

A.    So that he,
though innocent,
might be condemned by an earthly judge,^1
and so free us from the severe judgment of God
that was to fall on us.^2

^1 Luke 23:14; John 19:4
^2 Ps. 69:5;Isa. 53; 2 Cor. 5:21;Gal. 3:13

39   Q.   Is it significant that he was “crucified”
instead of dying some other way?

A.    Yes.
By this I am convinced
that he shouldered the curse
which lay on me,^1
since death by crucifixion was cursed by God.^2

^1 Gal. 3[:10]
^2 Deut. 21:[23];Gal. 3:13


LORD’S DAY (Q/A 37-39)
“All Against One, One for All”

We were at a Little League baseball game the other day. One of our batters was up. He struck out and the kid announcer mistakenly asked over the loud speaker why the batter didn’t hit a perfectly good pitch, shaming the batter in the process and silencing his own parents who were equally surprised at that remark. The announcer’s father, who is a friend of ours and who was seated next to us, darted up to the announcer’s booth, where the opposing team’s coach beat him upstairs demanding that only one person was allowed in the announcer’s booth. The announcer’s twin brother wasn’t supposed to be there so he was dismissed from the booth, leaving the offending announcer up there to remain. The twin brother couldn’t understand why he was dismissed when it was his brother who made the offending remark.

Baseball, like so many sports, relies on taking a fall for the good of the team. Bunting a ball to be struck out at first base so that the man on second base can make it to third. Offensive linemen taking the deadly tackles and hits to prevent the football quarterback from being sacked.

God becoming human as Jesus Christ is not a sport, but what Christ does in becoming human is for the good of the “team,” i.e. the fallen creation which would prefer living free from God, rather than living freely in God.

Craig Barnes insightfully points to our crippling guilt that causes us to wander from place to place, school to school, career to career, seeking never to be anchored to any particular communities or commitments, but moving endlessly. Such movements are symptomatic of restless hearts – restless for home. And part of being restless is that we are alienated from others, alienated from ourselves, and alienated from God. To be free from God, or to seek to be free from God, we find that we are never really free. We are shackled to our own desires, to our own wants, giving in to our wandering lusts, given over to our own will and ways. We are cursed because we choose violence over peace, hate over love. We break the heart of God because we were not created to live in the way we do. Given the right conditions, the exhibitionist violence we read about in war-torn Syria or the terrorists that took hostages and killed several people in a Nairobi, Kenya shopping mall recently can erupt from the heart of a mild-mannered suburbanite. The Scriptures are right and true, “No one is righteous, no not one.”

God enters our human condition. We are cursed because we continually choose sin’s will and ways.  Let’s say the “W” word. Wrath. When we as human beings are hell-bent on breaking God’s heart, notwithstanding the occasional acts and thoughts of good, God is indignant. Angry. We see glimpses of this as parents who become heart-broken when their children make bad choices. It’s an anger that comes from love, because as parents we know that our children are capable with so much more.

Multiply the sin acts, sin choices, sin motives, sin thoughts of the heart – multiply it 1000 times, or even 8 billion times, 365 days a year. This is not merely the faraway murders of Latin American drug cartels, or the senseless kidnappings in the southern part of the Philippines, or the human trafficking that occurs in this country. This is every act, every thought, every will of every human being. James 2:10 reminds us that that breaking one part of the law means we break all the parts of the law, and are held accountable for all of it.

God enters that situation. God as our Creator knows what we were created to be.

What we see at the judgment seat of Pontius Pilate and at the scene of the crucifixion are the breaking of all Ten Commandments, again and again. In that snapshot moment, as the Son of God subjects himself to the earthly judge and jury of Pilate and all the human spectators who aid and abet the death of Jesus Christ, is what every human being does towards God, again and again. We subject God to ourselves, as we subject each other to each other, as we subject ourselves to ourselves. The crucifixion is a microcosm of what is repeated from the Garden of Eden to our time, on a small or large scale. We inflict our alienation to be further alienated from God’s own Son. Jesus received that judgment, to take up the whole of humanity’s alienation and curse.

This is no sports game, by any means. God doesn’t play around. Jesus Christ, God’s only natural son, is the beloved One of the Father. To take up humanity in Himself, and condemned to die on a tree and thereby cursed (Deuteronomy 21:23), Jesus Christ is “at one” (atone) with humanity and “at one” with God, being God’s natural Son.

Jesus Christ is truly and really in solidarity with us, and being God’s Son and God’s anointed Savior, is for us. With us. For us.

Jesus Christ is the intention of God.

The wrath of God, unlike human wrath and unlike human anger, is not reckless, is not meaningless.  The wrath of God is connected to the love of God. God’s love is directed to taking an alienated and broken world, to reconcile and heal it, to anchor it to the heart and life of God.

Even as all were and are against God, in Jesus Christ the chosen One, the One has become for us all.

Lord’s Day 11 (Q/A 29-30): THE AXIS MUNDI

29   Q.    Why is the Son of God called “Jesus,”
                meaning “savior”?

A.    Because he saves us from our sins,^1
and because salvation should not be sought
and cannot be found in anyone else.^2

^1 Matt. 1:21; Heb. 7:25
^2 Acts 4:12


30   Q.    Do those who look for
                their salvation in saints,
                in themselves, or elsewhere
                really believe in the only savior Jesus?

A.    No.
Although they boast of being his,
by their actions they deny
the only savior, Jesus.^1

Either Jesus is not a perfect savior,
or those who in true faith accept this savior
have in him all they need for their salvation.^2

^1 1 Cor. 1:13, 31;Gal. 3[:1-4]Gal. 5:4
^2 Heb. 12:2; Isa. 9:6; Col. 1:19-20; 2:10; John 1:16


Lord’s Day 11 (Q/A 29-30)
The Axis Mundi

After traveling in unfamiliar places and as a way to become re-acquainted to home and to our time zone, our family (or even just me when I return home) goes for comfort food, which for us is soup, and then we get into our pajamas and veg in our living room.  These experiences and sources center us back.

In the 155,000 miles I have traveled thus far as General Assembly Moderator, I carry in my travel bag homemade art and photos from my sons as a continual means to center me back to home.

Then in the adjacent compartment pouch in my luggage is a pocket Bible and a Book of Common Worship: Daily Prayer.  These are the sources that center me upon the One who is our Center.

The 20th century historian of religion, the late Mircea Eliade, said that every religious culture has a symbol, a narrative, a myth that is the “axis mundi” or the cosmic axis, believed to be from which the center of universe emanates, the fulcrum or hinge.  From that “axis mundi” meaning and significance flows, explanatory power of existence flow.

Q/A 29-30 asserts for us what we confess as followers of Jesus Christ.  Jesus, the Son of God, the only Savior, is the “axis mundi.” In fact, He’s not only the Center; He is the Circumference, the Perimeter, and everything in-between. In other words, in Him we live, and move, and have our being.  From Him, our life flows. In Him, our life is nourished. Through Him, our life is anchored to the heart and life of God. By Him, our life is directed towards the broken and hurting world which He gave His life to save, reconcile, and heal.

While Q/A 29 confesses the unique, exclusive, and distinct person and identity of Jesus as the Savior and the Son of God, and, therefore, the only “axis mundi” from which all of life, meaning – in heaven and on earth – originate and find their meaning; Q/A 30 alerts us against attempts, strategies, ways and means in which we as human beings create other “axes mundi,” whether in the form of wood or metal, or in our own image – all the many ways that we (un)intentionally seek to live our lives away from the One who is the “axis mundi.”  To do so would be like placing our automobiles on another axes, spinning in other directions, rather than a life directed by Jesus – the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

No amount of technological savviness, political connections, material or physical resources, personal charisma, education, family…not even our best and sincere intentions can save and redeem our hearts, souls, and lives. In the final, no one and nothing can save and redeem.  Otherwise, in the words of A.30, “Either Jesus is not a perfect savior, or those who in true faith accept this savior have in him all they need for their salvation.”

As I pen this reflection, I’m coming off of a long week of a funeral, a wedding, and a baptism. With each of these momentous events, I have carried with me in prayer for

-the death of an uncle in the Philippines
-my buddy’s niece who is a preemie needing surgery
-a deacon in my congregation desperately needing a liver transplant
-the gang rape of a photojournalist in Mumbai, India
-a chemical weapon attack in Syria and over 1 million children who are now refugees from Syria
-the senseless murder of a World War II veteran in Spokane, WA in the hands of two teenagers
-the violence and kidnappings that have terrorized the Presbyterian Church of Colombia
-burning of churches, shops, and terrorizing of Egyptian Christians by radical Islamists
-the seepage of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean from the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan

And so much more. . .much, much more.

To which I can only bow my head, and clasp my hands:

Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison. Kyrie eleison.
Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

Jesus, Son of God, Savior – is the “axis mundi” of all of us, and of this world.

Lord’s Day 10 (Q/A 27-28): GOD AT THE ALTAR, ALTERING US

27   Q.   What do you understand
               by the providence of God?

A.    The almighty and ever present power of God^1
by which God upholds, as with his hand,
and earth
and all creatures,
and so rules them^2 that
leaf and blade,
rain and drought,
fruitful and lean years,
food and drink,^3
health and sickness,^4
prosperity and poverty—^5
all things, in fact,
come to us
not by chance
but by his fatherly hand.

^1 Acts 17:25[-28]
^2 Heb. 1:3
^3 Jer. 5:24; Acts 14:17
^4 John 9:3
^5 Prov. 22:2


28   Q.   How does the knowledge
               of God’s creation and providence help us?

A.    We can be patient when things go against us,^1
thankful when things go well,^2
and for the future we can have
good confidence in our faithful God and Father^3
that nothing in creation will separate us from his love.^4
For all creatures are so completely in God’s hand
that without his will
they can neither move nor be moved.^5

^1 Rom. 5:3; James 1:3;Job 1:21
^2 Deut. 8:10; 1 Thess. 5:18
^3 Rom. 5:5-6
^4 Rom. 8:38-39
^5 Job 1:12; 2:6; Acts 17:28;Prov. 21:1




Lord’s Day 10 (Q/A 27-28)

“God at the Altar, Altering Us”


As I write this reflection, I am preparing to officiate my eighth wedding since being ordained as a pastor.  From the premarital counseling to the actual wedding day, each wedding recalls for me the glorious day that Grace and I came to the wedding altar 11 years ago, before 150 of our family and friends, and exchanged our vows. Each day since then is about becoming married, living out our promises in the daily joys and grind of working, parenting, traveling, making doctor’s appointments.  Our wedding ceremony included a celebration of the Eucharist and a call to the baptized community to remember their belongingness to the family of God, and the God who gave His Son Jesus Christ for us, whose active decision to be for us is embodied at the bread and the cup, as is with the Scriptural image of the wedding feast and Christ as the bridegroom and the Church as His bride.  In each and every ritual act that we observed, we wanted to share with the gathered assembly at our wedding and to anchor our married life to the triune God whose very presence and power at the wedding altar is what made the wedding a wedding, and whose very presence and power makes our marriage a marriage.

Q/A 27-28 describes God’s providence, which Eberhard Busch links to God’s predestination.  Recall that there is an important difference between  predestination and predeterminism. Reformed Christians believe in predestination, not predeterminism. Predestination means that God knows the end, our destiny; the triune God – Father, Son, Holy Spirit—is our beginning and our end – the Alpha and the Omega. The triune God is the source of our life – in Him we live, and move and have our being (Acts 17:28), and  our fate rests in Him, as is our life when our physical life here is finished. That’s predestination.  Predeterminism says that God determines every detail and minutiae, from the breakfast you will eat to the vacation you will take next year. Predeterminism negates the freedom given to human beings, rendering us as enfleshed robots whose actions and words are controlled.

Q/A 27-28 reminds me of language similar to altar language – at weddings, at baptisms, at the Lord’s Table; whether in “leaf and blade, rain and drought. . .health and sickness” God upholds and sustains. Whatever condition or circumstance we may encounter or experience, God’s “fatherly hand” abides and abounds. This is a daily, moment-by-moment, promise of God, whereby our lives, the world, is an altar – spaces and places where each and all are offered to God and where God encounters us.

Liturgical and homiletical scholar Heather Murray Elkins speaks about “altaring” (note the “a”) in order to “alter” (note the “e”).  God altars our minds, hearts, and souls in order to alter it. God altars the world in order to alter it.  In other words, the power, presence, and promise of the triune God abides and abounds a broken and hurting world, in order to transform  it. That’s what Q/A 28 goes at length to describe.  God’s providence (Latin “providential” meaning “care”) – God’s  persevering intentionality to see us all the way through—altars us so that our view of all circumstances and conditions are altered; our approach, our regard to those things are altered. The alteration expresses itself in patience, thankfulness, confidence.

That’s difficult, especially when we are confronted with the harshness and gravity of our human condition, the plight of illness, the stubbornness of irreconcilable differences, terminal illness.

That is precisely why we need to lean on the providential care of our loving heavenly Father. Because patience, thankfulness, confidence are not habits of the heart that we can muster up, create on our own, or take some pill to develop that disposition.  Matters of the heart are entirely from God.  Thankfully, that comes from  the God who is providential, through and through, whose vows to us altars us to alter us.

Lord’s Day 9 (Q/A 26): THE PRODIGAL FATHER

26   Q.   What do you believe when you say,
“I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth”?

A.   That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who out of nothing created heaven and earth
and everything in them,^1
who still upholds and rules them
by his eternal counsel and providence,^2
is my God and Father
because of Christ the Son.^3
I trust God so much that I do not doubt
he will provide
whatever I need
for body and soul,^4
and will turn to my good
whatever adversity he sends upon me
in this sad world.^5
God is able to do this because he is almighty God^6
and desires to do this because he is a faithful Father.^7

^1 Gen. 1;Ps. 33:6
^2 Ps. 104; Ps. 115:3; Matt. 10:29; Heb. 1:3,
^3 John 1:12; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:5-7;Eph. 1:5
^4 Ps. 55:22; Matt. 6:25-26;Luke 12:22
^5 Rom. 8:28
^6 Rom. 10:12
^7 Matt. 6:32; 7:9


  LORD’S DAY 9 (Q/A 26)
“The Prodigal Father”

Your dad is not perfect. Neither was mine. Nor am I. Whether you had a deadbeat dad, or the most loving, supportive dad, he, like me, ain’t perfect. Not by any long shot. It took time, emotional and spiritual maturity, my being married with children, and the sheer act of the Holy Spirit to understand my own dad, to accept him for who he is, fully love and appreciate him in my life, and to ask his forgiveness a few years ago for the ways that I disrespected  him growing-up. When I stood as a candidate for General Assembly moderator, I shared with you and the whole Church my genuine desire and sense of call to pray and work for unity in the body, due in large part to the Continue reading “Lord’s Day 9 (Q/A 26): THE PRODIGAL FATHER”

Lord’s Day 8 (Q/A 24-25): 1 ACT, 3 SCENES

24   Q.   How are these articles divided?

A.   Into three parts:
God the Father and our creation;
God the Son and our deliverance;
and God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification.

25   Q.   Since there is only one divine being,^1
why do you speak of three:
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

A.   Because that is how
God has revealed himself in his Word:^2
these three distinct persons
are one, true, eternal God.

^1 Deut. 6:4
^2 Isa. 61:1; Ps. 110:1; Matt. 3:16-17; Matt. 28:19; 1 John 5:7[-8]



Lord’s Day 8 (Q/A 24-25)

“1 Act, 3 Scenes”

Two lessons in marriage, parenting, and the dynamic of presence-absence.

Andrew (my youngest son): Mom, can you buy me the new Pokemon cards?

Grace (my wife): No, you already have a whole stack that you got on your birthday.

(Andrew leaves saddened. Goes to next room where I am working)

Andrew: My handsome, cool dad, how are you? Can you buy me the new Pokemon cards? Continue reading “Lord’s Day 8 (Q/A 24-25): 1 ACT, 3 SCENES”


20   Q.   Are all people then saved through Christ
just as they were lost through Adam?

A.    No.
Only those are saved
who through true faith
are grafted into Christ
and accept all his benefits.^1

^1 John 1:12; 3:36; Isa. 53:11, Ps. 2:11[-12]; Rom. 11:17, 19; Heb. 4:2; 10:39


21   Q.   What is true faith?

A.    True faith is
not only a sure knowledge by which I hold as true
all that God has revealed to us in Scripture;^1
it is also a wholehearted trust,^2
which the Holy Spirit^3 creates in me by the gospel,^4
that God has freely granted
not only to others but to me also,
forgiveness of sins,
eternal righteousness,
and salvation.^5
These are gifts of sheer grace,
granted solely by Christ’s merit.^6

^1 Heb. 11:1, 3;James 2:19
^2 Rom. 4:16[-25]; James 1:6; Rom. 5:1;Rom. 10[:9-10]
^3 2 Cor. 4[:6, 13];Eph. 2[:8, 18];Matt. 16:17;John 3:[5-]13;Gal. 5:22; Phil. 1:29
^4 Rom. 1:16;10:17
^5 Heb. 2[:9-11]; Rom. 1[:16];Heb. 10:38;Hab. 2:4;Matt. 9:2;Eph. 2:7-9;Rom. 5:1
^6 Eph. 2[:8]; Rom. 3:24-25;Gal. 2:16


22   Q.   What then must a Christian believe?

A.    All that is promised us in the gospel,^1
a summary of which is taught us
in the articles of our universal
and undisputed Christian faith.

^1 John 20:31; Matt. 28:20
23    Q.    What are these articles?
         A.    I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen

 Lord’s Day 7 (Q/A 20-23)

“Diagramming Sentences: The Gospel and Its Witness”

Continue reading “Lord’s Day 7 (Q/A 20-23): DIAGRAMMING SENTENCES: THE GOSPEL AND ITS WITNESS”


16   Q.   Why must the mediator be a true and righteous human?

A.    God’s justice demands
that human nature, which has sinned,
must pay for sin;^1
but a sinful human could never pay for others.^2

^1 Rom. 5:12, 15
^2 1 Pet. 3:18; Isa. 53:3-5,10-11


17   Q.   Why must the mediator also be true God?

A.    So that the mediator,
by the power of his divinity,
might bear the weight of God’s wrath in his humanity^1
and earn for us
and restore to us
righteousness and life.^2

^1 Isa. 53:8; Acts 2:24;1 Pet. 3:18
^2 John 3:16;1 John 1:2, 4:12; Acts 20:18 [28]; John 1[:4,12]


18   Q.   Then who is this mediator—
true God and at the same time
a true and righteous human?

A.    Our Lord Jesus Christ,^1
who was given to us
to completely deliver us
and make us right with God.^2

^1 Matt. 1:23; 1 Tim. 3:16;Luke 2:11
^2 1 Cor. 1:30


19   Q.   How do you come to know this?

A.    The holy gospel tells me.
God began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise;^
later God proclaimed it
by the holy patriarchsand prophets^2
and foreshadowed it
by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law;^3
and finally God fulfilled it
through his own beloved Son.^4

^1 Gen. 3:15
^2 Gen. 22:18; 49:10-11; Rom. 1:2;Heb. 1:1; Acts 3:22-24; 10:43
^3 John 5:46; Heb. 10:7 [1-10]
^4 Rom. 10:4;Gal. 4:4



Lord’s Day 6 (Q/A 16-19)
“God’s News: Always Good, Forever Personal, Eternally Effective”

A Saturday Night Live! Segment parodied headline news shows where an anchor sits at a desk as various news items flash on every part of the screen: a scrolling marquee at the bottom of TV screens with brief blurb items of world and national disasters, the Dow Jones and NASDAQ totals in the upper-right hand corner, the local time for each time zone imaginable on the lower-right hand corner, the current weather and the weather forecast for the next week in whatever available space there was, with the eyeball of the news anchor somewhere peeking through this inundation of news feeds and information.


Lord’s Day 5 (Q/A 12-15): JUSTICE

12   Q.    According to God’s righteous judgment
               we deserve punishment
               both now and in eternity:
               how then can we escape this punishment
               and return to God’s favor?

A.   God requires that his justice be satisfied.^1
Therefore the claims of this justice
must be paid in full,
either by ourselves or by another.^2

^1 Exod. 20:5; 23:7
^2 Rom. 8:3-4


13   Q.    Can we make this payment ourselves?

A.    Certainly not.
Actually, we increase our debt every day.^1

^1 Job 9:3; 15:15; Matt. 6:12


14   Q.    Can another creature—any at all—
                pay this debt for us?

A.    No.
To begin with,
God will not punish any other creature
for what a human is guilty of.^1
no mere creature can bear the weight
of God’s eternal wrath against sin
and deliver others from it.^2

^1 Heb. 2:14
^2 Ps. 130:3


15   Q.    What kind of mediator and deliverer
               should we look for then?

A.   One who is a true^1 and righteous human,^2
yet more powerful than all creatures,
that is, one who is also true God.^3

^1 1 Cor. 15:21
^2 Jer. 33:15; Isa. 53:9Ps. 53; 2 Cor. 5:21
^3 Heb. 7:[15-]16; Isa. 7:14; Rom. 8:3;Jer. 23:6

Lord’s Day 5 (Q/A 12-15)


As a parent, watching children grow up and reflecting upon my own growing up years, I’ve become more aware of the delicate balance of parenting that requires gentle discipline, firm instruction with gracious freedom; both sets are needed for healthy upbringing.  I’ve seen examples of children who have grown up in environments of opposite extremes.  An extremely harsh, authoritative parent who casts correction and instruction without affirmation, acceptance and grace results in a fearful child who grows up ashamed, fearful, and, in time, rebellious – when freedom from the harsh parent is found.  The other extreme of an overly permissive parenting – where a child is constantly soothed, affirmed, allowed to be as free as the blowing wind. I’ve seen many children in our neighborhood where these kinds of children have no respect for their parents, grandparents, often shouting at their elders.  In both sets, a rebellious heart results. Continue reading “Lord’s Day 5 (Q/A 12-15): JUSTICE”