Risky Love

January 1, 2013

Louisville

I trust God so much that I do not doubt he will provide whatever I need for body and soul, and will turn to my good whatever adversity he sends upon me in this sad world. God is able to do this because he is almighty God and desires to do this because he is a faithful Father.

-“The Heidelberg Catechism” (proposed new translation); Excerpt from answer to Question 26

This New Year marks the 450th anniversary of the authorship of the Heidelberg Catechism, which has long shaped and deepened my faith.

Structured around a cycle of Guilt-Grace-Gratitude, as the catechism takes us through the Rule of Faith—the Apostles’ Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer—it is both user-friendly and deeply edifying.

In 2013, the presbyteries will begin their consideration of the proposed new translation of the catechism. As chair of the special committee that brought the recommendation to the 220th General Assembly (2012), I can say that both the new translation and the appended scriptural references will greatly benefit the PC(USA) and the church ecumenical.

Referring to the first article of the Apostles’ Creed, Q. 26 of the newly translated catechism asks, “What do you believe when you say, ‘I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth’?” The corresponding response goes on to describe God’s providential work of—and governance over—creation. Then it goes on to describe a childlike trust, rekindling Q. 1’s familiar response that no matter what adversity, God will take care of us. It puts in sharper relief the basis of that trusting determination:

God is able to do this because he is almighty God and desires to do this because he is a faithful Father.

When I was four years old, I recall one time awakening from a nap in the back of our family car as my parents were having it checked before a long drive to southern California. The car had been elevated on one of those repair shop lifts. My dad, who was down below, said, “Jump! I’ll catch you!” And he did. In similar fashion, I often find myself offering to catch my own playful sons as they jump from the fourth stair, trusting that I will catch them. And I do. Again and again.

The New Year for the families of Newtown, Connecticut—and for all families devastated by the senseless tragedies and natural disasters of 2012—is a painful juxtaposition of a past year of grievous, inexplicable loss at a time of new beginnings.

In this New Year—and at all times—no matter what adversity befalls us, our “almighty God and faithful Father” will catch us. Our almighty God will—and does—pursue us with a radical and risky love that will never let us go.

Amen.

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