Dr. Barry Fagin, an occasional contributor to the Colorado Springs Gazette op ed page, said it best. “Some columns just write themselves.” That’s how I feel about the topic of this week’s blog. Last week I sat with about a dozen others to begin discussing the Heidelberg Confession/Catechism. A cradle Baptist, I’d rarely heard about this profound document until twenty years ago when we joined hands with a delightful group of Presbyterians. (Many of whom were also born and raised in what I presumed to be a “Who-needs-a-confession? We-have-the-Bible!” denomination.)
Drawn to this discussion primarily because I knew the teacher to be a woman whose feet are firmly planted in Scripture, whose mind is rich with intellectual prowess, and whose humor unexpectedly sneaks into most conversations, I suspected the experience might uncover a few gold nuggets. What I didn’t foresee was an entire semi truckload of gold spilled into my soul that first night.
To others for whom the HC/C might be unfamiliar, here’s the Marilyn version: In the 16th century, German Lutherans and Swiss Reformers decided to get together in an old castle church in Heidelberg, Germany to hammer out their differences. (Has nothing changed??) Even as I type that explanation, I can hear Reformed clergy groaning at my impertinent, condensed account. “What can you expect from a Baptist?”
The Confession is a series of 129 questions and answers which children and adults, new to the faith and desperately needing a firm biblical foundation for that faith, were required to memorize. Yes, memorize! Many churches of the Reformed persuasion continue in this path, some more faithfully than others. Our teacher warned us that we wouldn’t agree with everything believed and written by those Heidelberg professors and clergy, but our arguments wouldn’t have swerved them and we would do well to carefully examine any current dissension.
Let me digress for one moment. A Washington, DC pastor charged with teaching the Confession to Presbyterian adolescents was exasperated with their eye-rolling, do-we-have-to resistance, their steady and vehement complaints. Until the events of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. Five days later they stood in front of the congregation and solemnly raised their voices to affirm their faith in the light of, in spite of tragedy, death and destruction. They had no answers to the horror, but they claimed the faith affirmed a half millennium earlier.
So what hit me with slam dunk force the other night? Or after reading 400+ words, do you even care?? To prevent, or at least forestall, boredom, I’m going to employ the device known to the writers of Hawaii Five 0 and CSI: TO BE CONTINUED!