Word and Sacrament
HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, LORD’S DAY 25
It is by faith alone that we share in Christ and all his blessings: where then does that faith come from?
The Holy Spirit produces it in our hearts by the preaching of the holy gospel, and confirms it through our use of the holy sacraments.
What are sacraments?
Sacraments are holy signs and seals for us to see. They were instituted by God so that by our use of them he might make us understand more clearly the promise of the gospel, and might put his seal on that promise. And this is God’s gospel promise: to forgive our sins and give us eternal life by grace alone because of Christ’s sacrifice finished on the cross.
Are both the word and the sacraments then intended to focus our faith on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as the only ground of our salvation?
Right! In the gospel the Holy Spirit teaches us and through the holy sacraments he assures us that our entire salvation rests on Christ’s one sacrifice for us on the cross.
How many sacraments did Christ institute in the New Testament?
Two: baptism and the Lord’s Supper
Word and Sacrament
Sunday, June 11: John 3:1-21
The space in which worship takes place tells a story, and our Reformed tradition takes this story to heart. The liturgical furniture – the pulpit, the baptismal font, and the communion table – usually have a prominent place, seen by all. They serve as foundational reminders that the Word and the Sacraments are essential to living a Christ-centered, Gospel-oriented life. It is the pulpit – the symbol of the Word – that always takes the place of prominence. The faith produced in our hearts by the Holy Spirit is a product of the gospel message. What a joy and comfort it is to know that faith isn’t something we need to manufacture on our own. Let’s face it, we wouldn’t be very good at producing our own faith no matter how hard we tried. There isn’t a magic formula or a perfect ten-step process. Not everyone will have a dramatic conversion story, nor will everyone be able to trace back a generational heritage of faith. Our Christian culture tends to put more stock in the dramatic story or the generational heritage than on the faith produced by the Spirit. Although Paul had a dramatic roadside conversation, it was not the entirety of his faith story. Although Mary faithfully followed the instructions of the Angel when she found she was pregnant, it was not the entirety of her faith story. No, their faith stories were centered and rooted in the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ! No matter what the journey, the root of this faith is the same: “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Just as the pulpit stands as an anchor of the story of the sanctuary, so the written Word proclaimed and the Living Word resurrected are the foundation of our own stories of faith. I pray that as you listen to the written Word proclaimed you will meet the Living Word and experience the outpouring of God’s love and grace.
Chaplain Sarah Hoogendoorn