In this week when my country celebrates a day of thanksgiving, my mind, of course, turns to the Heidelberg Catechism. (Okay, maybe yours doesn’t. But you probably haven’t been blogging about it all year.)
There are lots of ways Christians can summarize the Christian life. This 450 year old introduction to biblical teaching tells me that the whole thing comes down to thanksgiving.
Don’t get me wrong: the whole of the Christian life does not come down to cultural stereotypes of this holiday. It is not about pilgrims, or turkey, or traveling to be with family. With apologies to those so inclined, it is not about football.
The Christian life is about actually giving thanks to God in every aspect of life.
- It is about our outer life.
- It is about our inner life.
- It is about our faith.
Questions 92 to 115 look at gratitude in our outer life: daily living guided by the Ten Commandments. This is Scripture’s picture of the new life God grows in us when we are connected to Jesus. We don’t try to earn anything by obedience. But we do want to please the God who has delivered us in Christ. We say “thank you!” by living the life God says he likes.
Questions 116 to 129 look at gratitude in our inner life: intimate relationship with God through prayer. The questions go line by line through Jesus’ best advice on prayer: the Lord’s Prayer. (I’ve blogged on all these questions previously. You can see the posts by clicking here.) We say “thank you” by drawing close to the one who gives us new life.
Gratitude also comes up in the theological heart of the Catechism, Questions 22 through 64, on the Apostles’ Creed. At the end of its discussion of the crucifixion it asks
43. Q. What further benefit do we receive from Christ’s sacrifice and death on the cross?
The answer comes in two parts. First
A. By Christ’s power our old selves are crucified, put to death, and buried with him,
so that the evil desires of the flesh may no longer rule us…
That is great of course. We ruined our lives by following our own misguided desires. It is good to know that this old life is over. We are still tempted and fall, but sin is no longer our ruler — as Question 1 put it, we belong to Christ now.
So what will life look like under new ownership? You guessed it: gratitude. Our old self is dead and buried
… that instead we may offer ourselves as a sacrifice of gratitude to him.
As I’ve been saying in recent posts “faith” is the key issue for Heidelberg — faith makes us Christian and connects us to everything Christ is trying to bring us.
But in our daily living “gratitude” may have more traction. If we have even a little faith, we can express it by giving God thanks. By giving thanks we become more attentive to God’s good gifts — and that, in turn, will strengthen our faith.
So my prayer for you, gentle reader, is that this Thursday, this week, and throughout your life you will give thanks. In word, in deed, and in prayer, may your life be given to God as a sacrifice of thanksgiving.
What is something you are thankful for? I hope you’ll share it in the comments.
If you enjoyed the post I hope you’ll scroll down and subscribe for email updates! (Plus other free goodies from time to time…)