Thoughts on New City Catechism Questions 1 and 2
Starting on January 29, Littleton Christian Church has been learning one question of the New City Catechism each week.... which means today (February 9th), we are in the midst of Week 2/ Question 2.
There are good pointers at www.newcitycatechism.com for memorizing the answers, but the simple trick is doing it every day and keeping it in front of you... and also, talking about it. With someone. With anyone. With multiple people. Erin and I have had some laughs testing and competing with each other.
Here are some of my thoughts about the first two questions. I'm typing the questions and answers into this blog from memory... you might need to double check at newcitycatechism.com!
1. What is our only hope in life and in death? That we are not our own, but belong, both in body and soul, in life and in death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ.
Right out of the gates, I love that this says "OUR" and "WE," not "my" and "I." My true hope in Christ is intimately connected to the fact that he saved me into a diverse and universal family. I am more convinced with every passing year that saying "I belong to God" doesn't make as much biblical/theological/practical sense as saying "We belong to God." Something about being a community, His community, is essential to belonging to him.
The other thing I can't shake (in a good way) is this implies hopelessness begins as soon as we (or I) believe we are our own, we control our own destiny, that our wellbeing depends on us. It is even worse (or equally bad, at least), if we give ourselves to someone or something else. Another person can't be trusted with owning me (could you trust yourself with that? I need to believe that God owns my kids, too... otherwise, they're in trouble!). And a job, an object, a hobby... all of these are cruel and loveless owners. Only God, who sent his Son, our Savior, Jesus, is worthy of owning us.
2. What is God? God is the Creator and Sustainer of everyone and everything. He is eternal, infinite, and unchangeable in his goodness and glory, his power and perfection, his wisdom, justice, and truth. Nothing happens except through him and by his will.
I've discussed this question with three different groups in the last 2 weeks. Every group reacts the same way: shocked at the last sentence. Wait, there are so many terrible things that happen. Terrible things happening in the world RIGHT NOW. Are they included in "nothing happens except through him and by his will?" Last Sunday's sermon (Feb 5) attempted to address this (while referring in a way to Isaiah 32-35). So you don't have to read forever, let me get straight to the point: if God's plan for the world involved the Father sending the Son to be ostracized, criticized, tempted, falsely accused, arrested, mocked, tortured, and finally executed in a shameful and terrible way, and if that terrible series of events is the only thing that could possibly bring about the reconciliation and beauty described by Isaiah 35 or Revelation 7 (among others), then perhaps we need a more nuanced way of thinking about the countless terrible things that happen in the world right now. You may be suffering terribly - this can give you hope, if you dare believe it, that there is a greater good on the other side of this.
Also, if things happen outside of his will, then it's a lot harder to say, with the Bible and Christians through the ages, that God is eternal, infinite, unchangeable, and has the full measure of goodness, glory, power, perfection, wisdom, justice, and truth.
I'd love your thoughts on all this! Please leave a comment.