Archive for July, 2013

Lord’s Day 27: The Mark of the Covenant

Catechism and Psalter

I embarked on my journey on Friday, July 5, at 10 pm with the other members of my youth group from the West Sayville church parking lot, and arrived with them back at the church parking lot on Friday, July 26, at 10 pm.  In the course of that time period of exactly three weeks, an incredible number of exciting and edifying things took place, some of which I may write about later.  For now, however, it’s time to catch up on some sadly-neglected areas of URC Psalmody, beginning with our series journeying through the Heidelberg Catechism.

We left off in our series on the Heidelberg Catechism with Lord’s Day 26, which introduced the first of the two Biblical sacraments: baptism.  Lord’s Day 27 delves deeper into the nature of baptism with words of comforting instruction.

72 Q.  Does this outward washing with water itself wash away sins?

A.  No, only Jesus Christ’s blood and the Holy Spirit
cleanse us from all sins.

73 Q.  Why then does the Holy Spirit call baptism the washing of regeneration and the washing away of sins?

A.  God has good reason for these words.
He wants to teach us that
the blood and Spirit of Christ wash away our sins
just as water washes away dirt from our bodies.

But more important,
he wants to assure us, by this divine pledge and sign,
that the washing away of our sins spiritually
is as real as physical washing with water.

74 Q.  Should infants, too, be baptized?

A.  Yes.
Infants, as well as adults
are in God’s covenant and are his people.
They, no less than adults, are promised
the forgiveness of sin through Christ’s blood
and the Holy Spirit who produces faith.

Therefore, by baptism, the mark of the covenant,
infants should be received into the Christian church
and should be distinguished from the children of unbelievers.
This was done in the Old Testament by circumcision,
which was replaced in the New Testament by baptism.

Suggested Songs

210, “O Praise the Lord, His Deeds Make Known” (Psalm 105)

“[H]e wants to assure us, by this divine pledge and sign, that the washing away of our sins spiritually is as real as physical washing with water.”  The Reformed faith emphasizes baptism primarily as a covenant sign and seal, marking believers and their children as belonging to God and not to the world.  Thus, while Psalm 105 says nothing specific regarding baptism or circumcision, it is perfectly appropriate as it calls us to behold the words and works of our covenant God.

Ye children of God’s covenant,
Who of His grace have heard,
Forget not all His wondrous deeds
And judgments of His word.
The Lord our God is God alone,
All lands His judgments know;
His promise He remembers still,
While generations go.

While yet our fathers were but few,
Sojourners in the land,
He sware that Canaan should be theirs,
And made His covenant stand.
He suffered none to do them wrong
In all their pilgrim way;
Yea, for their sake were kings reproved
And covered with dismay.

At their request He sent them quails,
And bread of heaven bestowed;
And from the rock, to quench their thirst,
The living waters flowed.
His sacred word to Abraham
He kept, though waiting long,
And brought His chosen people forth
With joy and thankful song.

150, “Let Children Hear the Mighty Deeds” (Psalm 78)

(Sung by Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI)

“Infants, as well as adults are in God’s covenant and are his people.  They, no less than adults, are promised the forgiveness of sin through Christ’s blood and the Holy Spirit who produces faith.”  Without a doubt, infant baptism is one of the most controversial doctrines in the Reformed faith, and a theological treatise on it is far beyond the scope of this blog.  But it is profitable to note the correlation between the practice of infant baptism and the intergenerational nature of God’s covenant, as spoken of in Psalm 78:

Let children hear the mighty deeds
Which God performed of old,
Which in our younger years we saw
And which our fathers told.
He bids us make His glories known,
The works of power and grace,
That we convey His wonders down
Through every rising race.

Our lips shall tell them to our sons,
And they again to theirs;
And generations yet unborn
Must teach them to their heirs;
Thus shall they learn, in God alone
Their hope securely stands;
That they may not forget His works,
But honor His commands.

222, “O Give the Lord Whole-hearted Praise” (Psalm 111)

(Sung by Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI)

The baptism of an infant or adult is a joyous occasion for many reasons, but most of all it points to the continuation of God’s covenant with his people as he calls them out of darkness into his marvelous light.  Psalm 111 is a song of praise in response to the Lord’s covenant faithfulness.

O give the Lord wholehearted praise,
To Him thanksgiving I will bring;
With all His people I will raise
My voice and of His glory sing.

His saints delight to search and trace
His mighty works and wondrous ways;
Majestic glory, boundless grace,
And righteousness His work displays.

The wondrous works that God has wrought
His people ever keep in mind,
His works with grace and mercy fraught,
Revealing that the Lord is kind.

God’s promise shall forever stand,
He cares for those who trust His word;
Upon His saints His mighty hand
The wealth of nations has conferred.

His works are true and just indeed,
His precepts are forever sure;
In truth and righteousness decreed,
They shall forevermore endure.

From Him His saints’ redemption came;
His covenant sure no change can know;
Let all revere His holy Name
In heaven above and earth below.

In reverence and in godly fear
Man finds the gate to wisdom’s ways;
The wise His holy Name revere;
Through endless ages sound His praise.

–MRK

July Thoughts

It’s embarrassing that about three weeks have gone by since my last blog post.  However, the past few weeks have been full of excitement and encouragement on a variety of levels.  At the moment I’m enjoying a week in West Michigan between the Teens Actively Serving Christ project I mentioned previously and the upcoming Reformed Youth Services convention.

There is something intangibly unique about mission trips like the one I just attended.  Perhaps it is due to the encouragement of thirty brothers and sisters dwelling together in unity (à la Psalm 133).  Maybe it also arises from the balance of spiritual instruction and real-life opportunities to live out our faith (à la Philippians 2).  Or perhaps it is connected to our confidence that in Christ our labor is not in vain (à la I Corinthians 15).  Whatever the case may be, I know that I always emerge from these projects invigorated and inspired in my Christian walk–and I know the same is true for many others as well.

It was a blessing to spend eight days living and growing alongside these young fellow Christians, just as it was blessing to worship with the members of the Bethany United Reformed Church and to be generously served by their members even as we reached out to serve others.

Someone who attended another recent TASC trip said to me, “If we weren’t eating or sleeping, we were singing.”  While that may have been a bit of an overstatement in our case, music certainly played a prominent role in our free time.  One TASCer brought a few Psalter Hymnals along on the bus ride from the church to the location of our day away at the end of the week (Saugatuck and then Holland State Park), and we sang psalms and hymns almost the whole way there…and back.  During lunch we started somewhat of a “Psalter Hymnal Flash Mob” at a Panera Bread as we waited for our food.  That evening the group stopped for dinner at a restaurant in a converted Christian Reformed Church building in Jamestown, and before we left, we rose and sang the third verse of “By the Sea of Crystal.”  And at midnight, just as the youth group from New Jersey was preparing to depart, we sang “God Be with You Till We Meet Again” with lumps in our throats.  The week ended with sadness that our newfound “family in the Lord” would have to part ways, but also with confidence that our separation would only be temporary.

All in all, I am firmly convinced that the most important aspect of Teens Actively Serving Christ is that it inculcates in us what Paul Tripp calls a “forever mindset.”  Work never ends, friends move away, and even the best vacations come to an end.  But a week like this reminds us that this world is not all there is.  We serve Christ in hope–not a wishful sentiment but a steadfast sureness–that we will someday behold him face to face, enjoying the eternal rest spoken of in the Heidelberg Catechism along with all of our brothers and sisters in the Lord.  May that realization grip us throughout our pilgrimages on this earth.

Having shared those incidental thoughts on my recent TASC trip, the true purpose of this post is to alert you that it will probably be another two weeks or so before URC Psalmody can return to some kind of schedule.  What lies ahead is a few more days of rest and fellowship, one more Lord’s Day spent with the saints in Michigan, then a bus ride to St. Paul for the 2013 Reformed Youth Services convention!

Both high and low shall worship,
Both strong and weak shall bend,
A faithful Church shall serve Him
Till generations end.
His praise shall be recounted
To nations yet to be,
The triumphs of His justice
A newborn world shall see.

–MRK


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