Devotional Word for Tuesday, March 2, 2021
In May of 1997, I learned about gravity. Of course, I had already learned about gravity. I knew that gravity was the force that acts on objects to draw them together. As the object with relatively largest mass which is closest to most humans and has been throughout all of human history is the earth, we are pulled downward toward its surface. In time, I would learn that there is a mathematical relationship which helps quantify the force of gravity. It is related to the mass of the objects and their distance from each other. However, in the month of May on a sunny day directly after lunch, I learned about gravity. I was playing in the grass, burning off the extra energy that 12-year-old boys seem to possess in endless supply when I fell backward. Gravity pulled me to the earth; reminding me that it was not just a good idea, it was the law. When my right arm came into contact with the earth and carried the falling weight of my body, it broke, and I learned about gravity.
I already “knew” about gravity. We had done enough experiments in school to measure various aspects of gravity. I knew that if I dropped something, it would fall down. I knew that if I jumped, I would return to the earth. From the time that I was itty bitty, I had known that what went up must come down. Yet, on that May day, I learned with a bone aching crunch the power of gravity. My senses were inflamed, pain shot up and down my arm, I could no longer move my fingers or my wrist. Truth be told, I could not tell you anything new about gravity that I didn’t already know, but what I knew was confirmed in me by the testimony of my senses.
We are talking this morning of gravity and damaged limbs because of question 67 in the Heidelberg Catechism. In it, the catechism continues its discussion of the sacraments. It asks, “Are both the Word and the sacraments designed to direct our faith to the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as the only ground of our salvation?” The answer responds, “Yes, indeed, for the Holy Spirit teaches in the gospel and confirms by the holy sacraments that our whole salvation is rooted in the one sacrifice of Christ offered for us on the cross.” This means that the Word and the sacraments testify to the same reality. The person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ are the only grounds for our salvation. This means that we are not saved by two different means. It is not as though some are saved by their good faith and others are saved by the regular observance of the sacraments. Rather, the sacraments serve to communicate the same truth as the preached Word of God. The primary difference between the two is the manner of communication. When we hear or read the Word of God, the Holy Spirit testifies to us of its truth. We are able to know it, understand it, and believe in it. When we participate in the sacraments, that message is confirmed in our hearts and minds by the power of the Spirit. Our senses are also able to testify and remind us in an ongoing way of the purpose of that sacrament. In this way, taking the sacraments is a bit like breaking my arm. They do not teach us anything new about the Lord Jesus, but they confirm what we already understood.
Question 68 goes on to ask, “How many sacraments has Christ instituted in the New Testament?” The answer says, “Two, holy baptism and the holy supper.” In the coming weeks we will spend time looking further at these two instituted sacraments.