The Principle And Practice Of Preaching In The Heidelberg Catechism -- By: Daniel R. Hyde

Journal: Puritan Reformed Journal
Volume: PRJ 01:1 (Jan 2009)
Article: The Principle And Practice Of Preaching In The Heidelberg Catechism
Author: Daniel R. Hyde


The Principle And Practice Of Preaching In The Heidelberg Catechism

Daniel R. Hyde

“Are all your sermons that long?
My pastor only goes ten to twelve minutes.”

This is how a family member of one of my parishioners recently greeted me after a service. I had just finished what I considered a routine thirty-five minute sermon and thought to myself, “Sure, I could have wrapped it up five minutes earlier and possibly kept a few things for the next sermon in my series through Hebrews to make it a little shorter.” My response, though, was, “As a Reformed church we value the preaching of the Word.” Not that a thirty-five minute sermon is necessarily better than a twelve minute sermon, but the length of the sermon in Reformed churches is a practical reflection of our principle of preaching. The principle that preaching is central in the divine service is expressed in various ways such as the placement of the pulpit above the congregation, the placement of the pulpit in the center of the chancel in times and places where Reformed churches were able to design their own buildings, the amount of time given to the reading and preaching of the Word in Reformed liturgies,1 and the length of the sermon in typical Reformed churches.2 While the question

I was asked by this visitor was about practice, it really was about the principle of preaching.

What is this principle? While there are many sources to which we may turn in answering this question, none is clearer than the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), which places preaching at the pinnacle of Christian worship and Christian living because it is the very means and method that God uses to justify and sanctify His people.3

Preaching And The Structure Of The Catechism

The Heidelberg Catechism opens with the memorable question, “What is thy only comfort in life and in death,” to which the answer is given, in part, “That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.”4 This question and answer lays out the programmatic theme of the entire Catechism as “the Christian comfort derived from the work of Christ, the providential care of the Father, and the work of the Spirit in assuring us of eternal life and producing within us heartfelt gratitude.”5 The Catechism’s overall macro-structure is then laid out in question and answer 2. This ...

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