Lord, open our hearts and minds by the power of your Holy Spirit, that we may hear your Word with joy. Amen.
If you were with us this past spring you might remember us doing a couple of these Family Worship Sundays. As for the message, we’ve combined the kids message and regular sermon into one, it’s a little more low key and casual and interactive and throughout it I’ll invite you to engage with me from time to time.
And so, on that note, let’s start with a little trivia. Question for the kids here. Who was our first United States President? George Washington
That’s right! And then I think it goes John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, some guy with the last name Monroe, and then I have absolutely no clue … but yet! There was a time in my life, when I was about 8 years old, when I had memorized all 40 or so U.S. presidents in the order they served.
One time my family and I were with some of our extended family and I proudly shared my presidential knowledge with them and one of my uncles looked at me amazed and asked “How did you memorize all that?”
And I told him that there was this big encyclopedia in my room and that when my mom would put me in timeout and send me in my room for misbehaving I would sit there and study this list of presidents.
And my uncle looked at me and mom and asked the very question that you’re asking yourself right now … “Oh my gosh, how much time is this kid spending in timeout?”
Now, my mom actually happens to be in town and worshiping with us this morning, and to be clear, this was not a reflection of my mom being a super strict parent but rather my incredible photographic memory … or to be honest, my incredible inability to listen.
Now, here’s the problem with having memorized the United States Presidents, and that is, it’s knowledge that is pretty much worthless. It’s useless.
What do you think, do you my knowledge of the Presidents is what convinced Callie to marry me? No!
Do you think it’s what helped me become your pastor? No!
No way. It’s useless knowledge. And never once in my life have I ever thought to myself, I wonder what our 31st president Herbert Hoover would have done in this situation? Not once. No wonder I can’t recite the list these days.
All of which brings me to the New City Catechism. If you’ve been with us the past month or so, we’ve been talking about this book, this resource called the New City Catechism.
And we’ve been talking about it so much around here lately that you’d think that I collect royalties for endorsing it. But no way! It’s simply that good.
And here’s why: Unlike memorizing the Presidents, the New City Catechism is news you can use. Not only is it news that is true. It is news you can use.
That’s just so darn fun to say out loud that I want you to repeat it after me. News you can use. News you can use.
That’s not to be confused with news that can make you snooze. Or news you can lose. But rather, say it with me now this time, it’s news you can use.
Catechism is simply a fancy word for teaching and instruction, and in total, the Catechism contains 52 questions and answers that capture the basic truths, basic building blocks of the Christian faith, about God and humanity, about sin and salvation. Everything from the 10 Commandments to the Lord’s Prayer to the Apostles Creed, and most importantly how we can put our faith in Jesus Christ. And in its questions and answers we find news that is true and news you can use.
So for example, let’s look at the first couple questions, the very two questions that our kids have been learning in Sunday School and people of all ages have been learning about in our Wednesday small groups over the course of this past month.
Here’s the first. I’ll read the question, and then I want you to read the answer in bold: And you can find this either on the screen behind me or in your bulletin. (By the way, today we’re looking at the kids version, there’s also an adult version, where the answers are a bit longer)
What is our only hope in life and death? That we are not our own but belong to God.
Think about how that truth shapes our everyday life.
For example, middle schoolers and high schoolers, there’s peer pressure coming at you from every direction, pressure to be something or do something or say something, and yet in those moments you can remember. “I am not my own, but belong to God.” Lord, how can I honor you with all I say or do?
Friends, say it with me now, finish this phrase, this catechism is news … you can use!
Or say a close family member, a spouse, a parent or grandparent recently passed away, and you’re grieving and mourning their loss. And yet you know that they had put their faith in Christ, and that not even death itself can separate us from God’s love. What’s your hope in that moment? Well, say it with me now, that we are not our own but belong to God, yes, even in death.
Or consider this second question … Again, I’ll read the question, you read the answer.
What is God? God is the creator of everyone and everything.
Kids, say you’re at school, you’re in class or out on the playground and someone says something mean to you that really hurts your feelings, and everything in you wants to say something hurtful back. And yet, you remember. God created everyone. Yes, even them. God loves them too. And so you stop and think, how can I love this person that God created and loves?
The New City Catechism is news, say it with me now, it is news … you can use.
So friends, here’s how you can be a part of all of this with us:
Parents, families, kids, join us on Sundays and especially those Sundays when we have Sunday School – our kids will be learning about a new question and answer every week. For people of all ages, join us on Wednesdays, either morning or evening for a small group study. Info regarding dates and times and who’s leading is the narthex. There are devotionals for purchase. There are kids booklets in your pews – please take one for yourself or give it to a friend. Kids, take one with you put in your room in case you ever need some reading material during a timeout. You can also download all of this as an app on your phone, just search “New City Catechism.” And in the kids version, each Q & A is shared in a song, which as we know only makes memorizing something all the easier.
And most importantly, take the learning home with you and weave into your every day and weekly rhythms for you and your family. Make it a part of your dinner table conversations. Make it a part of your bedtime routine.
With young children of my own, I’m learning that if you do something once it’s a thing, do something twice it’s a trend, do something three times, you’ve basically just started a new tradition.
About a year ago, I started this bedtime routine with Noah, who is now almost 4, where before we’d start reading bedtime stories, I’d ask Noah to tell me about his day and we’d each talk about our day in a minute or less. We did that for about week or so, and then one night, I forgot, and before I could grab a book, Noah looked at me and said “Dada! Dada! Dada! Let’s talk about day!”
You can make a tradition out of just about anything and that includes the New City Catechism too.
So friends, and parents especially, together, let’s continue to raise up the next generation and walk alongside them as we grow in our love and knowledge of Jesus.
And I’ll finish with this: There’s a beautiful story that’s shared in the introduction to this devotional, where Pastor Tim Keller shares the story about how as a young parent, he and his wife Kathy started going through a catechism with their young son Jonathan. And some of the very first questions they went through are similar to the ones we just shared:
Who made you? God
What else did God make? God made all things.
Why did God make you and all things? For his own glory.
And one day a babysitter was watching Jonathan and noticed he was looking out the window. And so she asked him, “What are you thinking about, Jonathan?” “God,” he said. Surprised, she responded, “What are you thinking about God?” He looked at her and replied, “How he made all things for his own glory.”
Now, think about what’s going on there. It’s a lot more than just rote memorization. This kid of course has no clue what the glory of God means. But yet even at a very young age he was given some of the basic building blocks of biblical truth that will set a foundation for years, that can be built upon over a lifetime of following Jesus and exploring God’s Word.
Together, as we reflect on these biblical truths, rooted in God’s Word, we will over time be like that person in Psalm 1, meditating on God’s Word day and night, and that we would be like like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.
So friends, let’s finish with this: I want you turn to the person next to you and share with them the answer to this question, “What is our only hope in life and death?” That we are not our own but belong to God.
Now turn to a different person next to you and share with them the answer to this question, “What is God?” God is the creator of everyone and everything.
Amen and amen. Let’s continue worshipping together by singing about another basic building block of biblical truth, as we sing “Jesus Loves Me, this I know, for the bible tells me so.” So if you are able, let’s stand and sing this next song …