… to the flag of the United States of America….”
Chances are your mind continued with the Pledge of Allegiance with just the few words of the title of this post.
My earliest memories of school include standing at the beginning of the day with my right hand over my heart, facing the American flag, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance with my teacher and classmates. The PA system would crackle and pop, and the whole school, united for a moment, would say:
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
I didn’t think much of it at the time. It was simply what we did everyday. But my memories of that “everyday” are sweet.
In my adulthood, I understand more of what it means to live in a republic (vs. a democracy, dictatorship, monarchy, etc.), to be under God (vs. under the whims of man), to be indivisible (vs. war-torn, under a military coup, factioned), and to have liberty (vs. bondage) and justice (vs. anarchy). Those words mean more to me now than they did when I memorized them as a kindergartener.
The Pledge of Allegiance is a sort of national catechism. And it isn’t allowed in some schools anymore because it positions us under God – an unpopular position today. By banning things like the Pledge of Allegiance, policy makers are unwittingly affirming that catechisms work. They don’t want America’s children reciting the fact that we are a nation under God, because they might believe it.
Catechisms are documents, usually written in centuries gone by, that distill particular concepts down into simple, easy-to-understand-and-memorize statements. You can see how the Pledge of Allegiance does that. There is a lot packed into those 31 words.
In church history, catechisms generally took years to draft and are full of references to scripture supporting the statements. Often they have a Question and Answer format to aid with memorization. It’s sort of like the FAQ of theology for different periods in history. The documents were typically composed in response to something that was happening in religious circles at the time. They were formulated to say this is what we believe (and why).
My home church reads excerpts from various catechisms in the worship service from time to time. Since I didn’t grow up with catechisms, this is something new in my adult life. But my kids have memorized parts of the Westminster Shorter Catechism with it’s Bible verses in their Sunday school classes. Like the Pledge of Allegiance, it will likely mean more to them as they mature.
Scripture instructs us to “honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect….” (1 Peter 3:15).
A good catechism, rightly understood, is one tool we can use to prepare us to defend our faith with gentleness and respect. A good catechism can help us find and focus on truth in the moments we need to defend our faith in our own failing hearts.
Another catechism is the Heidelberg Catechism. I like it. It has a certain warmth and practicality to it that resonates in my heart. I find it substantive, but also practical for everyday life.
Recently we read the Heidelberg Catechism Question/Answer #26 in our worship service.
What do you believe when you say: I believe in God the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth?
That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who out of nothing created heaven and earth and all that is in them, and who still upholds and governs them by His eternal counsel and providence, is, for the sake of Christ His Son, my God and my Father. In Him I trust so completely as to have no doubt that He will provide me with all things necessary for body and soul, and will also turn to my good whatever adversity He sends me in this life of sorrow. He is able to do so as almighty God, and willing also as a faithful Father.
THAT is packed full of substance.
One paragraph discusses the eternal nature of God, the diety of Christ, the reality of creation, God’s ongoing providential care over the affairs of his creation, our connection to him only through Christ, and our place as his daughters. It also helps guide my response to such awesome truths – if I hold all these things to be true, the natural response is to trust him to provide everything I need and rest in his promise to work all things together for my good since I love him. I think that’s where the peace that passes all understanding arises.
But my heart really swells with gratitude, awe, and relief when I read that last line:
He is able to do so as almighty God, and willing also as a faithful Father.
God is able.
God is willing.
God has the power to supply all I need and to work all things for my benefit.
God is willing to supply all I need and to work all things for my benefit.
In an eternal sense, the death of his son on the cross was not too great a cost to supply what I needed and work things together for my good.
In an every day sense, he owns the cattle on a thousand hills…. surely he can fill my refrigerator.
Life is hard. Sometimes it is really hard. I gain courage to face hard things in life by calling to mind scripture about God’s faithfulness and control. It is good and right for me to do so.
But often I get caught up in remembering God can take care of me, and I lose sight of the fact that he will take care of me.
Let’s think about that for a moment. God can, and he will.
Scripture is full of promises for hope, peace, vindication, comfort, and supply for his beloved children. Not promises for heath and wealth on this side of heaven, but promises of good for us in this fallen world even if we experience sickness and/or poverty.
I need to trust in his goodness as much as in his sovereignty. I need to remember God will. As a matter of fact, he already is.