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A Testimony to Give - Psalm 96, Mark 7, HCLD 1

A service plan focusing on Lord's Day 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism and the comfort and assurance we find only through Jesus Christ on a series on the Heidelberg Catechism.

Worship Service

Heidelberg Catechism

The Heidelberg Catechism is a highly respected confessional statement that can be used to guide and form the preaching of Christian doctrine. This catechism was composed at the request of Elector Frederick III of the German province called the Palatinate. Most likely written by Caspar Olevianus and Zacharius Ursinus, it was approved by the synod in Heidelberg in January 1563. Organized in 52 Lord's Days, it is designed for instruction in Christian doctrine over a year of Sundays.

During 2005, we provided twelve worship services based on the teachings of the Apostles' Creed as explained by the Heidelberg Catechism (Lord's Days 8-22). You can access these at

You will also find helpful material about preaching from the Heidelberg Catechism on the website of the Center for Excellence in Preaching of Calvin Theological Seminary.

Theme of the Service

The first Lord's Day of the Heidelberg Catechism includes a firm and rich personal expression of assurance that has encouraged many Christians and has given many a means by which to express their own testimony of faith. These precious words about our only comfort in life and death form the theme for this entire worship service.

* * *

The greatest privilege of Christian worshipers
is to know they belong to Jesus Christ in life and in death.


Prelude: "Prelude and Fugue in A Minor", J. S. Bach [see <href="#music">music notes]
"Sing to the Lord, Sing His Praise", Bingham

The Call to Worship

*Song: "Sing to the Lord, Sing His Praise" PsH 96:1, 2, TH 62:1, 2

*God's Greeting and Congregational Amen!

*Response: “Sing to the Lord, Sing His Praise” PsH 96:4, TH 62:4


The Call to Confession: [from Lord's Day 1, Q&A 2, see <href="#liturgy">liturgy notes]
What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?
Three things:
first, how great my sin and misery are;
second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery;
third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.

Our Confession of Sin: [see <href="#liturgy">liturgy notes]

"Lord, Have Mercy upon Us" PH 565, 572-574, PsH 258, RL 564-567, RN 86, SNC 52, SFL 43, TWC 821, 823, WOV 601, 602, 604

The Assurance of God's Pardon - Romans 5:5, 1, 2 [see <href="#liturgy">liturgy notes]

Our Testimony of Assurance:

What is your only comfort in life and in death?
That I am not my own, but belong-
body and soul, in life and in death-
to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven:
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him. (The Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 1, Q&A 1)

God's Guide for Living Thankfully - Matthew 22:37-40

The Children's Moment


*Song: “In Christ Alone” [see <href="#music">music notes]
or: "Blessed Assurance: Jesus is Mine" PH 341:1, PsH 490:1, 2, RL 453:1, TH 693:1, TWC 514:1, UMH 369:1, WOV 699:1, UMH 369:1

The Reading of the Old Testament Scripture: Psalm 96
Sung Response: “In God Alone” SNC 187

The Reading of New Testament Scripture: Mark 7:31-37
Sung Response: “In God Alone” SNC 187

The Prayer for Illumination [see <href="#liturgy">liturgy notes]

Sermon: "A Testimony to Give"

The Prayer of Application


*Song: “Neither Death Nor Life”, Haugen [see <href="#music">music notes]
or: "God Is My Rock" PsH 610:1-4

The Prayers of the People

The Offertory:
The offering of music: "O Love of God, How Strong and True" [see <href="#music">music notes]
or: "Blessed Assurance"
We offer our gifts for….

*Song: “Pues si vivimos / When We Are Living” PH 400, SNC 193, UMH 356
or: "My Only Comfort" PsH 549


*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*Moment of Meditation

Postlude: “Marche en Rondeau,” Charpentier [see <href="#music">music notes]

* You are invited to stand.

Sermon Notes:

Since this sermon begins a series of studies that are guided by the Heidelberg Catechism, it might be wise to give information about the Catechism, including its history and importance in shaping Christian doctrine in Reformed Churches throughout the world. It might also be wise to make a few statements about the importance of knowing (and, therefore, preaching) Christian doctrine. Being well-grounded in our beliefs can be the best safeguard against error.

The subject of "testimony" is open to many nuances of understanding. Try to avoid some of the negative reactions hearers might have because of previous experiences, and point out that a healthy testimony will focus on God and his salvation, and not serve to direct attention to us personally.

In the two Scripture passages that were read, we find examples of such testimonies being called for and given. Psalm 96 is both an expression of a testimony and also a call to the nations of the world to honor Him. God is praised for his being and his actions; both of these are reasons to exhort others to acknowledge him. In Mark 7 we are privileged to step into the drama of the encounter of a deaf and mute man with Jesus. Healing is experienced from the hand of Jesus, and the necessary response is that he must testify about this! With amazement, he points to the actions of Jesus and what they mean for his life.

The statements of Lord's Day 1 provide an excellent explication of the deepest and richest testimony we are able to give. A careful analysis of its content will help us develop healthy testimonies.

At the conclusion of the sermon, hearers may be challenged to ask themselves whether they have a testimony to give (and if not, must be called to faith) and how well they are doing in giving that testimony to others. Conclude with some practical suggestions of where and to whom to give testimony this week.

Music Notes:
Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America;
Great Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

The prelude suggestions are based on the following pieces:

“Prelude and Fugue in A Minor” by J. S. Bach, one of the eight little preludes and fugues available in many editions. The second suggestion “Sing to the Lord, Sing His Praise” is a setting of WESLEY found in Seven Preludes or Postludes – an organ collection arranged by Seth Bingham and published by H. W. Grey GB147 [1973] (M).

The contemporary hymn “In Christ Alone” by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend is published by Thankyou Music and is administered by Songs. If you choose to sing “Blessed Assurance: Jesus Is Mine,” an alternative harmonization for piano can be found in the following resource:
Hassell, Michael & Carlson, J. Bert. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]

The sermon response song “Neither Death Nor Life” by Marty Haugen is a responsorial anthem published by GIA G-5650 [2001]. It is scored for SATB choir, cantor, congregation, keyboard and guitar and is based on Romans 8:11-19, 22-25, 28-35, 38; E-M).

Suggestions for offertory music, based on “O Love of God, How Strong and True” or “Blessed Assurance: Jesus Is Mine” can be found in:

WAREHAM [“O Love of God, How Strong and True”]

Diemer, Emma Lou. Celebration. Augsburg 11-9097 [1975] (E-M)
Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 8. AMSI SP-105 [1991] (E-M)
Miller, Aaron David. Improvisations for the Church Year, vol. 2. Augsburg Fortress
ISBN 0-8006-7676-9 [2004] (M)
Thiman, Eric H. Four Chorale Improvisations. Novello (Original Compositions No. 147)
[1933] (M)
Willan, Healy. Ten Hymn Preludes, set 2. Peters 6012 [1957] (E-M)

ASSURANCE [“Blessed Assurance: Jesus Is Mine”]

Roberts, Myron J. “Blessed Assurance.” H. W. Grey GSTC 989 [1976] (M-D)

McKechnie, D. Linda. Blessed Assurance. Agape 1388 [1989] (3-5 octaves, M)

If the closing song suggestions are unfamiliar to your congregation, have your choir or praise team introduce and assist your congregation in the singing.

The postlude suggestion “Marche en Rondeau” by Marc-Antoine Charpentier is published by Boosey and Hawkes [1958] (E-M).

Liturgy Notes:

1. Begin this worship service with the theme of Lord's Day 1. When the worship leader or pastor opens the service with the call to worship, she/he can include references to fact that we either come because we have such comfort or we come because we are seeking it. The Call to Confession can continue the theme through including Q&A 2 of the Catechism which teaches us that such comfort involves acknowledging our sin and seeking God's deliverance from it.

2. For a variety of suggestions for Confession of Sin, we suggest you consult The Worship Sourcebook, 2.2.2. The song (PsH 258) can sung before and after the confession, multiple times within it, or only at the conclusion of the prayer.

3. For the assurance of pardon, we're suggesting that you use the words of Romans 5, but in a different order than in Scripture. Beginning with verse 5 sets the truth of the ministry of Christ before us, and then returning to verses 1-2 expresses its practical and experiential importance for us.

4. The Children's Moment, located after hearing God’s guide for grateful living, can be an excellent time to speak to the children about the importance of expressing our thanks for gifts given. The gift of God's pardon is followed by our testimony of assurance, and then God speaks to us about how to respond to his assurance through loving him and our neighbor.

5. You will find many suggestions for the Prayer for Illumination in The Worship Sourcebook, 3.3.1.