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Meeting the Judge - Romans 1, HCLD 4

A service plan focusing on Lord's Day 4 of the Heidelberg Catechism and reflecting on God's just nature in punishing sins, but also his merciful nature in forgiving them and offering us hope for salvation. This is part of a series on the Heidelberg catechism.

Worship Service

Theme of the Service

Last week, Lord's Day 2 and 3, showed us that the path to salvation begins with an acknowledgement of our sinfulness. We have a corrupt nature and are unable to do good. This week Lord's Day 4 and Romans 1 presents the reality of facing God as a "just judge" who hates sin and punishes it. Yet this "just judge" is very merciful, and in that mercy we find our hope for salvation. This service will combine reflections on God’s justice and mercy.

* * *

We come to worship today resting in the mercy and grace of God.


Prelude: “Our Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth” [see music notes]
"O Worship the King”

The Call to Worship

*Song: "O Worship the King” PH 476, PsH 428, RL 2, TH 2, TWC 29, UMH 73

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting:
Our help is in the name of the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy, and peace to you
in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

*Response: "Magnify the Lord" PsH 622, RN 131, SFL 13

The Children's Moment [see liturgy notes]


*Song: "My Song Forever Shall Record" PsH 593:1-3, 5

The Prayer for Illumination

The Reading of Scripture: Romans 1:8-20
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Sermon: "Meeting the Judge"
Text: Romans 1:16-20

The Prayer of Application


*Song: "Ah, Holy Jesus, How Have You Offended" PH 93:1-4; PsH 386:1-4; RL 285:1, 2, 4, 5; RN 183:1-4; TH 248:1, 2, 4; TWC 231:1-4; UMH 289:1, 2, 4, 5 [see music notes]

The Litany of Confession [see liturgy notes]

Sung Prayer: "Your Mercy Flows” SNC 68 [see music notes]

How do you come to know your misery?
The law of God tells me.

What does God's law require of us?
Christ teaches us this in summary in Matthew 22-
Love the Lord your God
with all your heart
and with all your soul
and with all your mind
and with all your strength.
This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it:
Love your neighbor as yourself.
All the Law and the Prophets hang
on these two commandments.

But doesn't God do us an injustice by requiring in his law what we are unable to do?
No, God created humans with the ability to keep the law.
They, however, tempted by the devil,
in reckless disobedience,
robbed themselves and all their descendants of these gifts.

Will God permit such disobedience and rebellion to go unpunished?
Certainly not.
He is terribly angry about the sin we are born with
as well as the sins we personally commit.
As a just judge
he punishes them now and in eternity.
He has declared:
"Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do
everything written in the Book of the Law.

Sung Prayer: "Your Mercy Flows” SNC 68

But isn't God also merciful?
God is certainly merciful,
but he is also just.
His justice demands
that sin, committed against his supreme majesty,
be punished with the supreme penalty-
eternal punishment of body and soul. (From Lord's Days 2 and 4)

Then where shall we find hope?
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich yet for
your sake he
became poor so that you through his poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9)
And how shall we know this grace?
"God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
while we were still sinners Christ died for us." (From Romans 5:8)

Sung Prayer: "Your Mercy Flows” SNC 68

The Assurance of Pardon - Romans 8:1, 2

*Song of Assurance: "When Peace Like a River" PsH 489:1, 3; TH 691:1,3; TWC 519:1, 3; UMH 377:1, 3

The Offertory Prayer

The Offertory
The Offering of Music: "When Peace Like a River” [see music notes]
We Offer our Gifts for…

The Prayers of the People


*The Sending: [see liturgy notes]
Go in peace, in the knowledge of God's power.
Go in confidence, in the knowledge of God's strengths.
Go in joy, in the knowledge of God's love. (TWS, 9.1.12)

*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*Song: "Go Now in Peace" PsH 317, RN 293, SFL 79, UMH 665 [see liturgy notes]

*Moment of Meditation

Postlude: "Minuet," Boëllmann [see music notes]

* You are invited to stand.

Sermon Notes:

It goes without saying that this will not be an easy sermon to write and/or preach. While many today are eager to speak about social justice, speaking the justice of God toward our sin is another matter. We must not confuse the two. While some find special satisfaction in picturing God as a stern judge (maybe too much satisfaction), others resist the idea altogether. Perhaps it will be helpful to identify this dilemma at the outset. In addition, the Catechism gives us the challenge of pointing to both the justice and the mercy of God in a biblical balance.

In much contemporary preaching, an explanation of the justice of God seems either foreign or filled with the potential for misunderstanding. It will be necessary to make this a well-supported study by showing from the Heidelberg Catechism why we believe in God’s justice, illustrating from the Scriptures that the Catechism is faithfully reflecting the Word of God, and demonstrating from history and experience ways in which it is verified.

The pastoral side of the sermon will want to pay attention to the way we may respond to the truth about the justice of God. Some may want to reject the whole idea; some might be overwhelmed by it; and still others may try to ignore it.

The solution, of course, is to present the gospel. This just God comes to us with the mercy and grace that provides salvation and is eager to forgive. In Romans 1 the Holy Spirit, through Paul, teaches the accountability of all creatures before God (1:19-20) and the judgment of God against our perverse sinfulness (1:18 and 21 ff.) but sets all of this against the backdrop of the gospel of grace (1:16,17), affirms the way in which the Roman Christians are standing in this grace (1:8-13), and also holds before them the obligation of sharing this news with all others (1:14-15).

We end with the profoundly thankful awareness that the justice and mercy of God do not merely stand in tension with each other, but the mercy of God has overcome his justice through the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross. All talk about justice must give way to the proclamation of God’s mercy in Christ.

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 German chorale setting of the Lord’s Prayer and the opening hymn, both of which set forth a theme of God ruling from the heavens.
VATER UNSER [Our Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth]
Bach, J. S. The Liturgical Year (ed. Riemenschneider). Ditson [1933] (E-M)
Haan, Raymond H. The King of Love. SMP KK277 [1983] (E-M)
Leupold, A. W. An Organ Book. Chantry Music Press [1960] (E-M)
Mendelssohn, Felix. Music for a Celebration, set 3. Morningstar MSM-10-565 [2004] (M) Mendelssohn, Felix. Organ Works. Schirmer 227 [1924] (M-D)

LYONS [O Worship the King]
Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 1. AMSI OR1 [1980] (E-M)
Haan, Raymond H. O Worship the King. Broadman 4570-42 [1979] (E-M)

Carter, John. Hymns for Piano II. Hope 8197 [2003] (E-M)
Schubert, Myra. Give Him Praise. Lillenas MB-511 [1983] (M-D)

Hopson, Hal H. Variations on "O Worship The King". Van Ness 4184-05 [1985]
(3-4 octaves, E-M)
Larson, Lloyd. O Worship The King. Agape 1322 [1988] (2-5 octaves with organ, E-M)
McChesney, Kevin. O Worship the King. Beckenhorst BP207 [2001]
(3-5 octaves, level 3)

Alternative harmonizations for the opening hymn “O Worship the King” can be found in:

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Goode, Jack C. Thirty-four Changes on Hymn Tunes. H W Grey GB 644 [1978]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Carlson, J. Bert. Let It Rip! At the Piano, vol. 2. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7580-0 [2003]

You may wish to encourage your congregation to sing the response “Magnify the Lord” in a four-part round. Have your choir or praise team lead the congregation in this.

You may wish to use your choir throughout the service of confession. John Ferguson has written a concertato setting of Ah Holy Jesus published by Augsburg 11-10572 that your choir could well lead your congregation through. Additional resources for alternative harmonizations follow below.
HERZLIEBSTER JESU [Ah, Holy Jesus, How Have You Offended]
Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Burkhardt, Michael. As Though the Whole Creation Cried. Morningstar
MSM-10-555 [2001]
Busarow, Donald. All Praise to You, Eternal God. Augsburg 11-9076 [1980]
Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, bk. 2. Ludwig O-07 [1983]

If your congregation is not familiar with “Your Mercy Flows,” have your choir or praise team lead the congregation in their singing. Notice that this response prayer is sung multiple times in this section of the service. You may wish to select an alternate setting of a Kyrie – SNC52 or 53, PsH 258 or a selected verse from a hymn or psalm of confession.

Suggestions for offertory are based on the hymn sung following the assurance of pardon.
VILLE DU HAVRE [When Peace Like a River]
Medema, Ken. Sanctuary. Genevox 4181-16 [1989] (M)
Porter, Rachel Trelstad. Day by Day. Augsburg 11-10772 [1996] (M)
Sanborn, Jan. Piano Music for the Care of the Soul. Ron Harris RHP0403 [1997] (M)
Schubert, Myra. Give Him Praise. Lillenas MB-511 [1983] (D)
Wilhelmi, Teresa. Hymns…Light Jazz Style. Word 301 0136 315 [1997] (M)

Burroughs, Bob. It Is Well With My Soul. Triune HB 160 [1986] (3 C Instrument, E-M)
Moklebust, Cathy. It Is Well With My Soul. Alfred 20206 [2002]
(3-5 octaves with opt. handchiimes and C instrument, level 3)

Another suggestion for offertory music could include playing a selection that is not based on a hymn. Sometimes it is good for the congregation to have time to reflect on all the thoughts that a service like this can bring to them with just a quiet, meditative piece not associated with a text.

The postlude suggestion “Minuet” comes from the Suite Gothique by Leon Boëllmann , published by G. Schirmer 1763 [1952] (E-M). “Prayer” from the same suite could well serve as the offertory selection.

Liturgy Notes:

1. The Children's Moment is placed early in this service so that the theme of the service can be conveyed to children. It will be important to explain the importance of "justice." When we do something wrong, we must be punished. It would be helpful to cite some stories or illustrations from our own lives to make this real. After explaining "justice," explain the surprise of God's mercy. He forgives us, and like a parent, he holds us tightly even after we deserve punishment.

2. The Service of Renewal follows the sermon this week again so that it becomes our meaningful and personal response to the Word of God. In the Litany of Confession, the sung Kyrie, the words of the Heidelberg Catechism, and words of Scripture are interwoven for our confession of sin and search for grace. Notice that, while the worship leader begins and the worshipers respond in the first half of the Litany, the order reverses in the second half so that the words and roles reflect the search for grace by worshipers and the assurance given by the worship leader.

3. The words of Sending at the close of this service send the worshipers to continue their walk with God in the light of the new measure of grace they have received.

4. The closing song, "Go Now in Peace," is a song that worshipers direct to one another as an exhortation but also as an affirmation. You can either encourage them to be conscious of singing it to one another, or you may want to have the congregation divided into two halves so that one half sings it to the other, and then the other half sings it back to the first.