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The Search for a Ransom - Psalm 49, John 1, HCLD 5

A service plan from Lord's Day 5 of the Heidelberg Catechism focused on our need for deliverance, and the truth that truth deliverance can only be found in Jesus Christ, part of a series on the Heidelberg Catechism.

Worship Service

Theme of the Service

After teaching us that we are sinful by nature and that God is justly angry at our sin, the Catechism explores the need and search for a deliverer. The fifth Lord's Day begins Part II of the Catechism which focuses on our deliverance from sin.

The theme of this worship service, therefore, is that true deliverance can only be found in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. The answer to the search for a deliverer is proclaimed clearly in the message of evangelical Christianity that Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, is the only true deliverer.

* * *

In our worship today we celebrate God's mercy
to us through Jesus Christ.



The Call to Worship

*Song: "Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty" PH 138:1-3, PsH 249:1-3, RL 611:1-3, RN 204:1-3, TH 100:1-3, TWC 2:1-3, UMH 64:1-3

*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: “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty” PH 138:4, PsH 249:4, RL 611:4, RN 204:4, TH 100:4, TWC 2:4, UMH 64:4

The Children's Moment [see liturgy notes]


The Call to Confession

Our Prayer of Confession

The Assurance of God's Pardon: John 1:29 [see liturgy notes]

*Song of Assurance: "And Can It Be" PsH 267, RL 451, RN 193, TH 455, TWC 473, UMH 363

God's Guide for Grateful Living [see liturgy notes]


*Song: "I Know Not Why God's Wondrous Grace" PsH 495, TH 705, TWC 493, UMH 714

The Prayer for Illumination

The Reading of the Heidelberg Catechism [see liturgy notes]

According to God's righteous judgment
we deserve punishment both in this world and forever after:
how then can we escape this punishment and return to God's favor?
God requires that his justice be satisfied.
Therefore the claims of his justice must be paid in full,
either by ourselves or another.

Can we pay this debt ourselves?
Certainly not. Actually, we increase our guilt every day.

Can another creature-any at all-pay this debt for us?
No. To begin with, God will not punish another creature
for what a human is guilty of.
Besides, no mere creature can bear the weight
of God's eternal anger against sin and release others from it.

What kind of mediator and deliverer should we look for then?
One who is truly human and truly righteous,
yet more powerful than all creatures,
that is, one who is also true God. (The Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 5)

The Reading of the Old Testament Scripture: Psalm 49
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

The Reading of the New Testament Scripture: John 1:29-34
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Sermon: "The Search for a Ransom"
Text: Psalm 49:7-9

The Prayer of Application


*The Affirmation of our Faith - The Apostles' Creed [see liturgy notes]

*Song of Faith: "The Church's One Foundation" PH 442, PsH 502, RL 394, TH 347, TWC 689, UMH 545]

The Offertory Prayer

The Offertory
The Offering of Music:
We Offer our Gifts for…

The Prayers of the People


*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*Song of Faith: "I Will Sing of My Redeemer" PsH 479, TWC 492


* You are invited to stand.

Sermon Notes

In some of the accounts of his presidency, Jimmy Carter has said that the most agonizing time of his presidency was the 444 tormenting days he searched for a way to ransom the 52 hostages who had been taken by the Iranian government. All possible avenues were explored to no avail until the Iranian government finally released them during the closing moments of Carter's time in office.

An even greater (and sometimes more agonizing) search occurs in the hearts of people to find peace with God. The truths of the past two weeks have set the stage for that search: We are sinful, and God justly hates sin. So, where can we find the solution and be reconciled to God?

Psalm 49 gives expression to this search. This Psalm, closely affiliated with the previous three Psalms, speaks wisely about the search for security and permanence. While the rich assume they will fulfill their search through the accumulation of their wealth, the experiences of life say otherwise. Verses 6-9 wisely declare that the search will not be satisfied from within human society. The singer, probably strumming his guitar/harp as people approach the temple, is reflecting on the futility of the search that many engage in. At heart, it is a search for permanence before God. The previous two Lord's Days of the Catechism have brought the deep need for that search more clearly into focus.

The Psalmist's world illustrates many different false answers to that search. For some, the dead end is found in wealth, human efforts to impress God, or the efforts of other humans on our behalf. Every day we see multiple examples of these failures in our world.

Evangelical Christianity in its proclamation of the Gospel not only gives a clearer focus to the search but a decisive answer. The words of John the Baptism in identifying Jesus as the "Lamb of God" who "takes away the sin of the world" form the only eternally satisfying answer. In these words the Gospel is proclaimed. The progressive revelation in Scripture adds a more complete picture. Consult such passages as John 14:6, Acts 4:11, 12 and 1 Timothy 2:5. Though such an exclusive answer will not be popular in our pluralistic society, we make clear this claim of Scripture as non-negotiable.

This sermon should end with a challenge to each hearer to identify dead-end searches in their own life and a clear call to turn to Jesus Christ as the only Savior.

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)

Liturgy Notes:

1. We suggest that the time with the children could be an excellent time to teach them about the holiness of God. In the opening song, we praise him for his holiness, and our worship is to be formed by our awareness of his holiness. A focus on this attribute of God will set the stage for the confession of our sin and our need for a redeemer (the subject which the sermon will address).

2. Within the Service of Renewal, we suggest pointing to John's declaration in John 1:29 that Jesus is the Lamb who takes away our sin. This would also give an opportunity to make reference to this text which will appear with the sermon. When you lead worshipers to hear God's Guide for Grateful Living, you have many choices, such as the ten commandments, responsive readings of the ten commandments (in The Psalter Hymnal, pp. 1013-1018), other passages of Scripture that call us to grateful and ethical living, or any from the variety of readings from The Worship Sourcebook (pp. 127-137).

3. Because this sermon is based on the Heidelberg Catechism, we have included Lord's Day 5 as a responsive reading with the congregation. Since it is followed by two Scripture readings, you may want to shorten this selection, move it to another point in the service, or use different voices for the readings if this seems to be too much continuous reading for your congregation.

4. The corporate affirmation of faith with the historic Apostles' Creed expresses the church’s solidarity with Christians of all cultures and centuries who have professed their unyielding allegiance to the triune God who ransoms us through Jesus Christ. You may also consider using either the Nicene Creed or some other historic creed.