Bullinger for Today
Congratulations, NorthParkers! We have reached level three of the Protestant reformers in our Sesquicentennial Service Challenge: Heinrich Bullinger. Bullinger was one of the most influential second generation reformers following the first generation, which included Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli.
Bullinger’s most important work for Presbyterians is a very personal confession which he wrote in 1561. He wrote this confession in gratitude to God after surviving what he called “deadly pestilence.” Bullinger in fact originally meant for this confession to become part of his last will and testament to the Reformed Church of Zurich.
However, in 1566, Christians in the sometimes troubled city of Heidelberg requested his assistance in clarifying the basic issues of Christian belief, so for their benefit he had his confession published and sent to them. This became the Second Helvetic Confession and is found in our current Book of Confessions.
A favorite phrase of mine from this confession is the line, “praedicatio Verbi Dei Est Verbum Dei,” translated as “the Preaching of the Word Of God is The Word of God!” Can I get an Amen? A nod of the head? A roll of the eyes? Okay, whatever.
The point of this statement – beyond preaching – is the importance of “covenant Christian community” where a Christian is “called and gathered out of the world into the church.” For Bullinger, the Word of God is heard most effectively in the midst of covenant community.
Today, we tend to practice solitary religion where we are spiritual but not a part of any formal religious communities or voluntary religion where we pick our religion based on whether the practitioners fit our particular worldview. While I think there are legitimate reasons to practice both solitary and voluntary religion, the danger is that in both cases we can end up worshiping our own image of God rather than a God who transforms us.
Bullinger calls us into “covenant” where we belong to a community “beyond ourselves with Jesus Christ at the head.” He asks us to remember that the “church is not formed by a human gathering of people who would have the same opinions, but by a divine convocation called by God into redemption.”
Rev. Brent Barry is the lead pastor of NorthPark Presbyterian Church. Brent and NorthPark have a deep commitment to working with the poor and hungry in Dallas, helping those with Alzheimer’s disease, and reaching across religious and cultural lines to do their part to bring Dallas together as one.