The Small Catechism- not just for confirmation students!
From the Vicar,
As I learn and grow in my faith and knowledge, an interesting thing has occurred- I am learning to appreciate the ‘simple’ knowledge that was given to me at first. Sometimes we have to learn more to simply be grateful for what we learned earlier. I can’t say that I enjoyed Luther’s Small Catechism very much when I was in seventh grade, but now that I am more mature, I am learning each and every day the genius and beauty of this little book. Dr. Luther’s work is truly a masterpiece in so many ways, and I am convinced that if a person of any age starts to investigate it once again, they will find that they can never fully mine its depths. In fact, Luther himself said as much about this work that he put together! Of course, the Small Catechism is the primary ‘textbook’ for confirmation instruction, but I think we are cheating ourselves if that is the only use we find for it. Instead, the Catechism is a book of learning, a book of devotion, a book of prayer. It is a book for all of life, a book that leads us deeper and deeper into Scripture.
Of course, the catechism is primarily a book of instruction for all ages, for both learning and teaching. But who is supposed to lead this teaching? The answer is not only the Pastor or Vicar, although we are glad to teach your children and truly enjoy it. Each part of Luther’s Small Catechism begins with these words: “As the head of the family should teach it to his household.” The Catechism is primarily a book of instruction for the family. The training of our young people in the faith is not only the job of the Pastor or Vicar, but is the responsibility of all Christians and especially parents. How does the ‘head of the family’ teach it to his household? A good place to start is Luther’s preface, where he gives the teacher some guidelines (with much of his usual fiery intensity showing through!).
We almost never think of the Catechism as a book of prayer, but it also is that. Here the genius of Luther is truly revealed. The language used is simple and direct, yet beautiful and deep. It teaches us what to pray for and even gives to us the very words. Here the value of memorization is revealed, as we can pray to God using the words taught us from the Catechism. When it becomes a book of prayer, we take ownership of the words and they become part of us, just as Scripture does when we are immersed in it. I like to think of the phrase in the TLH liturgy about the Scriptures: “[Grant that we may] read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them.” Try starting with the first commandment and pray a question and answer of the catechism each day, or stick with one for a week. Not only will it become a part of your devotional life, it will also help you to learn more about our Lord.
And as we pray, teach, and learn the Catechism, it teaches us to speak and confess our faith. Then it becomes a book of missions. True missions do not focus on ourselves and our own story, but instead on God and His plan to save us all from sin. The Catechism gives us the words to speak about God and what He has done for us in Christ. It trains us to confess our faith. Confession is what missions is all about, and Luther’s Small Catechism has equipped us to do that.
As I said above, the depths of the Catechism cannot be fully mined even after a lifetime of study. My hope and prayer is that the Small Catechism becomes an important part of your Christian walk, and that you may explore all that it has to say as you learn and teach, pray and confess its beautiful words.