Friday, June 29, 2012

The Church's great myth

There is a myth that floats around in the Church. It is one of those myths that everyone believes, even though almost no one will talk about it openly. It is simply assumed to be reality; in fact, it is accepted without thinking and becomes a part of the culture of a congregation. Most myths have a core of truth, but this one has no truth in it at all. In fact, it is one of the tools of that master deceiver, Satan himself. What is this dangerous, insidious myth? ‘The Small Catechism is only for confirmation students.’

This myth has meant that we lock away the Catechism when we are confirmed; we were told to memorize all those explanations, but we never use them again. This myth has meant that we never return to the basics, and so the foundation of our instruction in the faith begins to crumble. This myth has led us to treat the Catechism as a textbook with one goal (confirmation), not as vital to every aspect of a congregation’s life. This myth hinders evangelism, because without Luther’s simple explanations at our fingertips, we find it very difficult to confess what we believe to others. This myth hampers youth ministry, because we don’t reinforce in high school and college what was instilled in confirmation, and their faith withers as a result. In short, this myth is crippling on the work of the Church.

This should not be!  Martin Luther himself, who wrote the explanations that we study today, confessed that he remained a student of the Catechism his entire life. It was central to his life as a Christian, and so it should be central to our lives as individual Christians and as congregations. It is much more than a textbook, it is the foundation of our faith. The Catechism forms our lives as Christians; it proclaims both Law and Gospel, it teaches us about our God, it teaches us about the Sacraments, it teaches us about our life before God and men. The Catechism is a gift, the gift that keeps on giving, at every stage of life.

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