- Written by Pastor Shawn Nettleton Pastor Shawn Nettleton
- Created: August 26 2014 August 26 2014
If you can believe it, summer has all but come to an end as fall is upon us. Schools for all ages are now back in session. Even our Sunday school and mid-week Bible classes are back in full swing. As I think about the new school year and Christian education, I am reminded of the wonderful treasure we have in Martin Luther’s Small Catechism.
Luther believed that the catechism should accompany the Christian from the Baptismal font to the grave. He believed that the catechism should act as our daily guide for meditating and contemplating on God’s Word. Luther did not say that the catechism should substitute our daily reading and meditating on God’s Word. Rather, the catechism gives us a basis or a framework for thinking about and reading scripture.
Our Lord tells us that we should press His words upon our heart. He urges us to teach them diligently to our children, to talk about them in our homes and to meditate on them when we walk, lie down and rise up (Deuteronomy 6:6–8). Our Lord urges us to be in His word because it is His very word which gives life and sustains life (Psalm 1). It is our sword that we take with us into the battles of this life (Hebrews 4:12). As we continue to read, mark and learn the Scriptures on a daily basis, let us not lose sight of the jewel we have in the Small Catechism.
From very early in the Church’s history, the heart of the catechism, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments, have been used and identified as the essentials for Christian knowledge. The texts and explanations in Luther’s catechism were not simply meant to be introductions into the faith used only in confirmation class. Rather, Luther intended the catechism to be a guide for the entire Christian life, a road map one takes and follows throughout his or her journey. This road map gives a brief summary of Scripture, captures its main themes and provides us with a foundation for reading and interpreting the Scriptures. One cannot sit down and learn the whole catechism in two, three or even ten sessions. Its depths contain the mysteries of the faith which Luther himself daily meditated upon. Each text and explanation seeks to stir and strengthen faith in God’s gifts and promises for us as well as provide a guide for exercising faith in everyday life.
Luther targeted both pastors and parents as those who would share the catechism with children and their households. As a guide to the basics of the Christian faith, the catechism also lays the foundation for a lifetime of growth and formation. It serves as an excellent source for daily meditation and contemplation. It supplies us with a framework for interpreting life and its experiences.
I have provided a list of suggested devotional materials for individuals and families. However, if you have forgotten the little gem we have in Luther's Small Catechism, pick it back up today and use it as a guide for your devotional life. Pamphlet size copies (3" × 6"), small enough to carry around in one's pocket or day planner, are available on the tables outside the sanctuary. Concordia Publishing House has also created a Small Catechism app for smart phones that can be downloaded for free. The catechism was written to be more than a book we read in confirmation instruction. It is our road map to the Scriptures and a guide for our daily lives that can be used during our personal and family devotion times, maybe even at our breakfast and dinner tables.
Rev. Shawn Nettleton is Senior Pastor at Saint John’s Lutheran Church. You can reach him in the church office, by email at nettleton@StJohnsFC.org or at 970-305-2420.