Read Your Catechism Lately?

Interesting thoughts from Martin Luther in the preface to his Large Catechism.

stainedglass300Oh, what mad, senseless fools are we! While we must ever live and dwell among such mighty enemies as the devils, we still despise our weapons and defense [2 Corinthians 10:4], and we are too lazy to look at or think of them!

What else are such proud, arrogant saints doing who are unwilling to read and study the catechism daily? They think they are much more learned than God Himself with all His saints, angels, prophets, apostles, and all Christians. God Himself is not ashamed to teach these things daily. He knows nothing better to teach. He always keeps teaching the same thing and does not take up anything new or different. All the saints know nothing better or different to learn and cannot finish learning this. Are we not the finest of all fellows to imagine that if we have once read or heard the catechism, we know it all and have no further need to read and learn? Can we finish learning in one hour what God Himself cannot finish teaching? He is engaged in teaching this from the beginning to the end of the world. All prophets, together with all saints, have been busy learning it, have ever remained students, and must continue to be students.

It must be true that whoever knows the Ten Commandments perfectly must know all the Scriptures [Matthew 7:12]. So, in all matters and cases, he can advise, help, comfort, judge, and decide both spiritual and temporal matters. Such a person must be qualified to sin in judgment over all doctrines, estates, spirits, laws, and whatever else is in the world [1 Corinthians 6:2-3]. And what, indeed, is the entire Book of Psalms but thoughts and exercises upon the First Commandment? Now I truly know that such lazy “bellies” and arrogant spirits do not understand a single psalm, much less the entire Holy Scriptures. Yet they pretend to know and despise the catechism, which is a short and brief summary of all the Holy Scriptures.

~Large Catechism Longer Preface 15-18

Have you read your catechism lately? Why not take it down from the shelf and take a look at it today!

The Catechism and Preaching

Luther’s small catechism is central to my instruction of youth in my congregation. We still have the kids memorize large chunks of it (with varying degrees of success), and we use it to teach the basics of the Christian faith. It is simple, well-done, and after nearly 500 years is still one of the best way of teaching anyone the truth of God’s Word.

I have thought that it might be nice to preach on sections of the Catechism and not just teach about it to young people. The thing is, I’ve never really done that. I’ve never found a way to work it in, in these four and a half years I’ve had in my congregation.

Over at the Blog of St. Mark, I read this quote about the season of Lent:

Lent wasn’t always about commemorating the Passion of our Lord.  It began as the last dash to Baptism and Holy Communion for adults in the early Church.  In later years, when there were less adult converts, the focus of Lent shifted to the Passion of Christ.  Liturgical scholar Frank Senn writes, “Thus Lent became a time when the whole church returned, as it were, to the catechumenate, and in which the whole church, as it were, entered the order of penitents” (Christian Liturgy: Catholic and Evangelical, Fortress Press, 1997, p11).

(On a side note, Liturgical scholar Frank Senn, was it really necessary to use the phrase “as it were” twice in one sentence? Really?)

The rest of the post talks about a Lenten sermon series on the catechism that will be going on in some of the WELS congregations in Texas. Check it out. I probably won’t be doing that during this Lent, but I’m definitely keeping it in mind for the future. I like the idea!


Why Would Anyone Ever Want to Read the Catechism?

For many Christians, it might seem childish or “too easy” to read the catechism (the book that lays out the basics of the Christian faith.) This is the book that most people learn with while they’re still kids, after all, so once they finish it, why would they ever go back?

Well, Martin Luther wrote the Small and Large Catechisms, and here’s a great quote from him on why he even found it necessary to go back and read them often.

…For myself I say this: I am also a doctor and preacher; yes, as learned and experienced as all the people who have such assumptions and contentment. Yet I act as a child who is being taught the catechism. Every morning – and whenever I have time – I read and say, word for word, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Psalms, and such. I must still read and study them daily. Yet I cannot master the catechism as I wish. But I must remain a child and pupil of the catechism, and am glad to remain so….

Besides, catechism study is a most effective help against the devil, the world, the flesh, and all evil thoughts. It helps to be occupied with God’s Word, to speak it, and meditate on it, just as the first Psalm declares people blessed who meditate on God’s Law day and night (Psalm 1:2). Certainly you will not release a stronger incense or other repellent against the devil than to be engaged by God’s commandments and words, and speak, sing, or think them [Colossians 3:16]. For this is indeed the true “holy water” and “holy sign” from which the devil runs and by which he may be driven away [James 4:7].

Now, for this reason alone you ought gladly to read, speak, think, and use these things, even if you had no other profit and fruit from them than driving away the devil and evil thoughts by doing so. For he cannot hear or endure God’s Word. God’s Word is not like some other silly babbling… But as St. Paul says in Romans 1:16, it is “the power of God.” Yes indeed, it is the power of God that gives the devil burning pain and strengthens, comforts, and helps us beyond measure.

– Martin Luther – Preface to the Large Catechism (Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions – A Readers’ Edition of the Book of Concord2nd ed. St. Louis: CPH, 2006. 353:7-8, 353-354:10-11)

Have you read the catechism lately?

HT: The Shepherd’s Study