The Pastor's Windshield for April 2024

First of all, what’s a “catechism”? In short, a catechism is a book of basic Christian instruction, usually arranged in a question-and-answer format. Martin Luther wrote his Small Catechism in 1529, but even before this, Christians had already been summarizing the faith in catechisms and using key texts, such as the Ten Commandments, Apostles’ Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer, to do so.

Luther wrote his catechism after visiting pastors and churches in Germany and realizing just how little the people knew and understood the Bible, the Commandments, the Creed, etc. The Small Catechism is intended both to lay a foundation for Christian faith and living for children or new believers and to be a source of continual reflection and practice for the mature Christian.

In his preface to his Large Catechism, Luther wrote, “I am also a doctor and preacher … 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.” God grant us such an attitude, to remain students of the catechism throughout our lives and to fill our hearts and minds with the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer and these other elemental words for our faith and life in Christ!

If you are unfamiliar with the catechism, here is a very basic summary: Luther’s Catechism begins with the Ten Commandments, which both show us our sin and our desperate need for salvation, and also show us how to live as the people of God. This is followed by the Apostles’ Creed, which shows us the Gospel – everything our God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, has done for us. The Lord’s Prayer teaches us how to speak to God as His dear children. Then, the Catechism explains the meaning and benefits of Holy Baptism, Confession and Absolution, and the Sacrament of the Altar (Holy Communion). And last but not least, the final parts of the Catechism include Daily Prayers, the Table of Duties (Bible verses about our daily vocations), and Christian Questions with their Answers (for self-examination prior to receiving Communion).

We have very simple copies of Luther’s Catechism at St. Matthew (entitled A Simple Explanation of Christianity). You can find them on the information table. You can also purchase the catechism in various print and digital formats from Concordia Publishing House. It’s even available as an app for your smart phone (just search “Luther’s Small Catechism” in your app store).

Starting on Weds, May 1 at 6:30pm, I will also be teaching a catechism class for adults. I invite you to join us, either to learn more about the Lutheran faith for the first time or to review the catechism for those who have already been instructed in it. We’ll be using the 2017 notetaking edition of the catechism, which includes many helpful updates and explanations from prior editions. Join us if you are able! (RSVPs are appreciated.)

This Sun, April 28th, two young people at St. Matthew will have their Confirmation after undergoing a time of instruction in the catechism. Confirmation, though, is intended as a starting place. It’s a milestone, but not a “graduation.” For them, and for those of you who are confirmed Lutherans, remember your vow “to continue steadfast in this confession and Church.” Continue learning the catechism, and continue living it out, as you confess your sins, trust your Savior Jesus, pray to the Father, remember your Baptism, come to your Lord’s Table, and much more. Like Luther himself, gladly remain a student of the catechism!

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Kory Janneke