The Small Catechism is divided in the the six chief parts of the Christian faith. They are: The Ten Commandments, The Creed, The Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, Confession and Absolution, and the Sacrament of the Altar.
The words found in the Small Catechism answer practical questions for every Christian: What is God’s Law? The Ten Commandments. God’s Law smashes the self-righteousness of man and exposes his mistrust of God. At the same time, God’s Law exalts the righteousness of Christ who fulfilled the whole will and Law of God for us. The Law must condemn the sinner and convict him of his need for Christ. This is the preaching of repentance.
The Law is always taught with Christ in view. We are the sinners. He is the Savior. Apart from his grace we can have no salvation, and can do no good thing. The Christian is taught to use each of the Ten Commandments as a guide for self-examination in preparation for private and corporate confession and absolution.
Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. –Romans 13:10
Love is the summary of all the commandments. It is found in the Love God has for the world in that he gave his only Son who perfectly kept the Law of his Father to be our Savior.
This Wednesday we begin our journey to the Cross of Good Friday. Our celebration at Our Redeemer will be marked with the imposition of ashes and holy communion. (There will be two services – one at 10:00 a.m. and another at 6:30 p.m.)
It is interesting to me that the same cross that was placed upon the forehead of the baptized is retraced this Wednesday in dust and ash. What is not seen on a normal basis becomes something seen on Ash Wednesday. Marked by the dust of the earth, the very work and merit of Christ is made known for us – personally for each of us. We feel the grit and the dust. We see the cross in the mirror and its presence is felt vaguely all day. Luther wrote in his small catechism that we should start and end our day by tracing the holy cross upon ourselves. So also we start the season of Lent with the sign of the cross made upon our heads.
This is why I love the liturgical year – the ebb and flow of the year uses our senses to remind us of the promises and work of Jesus. God engages our bodies in the feeding and nourishing of Word and Sacrament. Good Friday is seen for us, albeit dimly, upon our foreheads this Wednesday. We are reminded that it is death that has now become a gate to life. No longer does it have a sting. No longer can it trap us and hunt us. Now death is a slave of Christ and our death is undone.
Reminded of Christ’s work on the cross, we will then proclaim that death again in the celebration of the Supper. There, at the communion rail, the Our Redeemer family will join your family in the participation of the body of Christ and the blood of Christ. We’ll see you Wednesday.
Hunger and Thirst and REAL Food
Hunger and thirst are the most basic human urges. In the Lord’s supper, Jesus satisfies those most basic urges in a unique way. Whereas other meals offer benefits that last for the moment, the Lord’s Supper offers an eternal benefit for those who eat and drink in faith. Through His body and blood in the Lord’s Supper, Jesus promises us the forgiveness of sins and a foretaste of the eternal feast with Him in heaven.
Some have questioned Jesus’ promise, wondering, “How can He give us His body and blood to eat and drink? Surely His words are symbolic.” However, the earliest Christians – the first wave of refugees to flee this sin-starved world – did not take Jesus’ words as mere symbolism. For example, the apostle Paul affirmed Jesus’ promise in the Lord’s Supper. He noted that the cup and the bread are a participation (communing, sharing) in the actual body and blood of Jesus. Jesus would not give His weary disciples symbolic gestures when they need real food!
Just as hungry refugees need more than faint promises or mere hope that things will be better someday, God’s people need something more. Jesus meets the genuine needs of His people by sustaining them with His very life’s blood. Each time you receive the Lord’s Supper in faith, you receive a life-giving transfusion. The body and blood of Christ mingle with your body and blood in a miracle surpassing all the other wonders of heaven and earth. Don’t grow faint in your faith. Don’t collapse from spiritual starvation. Draw near and take part in Christ’s Holy Supper. He will sustain you and satisfy your needs of body and soul.
A little while ago I started to put together a series of tracts for the weekly bulletin about different liturgical and catechetical issues in our church. Members of the congregation submitted questions they were curious about and I tried to submit an answer in each week’s bulletin. It was called the Liturgical Question Box. I thought it good to share them here as well. Enjoy!
The word “catechism” comes from the Greek word meaning to echo. It is a summary of the principles of the Christian religion. During the reformation, two books (the Small and Large Catechisms) were written to assist families in learning and taking to heart these principles. Luther’s Small Catechism contains the texts that belong to the church of all times and in all places. They are the most important texts for the church and they are all taken from the Bible.
We understand the Small Catechism to be a prayer book and handbook for the Christian faith and life, rather than a textbook. A textbook is used for a course of study and then rarely used again. A prayer book is used continually. A prayer book speaks to all our needs, giving us God’s promises, so that we might learn to “ask him as dear children ask their dear father.” It even gives us the very words to pray.
As a handbook it helps us understand and interpret the Bible, the holy liturgy of the church, the hymns we sing, and our lives as Christians in this fallen world. In a plain language it sets before us what each Christian needs to know for their faith and life.
There are six chief parts of the Christian faith laid out in the Small Catechism. They are: The Ten Commandments, The Creed, The Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, Confession and Absolution, and the Sacrament of the Altar. The texts given are not unique to Lutherans, but are Christian, universal, and biblical.