“It is not we who are able to maintain the church, nor could those before us, nor will those who come after us be able to do so. It is only He who says, ‘Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.’ It has always been He, is He now, and will always be He. As it is written in Hebrews 13, ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.’ And Revelation 1, ‘… who is and who was and who is to come.’ He is the Man. That is His name, which belongs to no other man, nor may it be given to any other.” –Martin Luther
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.
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.