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home : columnists : joy in the journey August 21, 2017

Little class in the fundamental teachings
The deplorable, miserable conditions which I recently observed when visiting the parishes have constrained and pressed me to put this catechism of Christian doctrine into this brief, plain, and simple form. How pitiable, so help me God, were the things I saw: the common man, especially in the villages, knows practically nothing of Christian doctrine, and many of the pastors are almost entirely incompetent and unable to teach. Yet all the people are supposed to be Christians, have been baptized, and receive the Holy Sacrament even though they do not know the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, or the Ten Commandments and live like poor animals of the barnyard and pigpen. What these people have mastered, however, is the fine art of tearing all Christian liberty to shreds.

- Martin Luther, Preface to the Small Catechism, 1529

By Teri Ditslear
Joy in the Journey

Martin Luther had a way with words. No dancing around the issue of what he believed to be a travesty; the lack of the common person's ability to say why they claimed to be a Christian. Not much has changed. The majority of people in our country, might say they are Christian, but would be hard pressed to articulate the simple tenants or doctrine of Christianity. (Not that there is anything wrong with this.) But maybe, if we say we are Christian, perhaps it would be enriching to dig into the fundamental teachings.

The Small Catechism, written by Luther, was specifically intended for adults, to teach their children. He concluded that the first things to teach were the, Ten Commandments, the Apostles Creed, and The Lord's Prayer. He also added Morning and Evening Prayers. The idea being, if we were to say these tenants each day, along with prayers, we would indeed be strengthened in our faith journey. However, the small catechism not just for children, it is a great starting point for anyone desiring an understanding of, "what Christians believe." During this Lenten season, our faith community is hosting Table Conversations, Wednesday evenings, discussing the Small Catechism, and what it means to us today. It has been a very rewarding experience to hear other people's points of view when we dig into questions of, "What is this?" and "What does this mean?" Learning together seems to bring out the integrity of this simple yet profound trio of writings.

Since the 1950's Sunday School for children has become quite the thing. As a matter of fact, in many faith communities, Sunday school has become not only great entertainment, for the little curtain climbers, but it has become the only time in the week when they might learn something about who God is. Luther gave parents a resource, in which they could help their children understand what it means to be a person of the Christian faith. While Sunday school might be a good and enriching time for our kids, it should not be the main source of faith development. In fact, it is not, the children are watching everything, on the other six days.

Sunday, the day of worship and rest, (for many) is also the day we practice what we believe. The other six days of the week, we are to do what we have practiced. On Sunday, we come together to remember whose we are, we pray for the world, hear scripture, learn about who God is, serve one another, eat at the Lord's Table together. What would happen in our lives if each home would do these things each day? Using the Small Catechism, the little book of faith, is one tool that could help your family learn about who God is, and how we are to be with one another in the world. I wonder, how would our lives change if we read, perhaps memorized this little book of faith?

The small catechism can be found on many websites, or stop by Roots of Life, and I will be happy to provide you with a copy, a cup of coffee and conversation.

Noblesville's Teri Ditslear is a pastor whose column appears Saturdays in The Times. Contact her at pastor@rolcommunity.com, on Facebook or at www.rolcommunity.com

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