OSLPK movie night

Passing on a Christian Worldview – The Overlooked Radical Tool

The year is 1529, the Reformation is well under way.   Martin Luther and his fellow pastors and professors had been teaching and proclaiming the Gospel for nearly 12 years. Now, their influence had spread throughout Germany and other parts of the Holy Roman Empire. Yet, even as their influence spread, the reformers in Wittenberg possessed little idea of how the Gospel and Scriptures were understood amongst the priests and laity outside of the city. So, Luther and some of his fellows began visiting congregations throughout the country. What they found was incredibly distressing. For all that the unleashed Gospel had spread the people were fairly ignorant of Scripture and their worldview was still largely affected by the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church.

The result of these visits is what is probably the most overlooked worldview shaping tool ever devised, the Small Catechism. Yes, the book that has been gathering dust since your days in confirmation is one of the most radical worldview shaping tools ever created.

Sadly, over the years we have created an environment that allowed us to overlook the value of the Small Catechism. It became a text book. Nothing kills a book faster than becoming a text book for a class. Because, what do you do with a textbook after you finish a class? You either put it on a shelf to never look at it again or you get rid of it. As a pastor nothing makes me sadder than to see somebody put their Small Catechism in the for sale pile. But, we did it to ourselves. I must confess, I did it myself. The catechism was just a means for getting head knowledge.small catechism

The catechism is so much more than head knowledge. Comprised mostly of Scripture the Small Catechism can be understood as almost as the Bible in miniature. In the Small Catechism we are given the basic frame work of God’s Word and the means to understand what God is telling us. What is more is that we are even given a frame work by which to live and understand our own lives. In short, these 30 some pages (as formatted by CPH’s Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation) contain the greatest tool the average person can have.

What we have been given.

A means to understand the Bible.

The six chief parts of the catechism are set up the way they are specifically. They chart out how we can understand the Word of God by using God’s Word. Most of the Small Catechism is either a direct Scripture quote or a paraphrase of the Scriptures. So, it is possible for us to read the Scripture and see how the various events, songs, and prophesies illustrate the Six Chief parts and demonstrate a fundamental principle of understanding the Bible – Scripture interprets Scripture.

The Ten Commandments

Luther placed the Ten Commandments first because the Ten Commandments identify the problem by showing us our sin. Essentially, they summarize the various statements of God’s Law in the Scriptures. I’d like to point out briefly that the explanations draw heavily on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount which is essentially a commentary on the Ten Commandments.

The Apostles’ Creed

There are three main creeds that Luther could have chosen for the Small Catechism, but the Apostles’ Creed serves best because it shares the redemption story. Essentially, we can understand the Apostles’ Creed as the summary of the Redemption story. The creed confesses the Gospel truth that God is our Father and creator and how He as our loving Father restores us through the work of Jesus. Plus, the creed confesses the Scriptural promises of how God makes us His in Christ and sustains us. In doing so, the Apostles’ Creed truly is a summary of the Bible, because the entirety of Scripture revolves around the Redemption story.

The Lord’s Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer is God given faith’s response to hearing the Law and the Gospel of the Redemption story. It is the prayer that asks for the very things God has promised to give – forgiveness, what we need to live, and protection from evil.

Baptism, Absolution, and Communion

These three things along with God’s word are God’s answer to the petition “deliver us from evil.” I will be treating these sections individually later but for now they are collectively God’s answer to the Lord’s Prayer. For it is by the means of Baptism, Absolution, and Communion that we are given forgiveness of sins and deliverance from Evil. They give us the very bread that we need to survive the onslaught of Satan and his minions.  They bring us out of this dead world by bringing Jesus, the Lord of Life, to us.

Table of Duties

This is the answer to the question, “What does a holy life look like?” Here you will find Scripture verses pertaining to many of the stations of life we will find ourselves in through the course of our lives. And so, it serves as the starting point for figuring out what God would have us do in our life.

All of these Six Chief parts come together into one fantastic tool that can shape our worldview and enable us to pass on the worldview.   The first step we take is memorizing it. For many of us that may mean re-memorizing it. I will suggest to ways to memorizing the Small Catechism. The first is to read one of the Six Chief parts each day. The other is this nifty little CD from Concordia Publishing House called Singing the Faith. I highly recommend Singing the Faith because music is a fantastic mnemonic device (a tool to aid memory recall).

Why memorize?

You cannot form a worldview unless it is so solidly engrained into your mind that it becomes a natural part of your thinking. And working to memorize something will do just that. When learning a new language, one of the best ways to learn is to be completely immersed in that language. People who have studied abroad have experienced this phenomenon. When we work to memorize something, and I don’t mean the cramming so many school kids do before a test, rather the intentional work designed to promote long term retention, we end up immersed in the work we are memorizing. The shear act of memorization requires regular exposure. For example, Pastor Schlote gets up every morning and does a series of stretches while reciting bible verses. Every day begins with that memory work. Another example, is in my own family we have been using the Singing The Faith CD, music gets into your head. I catch myself singing “The First commandment…What does this mean?…” while sitting in my office or driving around town. At first, it made me laugh, but then it drove home how powerful a memory tool music is. But this is what means to become immersed.  You are exposed in such a way that even when you are not actively thinking about it, it comes to mind.

So if you want to start passing on a Christian Worldview begin with the greatest most overlooked Worldview tool – the Small Catechism.  I’ll spend the next six or so entries going into each part and how they affect our worldview.

OSLPK movie night

Music: God’s gift for teaching

I don’t just like music.  I love music.  I love everything about music – the beauty, the talent, the dedication, and above all its ability to communicate.  Music is an incredibly powerful tool for teaching people.  The way that music wraps our emotions around its lyrical finger and entrances the mind is almost supernatural.  The song “Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Weber nails the power of music perfectly although just a bit creepily.  Yet, it is none the less true.  Music is powerful.

Back in the days of the Reformation, Luther and his contemporaries recognized the power of music.  And they put it to use to teach the faith.  They began to write hymns that taught the faith.  They put the parts of the catechism to music.  They took Biblical truths and wrote them in meter and rhyme.  And people learned.  I see it play out today.  When I ask kids to look something up in the Bible, I can hear them sing the song “These are the Books of the Bible.”  And while it makes me smile, it is a great example of the power of music.  Using music to teach the faith is probably one of our greatest traditions.  One we lost for a bit in our rush to write exciting songs where we ended up with a bunch of music that really didn’t say much of anything.   But over the past few years there have been some artists who remembered the power of music to teach and began to write good music once again.  We played host to one of those groups of artists a few years ago when we hosted Koine.  They are still a going concern.  In fact, they recently released an album to teach the theology of the Divine Service.

They take us through the ebb and flow of the service so that we may see the Divine Service as God visiting with us.  I’d encourage you to listen to the album and soak in the words.  Hear how we come empty handed, confessing our sins and then God visits us and renews us in Word, in body and blood, and we reply in prayer and thanksgiving.

 

OSLPK movie night

Crosses

I’m the son of a carpenter…….. No, I’m not writing about Jesus, I’m writing in the ‘first person’ about me; my dad was a carpenter.  When my dad’s church decided to remodel their 100-year-old sanctuary, my dad did the work.  New altar, pulpit, lectern, communion rails, and of course, new 20 foot tall oak cross.  Beautiful white-stained oak, framed with a red and gold tapestry; very inspirational and ‘modern’ for 1962.  One of my proudest accomplishments in life is having the opportunity to build the LCMS Cross in our sanctuary!  For me, it’s another connection to my earthly father – as in ‘Like father, like son’.  But it’s more than that, it’s a connection to my Heavenly Father too.

I think of the words to that well-known hymn I grew up with ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross’ on which the Prince of Glory died, My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride.  Or those words from ‘Alas, and did my Savior Bleed’ and this stanza: ‘Thus might I hide my blushing face While His dear cross appears, Dissolve my heart in thankfulness, And melt mine eyes to tears.’  Or maybe the most inspirational of all ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ and these words:  ‘On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame; And I love that old cross where the dearest and best, For a world of lost sinners was slain.’

In a way, the cross my dad built was a testimony to his faith, and I feel the same way about the one I built –  it is a testimony to our Lord and when I see it, I think about these words in Hebrews 12:  ‘Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.’  In a month when we celebrate the Reformation and Martin Luther, let us fix our eyes on the Cross and on our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

OSLPK movie night

‘A Mighty Fortress is our God….’

What powerful words penned by Martin Luther those many centuries ago!  He goes on to talk about our God in terms of warfare – a ‘trusty shield’ and a ‘weapon’.  Did you know that, as Christians, we possess the ultimate ‘Weapon of Mass Destruction’?  And that would be God’s Almighty Word!  The Apostle Paul says this in 2 Corinthians 10: ‘For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.’

As we commemorate and celebrate the Reformation and the work of Martin Luther this month, consider the Power of God’s Word – the ‘Holy dynamite’ we use to demolish arguments and pretensions through the work of the Holy Spirit!  Hear again the word of Ephesians 6 as you’ve never heard them before:  ‘Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.’