RE: The Most Neglected Part of the Catechism

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Rev. Jordan McKinley’s inaugural post on “The Most Neglected Part of the Small Catechism” has gotten me thinking.

I played a little guessing game with myself before I read the post. I wanted to think about how I would answer this question on my own, and I wanted to try and guess what Rev. McKinley’s answer would be.

Though I can never prove it, so you’ll just have to believe me, I correctly guessed that he would pick the injunction on fathers, the heads of households, to teach their family. And I wholeheartedly agree with him.

But when I initially thought about the question on my own, I went in a slightly, though related, direction. My mind went to the question: “Which part or section is the most neglected in the Catechism?

My conclusion was that the Table of Duties is the most neglected section of the Catechism. This should be odd, especially since the Table of Duties is straight from the Bible! It locates the Christian in God’s creation and church and gives direction on how to lead a holy life. Many early Lutheran catechisms and instructional texts placed great importance on this particular section.

In catechism instruction, I cover the Table of Duties under the Fourth Commandment. With the Fourth Commandment, one moves to the second table of the law. The Fourth Commandment is not only one of seven commandments in the second table, but the chief and overarching/organizing commandment of this table, under the first commandment. As a friend of mine in Iowa likes to say, “The Fourth Commandment is the hitch, the connection, between the two tables of the law.” Here we see how the Lord, who allows no other gods, orders His creation and His church and points us to how He works in the world through these authorities and institutions that we are to honor.

Thus, at the point where we are told to “Honor father and mother” and “not to despise our parents and other authorities,” it is natural to explain the three estates, the two kingdoms, and how we are to recognize our place in God’s creation and church so that we may love and serve our neighbor.

I think it makes sense to treat the Table of Duties in detail under the Fourth Commandment. What do you pastors, and housefathers, do in your congregations and homes? Do you cover the Table of Duties? Do you have the children memorize them like the rest of the SC? When and how do you cover them?

And also, to back up a bit, is there another section that is more neglected? And if we limit the question only to the six chief parts, which then would be the most neglected?

 

 

 

 

About Pastor David Ramirez

Pastor Ramirez is the pastor of St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Union Grove, WI. He is a 2008 graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary-Fort Wayne. In 2009, after staying another year at CTS as the Historical Theology Department’s graduate assistant, he was called to Zion Lutheran Church in Lincoln, IL and ordained into the office of the holy ministry. Some of his particular interests are the teaching of Bible History and youth work.

Comments

RE: The Most Neglected Part of the Catechism — 11 Comments

  1. We have a reading from the Catechism with related Bible passages included as a responsive reading each Sunday. Starting at the beginning of the academic year, we cover the first two chief parts and their meanings in the fall, Asking a Blessing/Returning Thanks the weeks corresponding to Christmas/New Year’s break, the remaining four chief parts in the spring, capped off by Morning/Evening Prayer sometime around Memorial Day. During the summer, we cover the Table of Duties and the Nicene Creed.

    Ideally, this is to be graduated memory work – shorter passages for the younger students, longer passages (plus the previously memorized shorter ones) for the older students, so that by the time they start confirmation instruction with me at 7th grade, they already have the entire text of the Small Catechism memorized and we can focus on “connecting the dots.” (Parents rarely do that with their children at home and we end up trying to cram the entire 8 year memory schedule into 2 years.) The adults are supposed to be using the readings as review as well. I have noticed that when catechism sections come up in adult teaching situations (Adult Bible Classes, Ladies Aid/Men’s Club devotions, Church Council Bible Study, etc.), the adults are a little more able to provide answers from the Small Catechism… a little.

    I could not figure out how to include the Christian Questions and their Answers into the rotation in a way that made any sense at all.

  2. @PPPadre #1
    (Parents rarely do that with their children at home and we end up trying to cram the entire 8 year memory schedule into 2 years.)

    Does the Sunday School expect memory verses regularly? That is the way we learned the Small Catechism, long before confirmation. (A parent heard us recite on Saturday night.)

    My children did the same. They were “rewarded” with a Bible from the SS when they had accomplished it all, in their case, about third grade. After that, review.

    It’s time to put the “school” back into Sunday School!

  3. Those are soem great insights! Another thing yo notice is what the start of the 5th commandment , large catechism says. It says the first 4 commandments are about how God rules over us. The remaining 6 are about how we treat our neighbor.

  4. I think it is Part 5: Confession

    How many of us avail ourselves of individual confession and absolution? Even in the confessional crowd, I’ll bet its well less than 10%. Our pastors are each supposed to have and use a father confessor. We use the confidentiality of this sacrament to cover up the fact that we almost never use it.

  5. @Matt Jamison #4
    I think it is Part 5: Confession
    How many of us avail ourselves of individual confession and absolution? Even in the confessional crowd, I’ll bet its well less than 10%. Our pastors are each supposed to have and use a father confessor. We use the confidentiality of this sacrament to cover up the fact that we almost never use it.

    That was my choice. We memorized it in SS, recited it to the Pastor in confirmation class… and never heard another word about it for 50 years.

    Now some of the more recent sem grads are talking about it, but it’s all uphill. “WNDITWB” even from their clerical brothers. “We don’t believe in individual absolution.” (Who’s ‘we’?) “We don’t have time for it.” [The Pastor’s job is to preach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments. Anything that interferes should be eliminated.]
    Or, (I can understand this one, with all too many CRM’s in my acquaintance) I can’t find anyone in a reasonable distance that I have confidence in.

    When you’re surrounded by CoWo, what is a confessional Pastor to do about a confessor?

  6. I would suggest that the most neglected part of the catechism is “As the head of the family should teach (them, it) in a simple way.”

  7. Yes, I think that Daily Prayer as taught by the head of household is the most neglected part of the Small Catechism. I say that instead of the Table of Duties because Scriptural memory work is supposed to be done as well during Jr. Confirmation.

    I think you’re lucky, though, that (or if…) congregations even cover the six chief parts. Study the Table of Duties with the Fourth Commandment, and Christian Questions with Sacrament of the Altar. Maybe even liturgy and hymns with the Third Commandment.

  8. I have not followed this thread, so my comments might be mere repetition of what others have said about “The Most Neglected Part of the Catechism.” In the Large Catechism, Luther, in his introduction to the Creed says, ‘Thus far we have heard the first part of Christian teaching [the ten commandments), and in it, we have seen all that God wishes us to do and not to do. The Creed properly follows, which sets forth all that we must expect and receive from God; in short, it teaches us to know him perfectly.”

    I first read this about 10 years ago, and it hit me that the Catechism is all Gospel. Yes, the 10 commandments are Law, yet they lead us (as a “schoolmaster/servant” Galatians 3:24) to the Gospel. Even if one wishes to consider the 10 Commandments as pure Law, nevertheless, almost all of the other five Chief Parts is indeed Gospel. I don’t recall having been taught the Catechism this way (I may have been asleep), but this is how it should be taught. It is what God has done for us, or as Luther puts it, “all we must expect and receive from God.” There is no doubt about the “neglected part,” but teaching the Catechism as Gospel is essential to a good understanding of our doctrine. It is not mere memory work or dry facts–but it is all of grace. Understanding that should make Catechism classes more exciting, and even enjoyable, and more likely to be retained.

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