A new website, Lutheran Catechism, promoting the use of Luther’s catechisms went live January 4, 2016. As a new site, it is still small, but here is what it is developing:
Blog. A blog with posts of quotations, links to articles, pointers to resources, bulletin inserts, free digitized books, etc.
Reading Plans. Links to a variety of reading plans for personal and family settings. At present is has published one simple weekly plan, and soon will publish a yearly plan coordinated with the Church Year contributed by a reader. Readers are invited to submit plans to be shared by the site.
Pastoral Catechesis. A listing of teaching materials developed by or for pastors to teach the catechism. As an example, the site points to Catechesis for Life: Catechism (2014), a 42-part series on Luther’s Small Catechism, each featuring a mini study by Pastor John Wollenburg Sias and excerpts from Luther’s Large Catechism. Readers are invited to let the site’s editor know about materials of this type so they can be promoted in the list.
Bibliography. A bibliography of works about Luther’s catechisms, parental responsibility, home catechization, pastoral catechesis, and related topics.
Document Library. A collection of articles and other documents hosted on the site itself to make getting a copy convenient.
Links. A list of links to online and media resources such as the online Book of Concord, Small Catechism, Large Catechism, CPH Online Luther’s Small Catechism, CPH Luther’s Small Catechism mobile app in iTunes and Google Play, Lessons from Luther (audio of Small Catechism), LibriVox audio of Small Catechism, Sing the Faith: The Small Catechism Set to Music (audio CD, Mp3s, and songbook), and the Brothers of John the Steadfast videos on the Small Catechism.
Readers with suggestions for any of these categories of material are invited to email the editor.
The site is a production of Synoptic Text Information Services, Inc., and it is edited by T. R. Halvorson.
The site has been created in the belief that Catechization is strategic.
There is far more genius in Luther’s Small Catechism than is commonly supposed. He did not slapdash it together in a hurry as one might be tempted to think from its brevity. Making it short took time, as when Winston Churchill apologized at the end of a long letter to his friend during the War for having written such a long letter. He explained that he did not have time to write a short one. Luther took the time to write a short catechism.
There were many options before him for its overall content and design, and in the development of its parts. His decisions reflect the work of a theologian through oratio, meditatio, and tentatio – prayer, meditation, and spiritual attack – together with visitation and preaching.
He here adapts the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven to the capacity of children, and becomes himself a child with children, a learner with the
teacher, as he said, “I am a doctor and a preacher, yet I am like a child
who is taught the Catechism, and I read and recite word by word in the
morning, the Ten Commandments, the Articles of the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer, and cheerfully remain a child and pupil of the Catechism.”
Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church/a>, vol. vii, pp. 550-51 (Grand Rapids:
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1910).
The catechism is basic: As a true “lay bible,” it desires to offer what is
foundational in the Christian faith. It desires to make the center of
Scripture, expressed in the core parts of the churchly tradition, fruitful
for daily life. By doing so, it desires to hammer into us what is decisive
in life and death for our salvation. In this, the catechetical struggle of
Christianity, as it reaches an apex in Luther’s Small Catechism, remains
able to offer directive aid to us today. What is basic is presented in an
equally simple yet profound way. It can be recognized and uttered as what is exemplary only in the spiritual discipline of the praying mind. In the twentieth century it is no less important than in the sixteenth to find what is decisive for our salvation. Today, as well as then, this does not happen by “security and boredom” but only by humble kneeling and through the disciplined thinking of faith. Time and again it remains impressive how little is truly decisive for salvation and, at the same time, how infinitely much this “little” is.
Albrecht Peters, Commentary on Luther’s Catechisms: Ten Commandments, p. 21 (Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, 2009).
The catechism moves Scripture, the confession of the Church, and our daily life into the light of the Last Day. … Luther does not offer a miniature dogmatics textbook nor even a “popular abstract of the entire doctrine of faith and morals.” Rather, he consciously focused on what was necessary for life and death, on the iron ration, as it were. This is why we do well always to keep the beginning of Luther’s 1522 Invocavit Sermons in mind: “The summons of death comes to us all, and no one can die for another. Every one must fight his own battle with death by himself, alone. . . . Therefore, every one for himself must know and be armed with the chief things that concern a Christian. “
Albrecht Peters, Commentary on Luther’s Catechisms: Ten Commandments, p. 20 (Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, 2009). (The so-called ‘Iron Ration’ comprised an emergency ration of preserved meat, cheese, biscuit, tea, sugar and salt carried
by all British soldiers in the field for use in the event of their being cut off from regular food supplies. First World War’s definition.)
Let each one of us do what we can, when we can, where we can to serve the
Iron Ration of the Catechism to as many saints as possible. If we band together
in this, many hands will make light work.