In the early seventies my Grandpa bought a 1951 Ford 8N tractor. The “N” series tractor still holds the record as the best selling tractor of all time. This tractor was a true workhorse – however, when it was put away in the shed for a couple decades it no longer had power; in fact, it couldn’t be forced to start!
After my dad rebuilt the engine (“rebuilt” – a word fraught with heavy meaning, but here means just bringing it back to the original specs) it not only runs, but has more strength than it’d had in decades! What a joy to have that tractor that so easily could have been consigned to the scrapyard now working and “pulling its weight!”
You may be saying, “That’s a charming story, Mike, but what on earth does such an anecdote have to do with anything?” You’d be right in asking that, let me now connect it to our spiritual life.
All too often we have a feeling that once confirmed, we’re done with study of Scripture and the catechism. But that is analogous to letting the tractor sit, bringing it out once in a while to plow, pull, or mow. Just like a tractor needs maintenance regularly to run and do its intended job a child of God needs the Word and Sacraments to “run well.” We need the catechism not merely as a textbook for some graduationesque ceremony, but as regular maintenance to keep us focused on and in Christ. The Six Chief Parts of Christian Doctrine encapsulated in the catechism are truly the “layman’s Bible,” and more important than we can ever explain.
So with the tractor, it is easy to follow a schedule and change the oil, check the battery’s charge, and check the fluids, but with the life of people (children and adults) it is a more involved task. Grab your hymnal – not only does it include the Small Catechism, it has hymns that teach the faith in such a beautiful and memorable way. Look at “These Are the Holy Ten Commands” (LSB 581) for the Ten Commandments, “We All Believe in One True God” (LSB 954) for the Creed, “Our Father, Who from Heaven Above” (LSB 766) for the Lord’s Prayer, “Baptized into Your Name Most Holy” (LSB 590) for the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, “Lord Jesus Christ, You Have Prepared” (LSB 622) for the Sacrament of the Altar, and “From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee” (LSB 607) for the Office of the Keys. Introducing these hymns in your devotional life and that of your family is an excellent way of keeping the truth of the catechism in your memory and will aid in making sure that like a tractor that’s maintained you’ll keep running well.
We wouldn’t ignore the oil level of a tractor, let’s not do the same thing with our spiritual life.