The Small Catechism is not just information. It is not a systematic theology. The Catechism does not just say something. The Catechism does something. It does something to us.
The subtitles of a book sum it up. John Nicholas Lenker gave his book, Luther’s Catechetical Writings, a first subtitle:
GOD’S CALL TO REPENTANCE, FAITH, AND PRAYER
His second subtitle is:
THE BIBLE PLAN OF SALVATION EXPLAINED BY LUTHER
The Catechism calls us to repent. It calls us to believe. It calls us to pray.
After the Word and Sacrament ministries of the Pastor, the Catechism and the Liturgy are most powerful and the most recurring engagements of believers with the truths of Scripture that are able to make one, from childhood, “wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15)
Joseph Stump said, “Catechization … must not be simply mental instruction, but training for a Christian life of faith.”
Albrecht Peters wrote:
The catechism is basic. … [I]t desires to make the center of Scripture … fruitful for daily life. By doing so, it desires to hammer into us what is decisive in life and death for our salvation. … Time and again it remains impressive how little is truly decisive for salvation and, at the same time, how infinitely much this “little” is.
In his preface to the Large Catechism, Luther spoke of many pastors and theologians who were lazy toward the Catechism. By their example they led people to be lazy. They gave reasons why they no longer needed to read the Catechism, to memorize it, to recite it, to pray it. Luther said,
But for myself I say this: I am also a doctor and preacher, yea, as learned and experienced as all those may be who have such presumption and security; yet I do as a child who is being taught the Catechism, and every morning, and whenever I have time, I read and say, word for word, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Psalms, etc. And I must still read and study daily, and yet I cannot master it as I wish, 8] but must remain a child and pupil of the Catechism, and am glad so to remain.
The Catechism keeps teaching. It keeps calling to repentance, faith, and prayer. It is a mine who precious metals never can be fully dug out. That is why we should memorize it. By having a hold on its words, God’s Word gains a hold on us, and we receive the inexhaustible treasures of repentance, faith, and prayer.