Monthly Archives: June 2016

AFLC — Ambassador Publications Version of Small Catechism Memory Cards

Previously, LutheranCatechism.com released Small Catechism Memory Cards in ten different translations. The translations are:

  • 1979 NPH-WELS
  • 1956 NPH-WELS “Gausewitz”
  • 2001 ELS
  • 2010 Sola Publishing / ReClaim Resources
  • 1992 CLBA-Faith & Fellowship
  • 1999 Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland
  • 2004 Robert E. Smith
  • 1912 Synodical Conference
  • 1921 Triglot English

Today, LutheranCatechism.com releases Small Catechism Memory Cards in an eleventh translation, the 2007 Ambassador Publications, Association of Free Lutheran Congregations translation.

This is a nifty translation. This was the first version of the Small Catechism that I gave to my wife. She still carries a copy of this translation, along with the 1986 Concordia Publishing House translation, with her almost everywhere she goes.

This translation is an update of the Intersynodical Translation adopted by The Lutheran Free Church in 1929. It was updated and revised by the AFLC Board of Publications and Parish Education in 2007.

This text is used in LutheranCatechism.com’s newest addition to the Small Catechism Memory Cards series by the generous permission of Ambassador Publications. These free resources let anyone print memory cards, each containing a portion of Luther’s Small Catechism, to use as a memorization aid, for teaching children, or for meditation and prayer. Simply download the free PDF file containing the cards and an instructions file from the distribution page. Then follow the instructions to print and separate the cards.

Law, Gospel, and Prayer

Law, gospel, and prayer are the chief elements of the Christian faith according to the Scriptures. Luther calls the law and the gospel the “arguments,” that is, the fundamentals necessary for an understanding of the Scriptures; they represent the real content of the Scriptures. The law and the gospel constitute the first two parts of the Catechism. Only one who knows the law and the gospel knows how to speak of God rightly, knows what God intends to say in the Scriptures. Then comes prayer as the third part. Prayer is the expression of the new situation and attitude of man in the presence of God, the attitude of the man who has allowed the law and the gospel to be addressed to him and accepted them in faith.

Herbert Girgensohn, Teaching Luther’s Catechism, John W. Doberstein, trans. (Philadelhia: Muhlenberg Press, 1959), p. 4.

Fantastic-looking Conference – The Catechism as Guide to …

Return to Wittenberg (R2W) presents its 2016 conference titled, “What Does This Mean?” This conference will address questions such as:

  • Why do we gather for worship every Sunday?
  • I feel closer to God in nature than in a pew; do I really need to go to church?
  • What is the point of repeating the same old songs week after week?
  • Shouldn’t we be more focused on reaching the lost?
  • I’ve been going to church my whole life and I don’t know why.

R2W describes the purpose of the conference this way:

What is the point of going to Church? Can’t I praise and thank God from anywhere – like in the comfort of my own home? I already believe in God. I’m basically a good person. Isn’t that enough?

R2W’s first annual conference will deal with these and other questions that Christian millennials struggle with by addressing the all-encompassing question posed by the Small Catechism: “What Does This Mean?”

We believe the answer to this question can be found in the Catechism’s Six Chief Parts – 1) the Ten Commandments, 2) the Creed, 3) the Lord’s Prayer, 4) Holy Baptism, 5) Confession, and 6) Holy Communion – which are the essence of the entire Christian faith. Our conference will use the Parts as an outline, around which all our worship, discussions, and presentations will be based.

Through the Six Chief Parts, we will discover that the meaning of all true Christian life and worship is found in Christ Jesus, the Incarnate God, and what He offers us through His Holy Spirit in the blessed Means of Grace.

Why does Return to Wittenberg exist? In their own words:

Many young people struggle to find authenticity in the chaos of the world today. The lines between real-life and online, true and false, moral and immoral have become increasingly blurred. While it should be a source of reprieve, pop-Christianity usually offers very little to aid in the search for something “real.” Churches have resorted to all manner of gimmicks and fads in a fleeting effort to attract young people to their pews. Embarrassing entertainment-based worship services abound. “Cool” youth pastors in jeans and graphic-Ts are all the rage. And congregations insist on dumbing down their traditional teachings to the basest form of spoiled spiritual milk in a self-defeating attempt to keep their kids “interested.” Even if these misguided efforts prove initially alluring, once the limited emotional highs offered by their ear-pleasing theology and practice subside, most people are left asking deeper, life-and-death questions.

500 years ago a monk from the little town of Wittenberg, Germany, was also left asking life-and-death questions by a church that had lost its authenticity. The church of his day invented new, gimmicky methods of “doing church” that were worlds apart from the Way of Christ and His Apostles. Under the pope in Rome, Christian worship became something people did for God rather than what God did for them. The focus of their worship was on man’s effort and action.

Unfortunately, this paradigm is not an isolated 16th-century or papal phenomenon. It is reflected by modern church-goers who believe that “going to church” and “worship” are all about what they have to do for God. It is also present in the attitudes and motivations of those who place the emphasis on man’s desire for entertainment and novelty. In both cases, the heart and soul of the Church’s worship life is lost. In order to find it again, we will return to Wittenberg and re-discover the authentic Christianity that German monk found those many centuries ago…

What is Return to Wittenberg’s purpose? Again, in their own words:

Return to Wittenberg (R2W) is an organization sponsored by pastors and laymen affiliated with congregations of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) and Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS). Our mission is to move beyond the theological fluff and gimmicks of the present age in an effort to promote, develop, and strengthen a Confessional understanding of the Lutheran faith in the millennial generation and beyond. We hope to do this by:

Ensuring proper catechesis from the whole counsel of God’s Word as plainly taught in the Lutheran Confessions

Examining what believers throughout the two millennia of the Church’s existence have taught about the Christian faith and its connection to Evangelical-Lutheran theology and tradition

Emphasizing the centrality of the Means of Grace in the life and work of the Church and her Divine Service

Explaining why we do what we do in the Divine Service through the Lutheran Liturgy

Exploring the ways the Means of Grace affect Christian vocations, to the benefit of family, Church, and state

The conference will present the Catechism as guide to:

  • Preaching and hearing
  • Christian prayer
  • Sacramental life
  • Private confession

The conference will be held July 26-29, 2016 at Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. For the complete schedule, click here. You can register here.

“Keeping Our Children in the Faith” — Concordia Catechetical Academy Symposium 2016

Concordia Catechetical Academy of Peace Lutheran Church in Sussex, Wisconsin presents its 2016 CCA Symposium titled “Keeping Our Children in the Faith.”

This year’s symposium tackles the fervent desire of the Church, her pastors, and her parents that our children, who have been brought into the kingdom of God through Holy Baptism, are kept in Christ in the true faith, willing to suffer all, even death, rather than to fall away from Him.

The Concordia Catechetical Academy (CCA) is an auxiliary organization of Peace, Sussex, dedicated to the promotion of Luther’s Small Catechism and faithful Lutheran catechesis. The symposium will be held jointly at Peace, W240 N6145 Maple Avenue, Sussex and Country Springs Hotel, Waukesha on June 15–17. Contact Matt Gatchell, (262) 246-3200, or visit the website, for more information.

The full schedule is available here. Below are highlights and the list of featured presenters.

Wednesday, June 15

2:00 to 4:00
Catechesis Workshop: Question & Answer Forum on the Task of Catechesis and the Lutheran Catechesis Series
Peter C. Bender

2:00 to 4:00
Children’s Choir Rehearsal

6:45
Divine Service for Catechesis: The Parable of the Prodigal Son
Peter C. Bender

Reception: Wine, Bear, and Hors d’oeuvres

Thursday, June 16

8:00 Registration
Master of Ceremonies
Walter D. Otten

8:30
Matins: Let the Little Children Come to Me
Aaron Koch

9:00
Steadfast in His Word & Faith Until We Die: How the Head of the Household Teaches His Children to Pray and Confess
Richard Stuckwisch

10:45
The Liturgy Is for Children
Burnell F. Eckardt

12:00 noon Lunch (on your own)
Children’s Choir Rehearsal

2:00 p.m.
Biblical Families: What’s the Portrait?
Karl F. Fabrizius

3:30 p.m. “We believe…in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church” – Treating our children as if they were saints, because that’s who they are!
Jason D. Lane

5:30 p.m.
Divine Service: The Parables of the Lost Sheep & the Lost Coin
Preacher: Karl F. Fabrizius

Friday, June 16
8:00 a.m. Matins: The Boy Jesus in the Temple
Aaron Koch

8:30 a.m.
The Broken Heart of a Christian Parent
Peter C. Bender

10:15 a.m. Panel Discussion
Bender, Eckardt, Fabrizius, Koch, Lane, Stuckwisch

11:30 a.m.
The Litany

12:00 p.m.
Augsburger Barbecue

Featuring

Peter C. Bender, M.Div.
Pastor of Peace Lutheran Church and Academy
Director of the Concordia Catechetical Academy
Sussex, Wisconsin

Burnell F. Eckardt, Jr., S.T.M., Ph.D.
Pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church
Kewanee, Illinois
Editor-in-Chief, Gottesdienst: The Journal of Lutheran Liturgy

Karl F. Fabrizius, Ph.D.
Pastor of Our Father’s Lutheran Church
Greenfield, Wisconsin

Jason D. Lane, S.T.M
Assistant Professor of Theology
Concordia University Wisconsin

Richard Stuckwisch, MA, S.T.M., Ph.D
Pastor of Emmaus Lutheran Church
South Bend, IN

Aaron Koch, M.Div.
Pastor of Mount Zion Lutheran Church
Greenfield, Wisconsin

The Power of Jesus — Why We Must Read and Say the Catechism Daily

The purpose of the Catechism is therefore to open the way to the reality of God. But this means that, as the epitome of the Scriptures, it is the Word of God addressed to us.

In the Word of God lies power (authority). Power is the term used concerning Jesus in the New Testament when he drives out demons. He possessed power over the spirits. And the same word “power” (or authority) is used with reference to Jesus in the story of the healing of the paralytic (Matt. 9). He sets himself pon the throne of the judge of the universe and utters the word which determines the ultimate destiny of man: “Your sins are forgiven.” Just as men in those days were exposed to Jesus’ power when he spoke, so men are today also. To hear the Word of God means to be exposed to the power of Jesus, means to enter the sphere of God’s power. “He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col.1:13).

This makes it clear why Luther stressed what at first may strike us as somewhat strange: the need for making the Catechism – Ten Commandments, Creed, Lord’s Prayer, and other elements – the subject of daily devotion. We must read and say the Catechism daily, as Psalm 1 says of the law: “On his law he meditates day and night.” In the chief parts of the Catechism taken from the Word of Scripture the encounter with the Word of God takes place. A power goes out from the encounter which “gives the devil extreme pain, and strengthens, comforts, and helps us beyond measure.” The encounter with the Word of God gives us entrance into another world where we may dwell as Christians. “If you had no other profit and fruit therefrom, for this reason alone you ought gladly to read, speak, think of, and practice these things, viz., thereby to drive away the devil and evil thoughts.”

It is the concern of the church, which teaches the Catechism, that this should be happening.

Herbert Girgensohn, Teaching Luther’s Catechism, John W. Doberstein, trans. (Philadelhia: Muhlenberg Press, 1959), p. 6.

From Font to Grave: Catechesis for the Lifelong Disciple

From Font to Grave: Catechesis for the Lifelong Disciple
27th Annual Theological Symposium, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis
Sept. 20-21, 2016

“We have entered a millennium in which people claim to be spiritual but know next to nothing about religion. And the people in the pews are no exception. The rote way of confirmation ministry a generation ago is failing our children in a society marked by religious pluralism. We need to think afresh how we form disciples of Christ not only in eighth grade but throughout their entire lives. Does this mean we abandon the Catechism? Exactly the opposite. More than anything, we need to recover and renew the church’s catechetical tradition, discovering anew what it means to be Christ’s own and to live under Him in His kingdom today.

Check back soon for more details and registration information.”

 

 

 

 

Mission: Inreach, Outreach, and the Small Catechism

President Matthew Harrison of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod speaks about 40 years of declining membership in the synod. In his President’s Report, 2016 Convention Workbook, pp. 2-3, he presents information from several demographic studies. As he says, the demographic information dispels myths with facts.

An important piece of the demographic information is that Missouri Lutherans do not have children at even the replacement rate of 2.1 per family. Marriage is delayed. Having children is delayed. The number of children is reduced. He mentions prioritization of education, the expenses of having children, and the strain of debt among the contributing factors.

Some have criticized President Harrison’s use of this kind of information saying, for example, that it is just an excuse. I am not in that camp. These facts are real, and we need to change them.

But once I have said that this demographic analysis has validity (not necessarily to the exclusion of other complementary analyses), then I must realize what goes along with that. I must face what is part and parcel of ascribing validity to the low birth rate. I must face the other demographic fact, our high death rate. Low birth rate, and high death rate.

Our high death rate is not marked by the number of funerals in the synod. Our high death rate goes unmarked.

Three pastors got together for coffee one day and found all their churches had bat-infestation problems. “I got so mad,” said one, “I took a shotgun and fired at them. It made holes in the ceiling, but did nothing to the bats.” “I tried trapping them alive,” said the second. “Then I drove 50 miles before releasing them, but they beat me back to the church.” “I haven’t had any more problems,” said the third. “What did you do?” asked the others, amazed. “I simply baptized and confirmed them,” he replied. “I haven’t seen them since.” Reader’s Digest, July, 1994, p. 64.

We do not retain our own children in the faith at a sufficient rate to even go sideways, let alone ahead, and we don’t count the deaths by apostasy.

I see nothing reported from the demographic studies about the number of children we confirm who then depart the faith. In the 6 points of concentration to address our losses mentioned in President Harrison’s report, I don’t see one that addresses the internal weakness of defections by our offspring.

Don’t inject tone into these declarations that I did not put there. I support everything President Harrison said in the report about this. I just want to see one more thing added.

Strong outreach is dependent on strong inreach. We can’t give away what we don’t have. The shortest and simplest confession of our Christian faith is the six chief parts of Christian doctrine in the Small Catechism. If we do not have a grip on this in the family and in the congregation, our outreach to the community will be weak.

The one thing I want added is to strengthen our inreach with the Catechism in the family and in the congregation for their own sakes, and then for the sake of outreach to the community.

What man who cannot so much as read the Ten Commandments and Dr. Luther’s explanation of them to his 7 and 9 year old children is likely to be outgoing to his coworkers, neighbors, and friends when his vocation presents him with opportunity to give an account of the reason for the hope that lies within him? Sure, some here and some there might, but how many are likely to do so?

What’s the hang-up? Why can’t he read that to them? Are his children so intimidating? Is the material so complex? Has he too little time for something that takes about 3.5 minutes to read? Are his coworkers, neighbors, and friends less intimidating for a religious conversation than his children are? Would the discussion with adults be less complex than with children? Does he have more time for them than he has for his children?

Why don’t we know the rate of heads of families who teach the Catechism in the home? Where are our demographics on that?

How do our children view the Catechism? For that matter, how do our adults view it? Was it a stage we had to get through to be confirmed? Is it something for children, but not adults? Is it information, not a confession and not a prayer?

Unless we think outreach should begin with saying something outside the six chief parts of Christian doctrine, outreach should share what the Small Catechism teaches. When we are vague and faint on the Catechism, that debilitates outreach.

We are vague and faint on it because heads of families are not teaching it at home in sufficient numbers. We are vague and faint on it because at the church, we give the appearance that after a class of confirmands is confirmed, stick a fork in those potatoes, they’re done.

There are bright spots. For example, my former pastor used the Small Catechism as responsive reading during the Divine Service. It is remarkably suitable as a responsive reading. This showed everyone that the Catechism is for all ages, and can be confessed as an act of worship.

For another example, my current pastor, upon his arrival, immediately instituted Catechism review class on Wednesday evenings.

For another example, on Palm Sunday this year I visited at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Pensacola, Florida and attended the adult class between the services. The class was studying through Acts. Although the class material for that Sunday was in a chapter of Acts, after the Invocation and opening prayer, the class began with the pastor leading everyone reading aloud one of the six chief parts of Christian doctrine from copies of the Catechism that were placed on the tables at every seat.

There are lots of things like that we can do for inreach with the Catechism in the congregation. If we have strong inreach in the congregation and strong inreach in the family at home, two things can happen:

  • We can become convinced that the Small Catechism is a prime tool for outreach to the community.
  • Being strong in the Catechism, we can be strong in outreach.

The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod needs to get more in gear in evangelism and outreach. While much of this is done through the pastoral office, pastoral preaching and teaching, the Divine Service, and the Sacraments, a necessary part of this belongs to lay Christians in their vocations.

For lay outreach, we have a tremendous advantage. Unlike so many Christian denominations, Lutherans have this outstanding tool, this gift Christ gave to us through Dr. Luther, his Small Catechism. This Catechism has so many virtues that distinguish it from any other catechism. These virtues make it effective everywhere. It is effective in the home. It is effective in the congregation. It is effective in the community.

Look how simple and unifying using the Catechism everywhere could be. Want inreach in the home? Small Catechism. Want inreach in the congregation? Small Catechism. Want outreach to the community? Small Catechism.

Yes, to be sure, there are other resources. Many of them have virtues. Many of them can be effective. But let’s face it. If we can’t be strong with the Catechism, how likely are we to be strong with additional things? If we want to use additional things, first be strong in the Catechism, and then, fine, use those other things too. But why give up the advantage of a simple, unifying approach?

How long should it be before that coworker I invited to my church encounters the Small Catechism? How long should he continue his exploratory attendance before he is presented the six chief parts of Christian doctrine?

For outreach, we need to get the Small Catechism woven into everything we are doing.

“Thoughts on the Catechism” by Pastor Larry A. Peters from Pastoral Meanderings

Editor’s Note:

Rev. Larry A. Peters, Senior Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church of Clarksville, Tennessee, kindly gives his permission to republish this article from his blog, Pastoral Meanderings. The original posting may be found here.

When children are in their early elementary school years, their minds are actually at the peak time for easy rote memorization.  This statement is but one of the topics discussed by a book on catechetical and confirmation practice in the LCMS, called Teaching the Faith at Home.  The point is well made.  On the one hand, pastors and others teaching those classes enjoy the ability to count on the cognitive skills and development of reason and the mind to be able to deal with abstract concepts yet when this occurs is well past the time when memorization comes easy to the student learning the faith.  Believe me, I wrestle back and forth on this very issue.  On the one hand effective instruction in the faith benefits greatly from the internalization of the formative material of the Small Catechism accompanied by the regular routine of liturgy and hymnody.  On the other hand, it is often difficult to speak conceptually to those same youth.

The book suggests that there is a solution and that is the recovery of the home as the first place where children learn the catechism and, I might add, the use of the Sunday school to encourage the memorization of the most basic confessional document and catechetical resource of Lutheranism.  This was not always such a radical statement.  At one time the bulk of the catechesis was done at home and the role of the pastor and parish was to examine the catechuman and judge the faithful work of father and mother in fulfilling the most basic parental responsibility of teaching the faith to their children.  That is not ordinarily the case today.  Today it is more common for pastor (or other catechetical instructor) to find that the student has little awareness of and familiarity with Luther’s Small Catechism (much less any other Lutheran confessional document).  In addition the Sunday school has become preoccupied with teaching the major stories of the Bible and introducing children and youth to the Jesus whom the Scriptures proclaim.  While I certainly do not want to suggest that either of these tasks are not important or are in any way less important, I do believe that there is still cause and benefit for including memorization of the Small Catechism in the Sunday school as well.

The truth is that we live at a time when many adult Lutherans have but passing familiarity with the Small Catechism and parents feel ill-equipped to teach the Catechism to their children.  New member instruction often is spent more on issues related to the Apostles’ Creed and basic functional information on the denomination, the parish, and the specifics of local organization and ministry.  Children and youth have been experimented upon from time to time from those who seek to form Christian character as much as or even more so than teaching the faith by teaching the Catechism.  We are so enamored by the idea of some new program or curriculum or published resource that we have tended to shrug our shoulders at the Catechism as something old-fashioned or even outdated.

In effect, there are Lutheran pastors and Lutheran parishes in which the Catechism is affirmed in theory but absent from the practice of catechesis for either children or adults.  The faith is taught but the Catechism is seen as merely one of many possible tools to accomplish the larger purpose.  This has caused great harm to the faith and to the unity of the faith within Lutheran denominations such as the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.  It is a regular occurrence for a Lutheran pastor to find that Lutherans moving from another parish and youth moving into your area who have not yet finished their instruction prior to confirmation have no real awareness of nor familiarity with the Small Catechism.  The adults did not encounter it in their adult instruction and youth did not use it in their youth catechism classes.

Yet we ask new members:  Do you hold all the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures to be the inspired Word of God and the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, drawn from them and confessed in the Small Catechism, to be faithful and true?   and we ask of youth at their confirmation: Do you confess the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, drawn from the Scriptures, as you have learned to know it from the Small Catechism, to be faithful and true?

In essence, the most common red thread to connect those who became Lutherans later in life with youth and those who were confirmed somewhere around the 8th grade or so is their familiarity with the Small Catechism.  Remove the Small Catechism from this and Lutheran identity will not only suffer, it will die.     

Preorder Praying Luther’s Small Catechism by John T. Pless

Now we can preorder Praying Luther’s Small Catechism by Rev. Dr. John T. Pless. The order page is here.

To pray the Catechism is to learn how to speak to God the Father in the name of the Son through the Holy Spirit. Praying Luther’s Small Catechism moves sequentially through the Six Chief Parts of Christian Doctrine with prayers developed out of the catechetical material.

Commentaries on the doctrine of each passage reflect on how the teaching shapes our praying. Accessible to the beginner but insightful for the wisest, this is a wonderful resource for pastors and veterans of the Church, and for laypeople who serve as the heads (and catechetical teachers) of their households.