Monthly Archives: November 2016

Oil Pipeline Protests, a First Grader, and the Small Catechism

You might have heard about the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline. It is a pipeline to transport oil through the Dakotas. There are major protests against it. One of the complaints is about danger to water quality. The protests have gotten out of hand. Consequently it is in the news every day in the Dakotas.

My son, Cedric Halvorson, lives in Bowbells, North Dakota. He was scrolling past a NoDAPL story with a picture of protesters holding signs that said, “Water equals life.”

His first grade son, Jayden, saw it. This conversation ensued.

Jayden:  “Dad, don’t they know they’re wrong?”

Cedric (not wanting to get into the muddy details of this story with a 6 year old): “How’s that Jay?”

Jayden:  “It’s not the water that that equals life, Dad. It’s the water WITH the Word … duh!”

The catechized life!

Luther Urging Cooperation by Parents in Catechization

VIII. Luther’s Efforts at Restoring Catechetical Instruction.
90. Cooperation of Parents Urged by Luther.
Friedrich Bente, Historical Introductions to the Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church,  (Public Domain, Kindle Locations 2677-2734).

In order to bring the instruction of the young into vogue, Luther saw that church, school, and home must needs cooperate. The home especially must not fail in this. Accordingly, in his admonitions, he endeavored to interest the fathers and mothers in this work. He was convinced that without their vigorous cooperation he could achieve but little. In his _German Order of Worship_, 1526, we read: “For if the parents and guardians of the young are unwilling to take such pains with the young, either personally or through others, Catechism [catechetical instruction] will never be established.” (W. 19, 76.) In this he was confirmed by the experiences he had while on his tour of visitation. If the children were to memorize the Catechism and learn to understand it, they must be instructed and questioned individually, a task to which the Church was unequal, and for the accomplishment of which also the small number of schools was altogether inadequate. Parents, however, were able to reach the children individually. They had the time and opportunity, too, morning, noon, and evening, at the table, etc. Furthermore, they had the greatest interest in this matter, the children being their own flesh and blood. And they, in the first place, were commanded by God to provide for the proper training of their children. The fathers and mothers, therefore, these natural and divinely appointed teachers of the children, Luther was at great pains to enlist for the urgent work of instructing the young. They should see that the children and servants did not only attend the Catechism-sermons in church, but also memorized the text and learned to understand it. The Christian homes should again become home-churches, home-schools, where the housefathers were both house-priests and house-teachers, performing the office of the ministry there just as the pastors did in the churches.

With ever-increasing energy Luther, therefore, urged the parents to study the Catechism in order to be able to teach it to their children. In his sermons on the Ten Commandments, 1516, he admonishes them to bring up their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. “But alas,” he exclaims, “how has not all this been corrupted! Nor is it to be wondered at, since the parents themselves have not been trained and educated.”In a sermon of 1526: “Here are two doctrines, Law and Gospel. Of them we preach frequently; but very few there are who take it to heart. I hear that many are still so ignorant that they do not know the Ten Commandments nor are able to pray. It plainly shows that they are altogether careless. Parents ought to see what their children and family are doing. In the school at home they should learn these three. I hear that in the city, too, there are wicked people. We cannot enter the homes; parents, masters, and mistresses ought to be sufficiently skilled to require their children and servants to say the prayers before retiring. But they do not know any themselves. What, then, avails it that we do a great deal of preaching concerning the kingdom of Christ? I thought conditions had improved. I admonish you master – for it is your duty – to instruct the servants, the mistress, the maids, and the children; and it is publicly. preached in church for the purpose that it may be preached at home.”(W. 20, 485.)

In his sermon of September 14, 1528, Luther declares that the Catechism is the laymen’s Bible, which every one must know who wishes to be considered a Christian and to be admitted to the Lord’s Supper. He then proceeds: “Hence all children should behave accordingly, and learn. And you parents are bound to have your children learn these things. Likewise you lords, take pains that vour family, etc. Whoever does not know these things does not deserve any food. These five points are a brief summary of the Christian doctrine. When the question is put, ‘What is the First Commandment?’ every one should be able to recite: ‘Namely this,”‘ etc. (W. 30, 1, 27.) Exhorting the people to attend the Catechism-services, Luther declared November 29, 1528: “Think not, ye housefathers, that you are freed from the care of your household when you say: ‘Oh, if they are unwilling to go [to Catechism instruction], why should I force them? I am not in need of it.’ You have been appointed their bishop and house-pastor; beware lest you neglect your duty toward them!” (27, 444.) On the following day, beginning the sermons he had announced, Luther said: “Therefore I have admonished you adults to have your children and vour servants, attend it [the Catechism-sermon), and also be present yourselves; otherwise we shall not admit you to Holy Communion. For if you parents and masters will riot help us, we shall accomplish little by our preaching. If I preach an entire year, the household comes, gapes at the walls and windows of the church, etc. Whoever is a good citizen is in duty bound to urge his people to learn these things; he should refuse them food unless, etc. If the servants complain, slam the door on them.

If you have children, accustom them to learn the Ten Commandments, the Symbol, the Paternoster, etc. If you will diligently urge them, they will learn much in one year. When they have learned these things, there are everywhere in the Scriptures fine passages which they may learn next; if not all, at least some. For this reason God has appointed you a master, a mistress, that you may urge your household to do this. And this vou are well able to accomplish: that they pray in the morning and evening, before and after meals. In this way they would be brought up in the fear of God. I am no idle prattler: I ask you not to cast my words to the winds. I would not think you so rude if I did not daily hear it.

Every housefather is a priest in his own house, every housemother is a priestess; therefore see that you help us to perform the office of the ministry in your homes as we do in church. If you do, we shall have a propitious God, who will defend us from all evil. In the Psalm [78, 51 it is written: ‘He appointed a law in Israel, which He, commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children.”‘ (30, 1, 57.) In the same sermon: “Able teachers are necessary because of the great need, since parents do not concern themselves about this. But each master and mistress must remember that they are priests and priestesses over Hans and Gretchen,” their sons and daughters.

In the same way Luther urges this matter in his Catechisms. For here we read: “Therefore it is the duty of every father of a family to question and examine his children and servants at least once a week and to ascertain what they know of it [the Catechism], or are learning, and, if they do not know it, to keep them faithfully at it.” (575, 4.) “Likewise every head of a household is obliged to do the same with respect to his domestics, man-servants and maid-servants, and not to keep them in his house if they do not know these things and are unwilling to learn them. For a person who is so rude and unruly as to be unwilling to learn these things is not to be tolerated; for in these three parts everything that we have in the Scriptures is comprehended in short, plain, and simple terms.” (577, 17.) “Therefore let every father of a family know that it is his duty, by the in junction and command of God, to teach these things to his children, or have them learn what they ought to know. For since they are baptized and received into the Christian Church, they should also enjoy this communion of the Sacrament, in order that they may serve us and be useful to us; for they must all indeed help us to believe, love, pray, and fight against the devil.” (773, 87.)

In confession and before visitors, house-fathers were also to render account of the manner in which they discharged these duties. In his sermon of July 11, 1529, Luther said: “You will therefore instruct your children and servants according to this Catechism…. For you have the Catechism in small and large books; therefore study it. You had the visitors, and you have furthermore those who will examine you housefathers and your household, that they mav see how you have improved…. You should have given money and property for it; yet you neglect it when it is offered freely; therefore you house-fathers ought to be diligent students of this preaching, that as you learn you may instruct, _discendo doceatis_.” (W. 29, 472; 30, 1, 121.)

Mission and Outreach: Mapping the Small Catechism against the Enemy’s Stock Lies

In its mission, the church always has run up against some recurring stock errors in the world’s thinking. These errors have a strong hold on the minds and hearts of people, and they are obstacles to people hearing or believing the Gospel.

From the fund of stock errors, a subset ascends and is vogue at one time, and another subset ascends and is vogue at another time. Lies are recycled. In North America today, there is an identifiable subset that is vogue now.

Outside of Scripture itself, nowhere is the truth put more succinctly and accessibly than in Luther’s Small Catechism. Therefore the Small Catechism is the most succinct and accessible tool we have for outreach to our communities. One of the most strategic things we can do for mission is to map passages of the Small Catechism to the stock lies of the enemy of our neighbors’ souls.

As the church militant, we should show as many of our people as we can which parts of the Small Catechism teach Scripture’s truths against each of today’s vogue lies. This will prepare believers to “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” 1 Peter 3:15

Many authors have contributed to a good body of literature about the stock lies. A current and good example for use with lay people and especially the young is Broken: 7 Christian Rules that Every Christian Ought to Break as Often as Possible, by Pastor Jonathan Fisk. From a work like this and others, we can key in on that chronic handful of lies and map the Small Catechism against those cruel weapons of the enemy.

From Broken, here they are:

  • Mysticism
  • Moralism
  • Rationalism
  • Prosperity
  • Churchology
  • Freedom
  • Counterfeit Christianity (You Find God)


The belief that direct knowledge of God can be attained through your subjective experiences of God or something godlike. Mysticism, then, is nothing more than the worship of your emotions. Broken, p. 29.

Mysticism’s lie: “You can find God in your heart.” Broken, p. 32.

The Lutheran confessions have much to say about this lie, often in reference to the Enthusiasts, who believe that God commonly speaks to the saints apart from the means of grace – apart from the Word and Sacraments. Look how vital a matter this is, for Luther says:

Therefore we ought and must constantly maintain this point, that God does not wish to deal with us otherwise than through the spoken Word and the Sacraments. It is the devil himself whatsoever is extolled as Spirit without the Word and Sacraments.  [Smalcald Articles, III.VIII.10-11]

In Mysticism and Enthusiasm, the Devil masquerades as the Spirit. Could anything be more vital than the truth against a lie like this? Shouldn’t saints be ready to give an answer about Word and Sacrament being part of our reason for the hope that lies within us? Shouldn’t saints be ready to point to Word and Sacrament as the means by which God deals with us and keeps us in contrition and faith?

To map the Small Catechism’s truth against this lie means to identify its passages that are most especially about Word and Sacrament. Those are the passages that refute the lie of Enthusiasm and Mysticism and lead a person into truth and life, to contrition and faith.

Somebody better at this than I should identify the passages, but to illustrate the strategy of mapping the Small Catechism to the lies, here is a selection of passages this could include:

The Third Commandment
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.

The Third Article
What does this mean? I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel.

The Second Petition
How does God’s kingdom come? God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word.

The Third Petition
How is God’s will done? God’s will is done when He … strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word.

What is Baptism?
Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s word.

How can water do such great things?
Certainly not just water, but the word of God in and with the water does these things, along with the faith which trusts this word of God in the water. For without God’s word the water is plain water and no Baptism. But with the word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit.

How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things?
Certainly not just eating and drinking do these things, but the words written here: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” These words, along with the bodily eating and drinking, are the main thing in the Sacrament. Whoever believes these words has exactly what they say: “forgiveness of sins.”

Who receives this sacrament worthily?
That person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” But anyone who does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy and unprepared, for the words “for you” require all hearts to believe.

What do you believe according to these words [in John20:22-23]?
I believe that when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command, in particular when they exclude openly unrepentant sinners from the Christian congregation and absolve those who repent of their sins and want to do better, this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself.

Do you believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness? Yes, dear confessor.
Then let him say:
Let it be done for you as you believe. And I, by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, forgive you your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Go in peace.

Jesus says, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34; Luke 6:45). Let the hearts of the saints be abundant in these catechetical truths, and then when fit moments arise in their vocations, their mouths can speak. No more of this, “I don’t know what to say” monkey business that leaves our families, friends, neighbors, and coworkers in the enemy’s murderous lie. That leaves them Word-less, sacrament-less. It leaves them without the means by which God wishes to deal with them.


The belief that access to God can be achieved through your personal efforts or attempts to improve yourself. Moralism, then, is nothing more than the worship of your works. Broken, p. 54.

Moralism’s lie: “You can find God in your hands.” Broken, p. 54.

This lie devalues the holy and precious blood of Christ and his innocent and bitter suffering and death for us. It disdains his righteous that God imputes to us and displaces it with false righteousness of our own. It speaks as if both original sin and particular sins were not really sinful, or not condemning. It vaunts itself as good enough for communion with God by its own virtues and without need of the Savior.

Ye who think of sin but lightly
Nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the Sacrifice appointed,
See who bears the awful load;
‘Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed,
Son of Man and Son of God.

To map the Small Catechism’s truth against this lie means to identify its passages that are most directly about the sacrifice of Christ and the Law’s exposure of sin. Those are the passages that refute the lie of Moralism, Mysticism and lead a person into truth and life, to contrition and faith.

These could include:

What does God say about all these commandments?
What does this mean? God threatens to punish all who break these commandments. Therefore, we should fear His wrath and not do anything against them.

The Second Article: Redemption
What does this mean? I believe that Jesus Christ … has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.

The Third Article: Sanctification
What does this mean? … In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.

The First Petition
How is God’s name kept holy? … Anyone who teaches or lives contrary to God’s Word profanes the name of God among us.

The Third Petition
How is God’s will done? God’s will is done when He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature, which do not want us to hallow God’s name or let His kingdom come.

The Fifth Petition
What does this mean? … We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment.

What benefits does Baptism give?
It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this.

What does such baptizing with water indicate?
It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

What is the Office of the Keys?
The Office of the Keys is that special authority which Christ has given to His church on earth to forgive the sins of repentant sinners, but to withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant as long as they do not repent.

What is the benefit of this eating and drinking?
These words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,” show us that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.

Do you believe that you are a sinner?
Yes, I believe it. I am a sinner.
How do you know this?
From the Ten Commandments, which I have not kept.
Are you sorry for your sins?
Yes, I am sorry that I have sinned against God.
What have you deserved from God because of your sins?
His wrath and displeasure, temporal death, and eternal damnation. See Rom. 6:21, 23.
Do you hope to be saved?
Yes, that is my hope.
In whom then do you trust?
In my dear Lord Jesus Christ.

16. Why should we remember and proclaim His death?
First, so that we may learn to believe that no creature could make satisfaction for our sins. Only Christ, true God and man, could do that. Second, so we may learn to be horrified by our sins, and to regard them as very serious. Third, so we may find joy and comfort in Christ alone, and through faith in Him be saved.

20. But what should you do if you are not aware of this need and have no hunger and thirst for the Sacrament?
To such a person no better advice can be given than this: first, he should touch his body to see if he still has flesh and blood. Then he should believe what the Scriptures say of it in Galatians 5 and Romans 7.

As small as the Small Catechism is, see how much it says about these stock lies of the enemy. Just this one little pamphlet is sufficient for outreach that answers lies directly and gives the Word of truth.

In similar fashion, we can map the Small Catechism to the rest of today’s vogue lies, and thus be ready to offer the reasons for the hope that lies within us.

How Can We Expect Baptism to Work?

The first time my Dad sent me out seeding alone, a feeling of pessimism overcame me. That night I said, “How can we expect a green, leafy, lush crop from this? We are dropping dry seed through dead iron machinery into dirt.” He said, “It’s made to work.”

That gave me something to think about. There is a Maker. He made seed and soil. He made them work. He could have made things some other way, but He chose this. In creation, “God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed.’” (Genesis 1:11). God’s Word made it happen.

It is the same with baptism. The natural question is, “how can new life come from plain water? How can water do such great things?” Had it not been for God’s Word, it wouldn’t.

God could have said whatever He wanted. But once He did say, “Baptism now saves you” (1 Peter 3:21), it does. The Word makes baptism do what it does. Without the Word, there would be only water and no baptism.

The Word does in the new creation what it did in the first creation. In the first creation, the Word created life. In the new creation, the Word creates new life when by faith we use the means God said to use. He told the Apostles to baptize in the whole world.

God speaks of what He does in baptism repeatedly because it’s important. “He saved us … by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5) “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4)

It works because God is at work. “Having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses … God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses.” (Colossians 2:12-13)

The story of Naaman pictures baptism. He had leprosy. He came to the prophet Elisha to be cured. Elisha told him to wash in the Jordan River seven times. The Jordan was a dirty river. Naaman was angry. He could not see how that would work. But his servants said, “it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you.” (2 Kings 5:13) Naaman was looking only at the water. His servants were looking at the Word with the water. “So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.” (2 Kings 5:14) Because of the Word of God, the water of baptism does this for us spiritually, even though it looks as foolish as washing in the Jordan River.

“As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:24-27) In this putting on (ενεδυσασθε, to sink into a garment,1 we are sunk into the clothing of Christ’s righteousness.2 The usage is Hebraic, as in Isaiah 61:10:3

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

And then, the farmer in me says, get a load of the next verse:

For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations. (Isaiah 61:11)

We have come full circle. The Lord makes seed and soil work. The Lord makes the water of Baptism work.

He that believes and is baptized
Shall see the Lord’s salvation
Baptized into the death of Christ
He is a new creation
Through Christ’s redemption he shall stand
Among the glorious heavenly band
Of every tribe and nation4


1. Thayer’s Greek Definitions, enduo.
2. Martin Luther, A Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, pp. 346-47 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979); R. C. H. Lenksi, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Galatians, Ephesians, and Philippians, pp. 187-88 (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1937).
3. Lenski, pp. 187-88.
4. Thomas Hansen Kringo (1634-1703), tr. George Alfred Taylor Rygh (1860-1943) in Service Book and Hymnal (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1958), p. 259.