It’s embarrassing, an embarrassment of riches.
My parents had a book of Dennis the Menace single-frame comics. One showed Dennis awash in a sea of Christmas presents he’d ripped open. Standing by were his Mom and Dad, each with one small gift that you know they gave each other, being unnoticed by anyone else. Sitting on the living room floor that is covered wall to wall with his Christmas gifts, with as many as he can pack under each of his arms, Dennis is saying, “Is this all?”
Such an attitude.
In recent years, we have become something like Dennis, not necessarily in his attitude, but in the riches given to us by Lutheran publishers. Our living room floors could be covered wall to wall with wonderful new publications across a variety of interests in the Christian faith. The riches are so abundant and overwhelming that we could not have expected anything more.
And yet, if we had asked, “Is this all,” the answer would have been, “Not by a long shot!” Because now at its end, 2017 has been capped off with a most wondrous new book by William Chancellor Weedon, Thank, Praise, Serve, and Obey: Recover the Joys of Piety.
This book will be difficult to describe because it is kind of a Swiss Army Knife. It does so many things. It reaches so many needs. It satisfies so many hungers. As soon as I say it is a book of this or that category, I have misrepresented it by reducing it to the confines of that category. It truly fits into a given named category, and yet overflows from there to other categories as well. This is one of those deals where, you’re just going to have to buy it and read it to see what it is, and then you are going to be so glad you did. Unless you are just completely uninterested in the Christian faith or completely uninterested in living, this book is going to touch you.
Here at LutheranCatechism.com, one of our reasons for promoting this book is indicated early on in the Introduction, as follows:
Throughout this book, you will no doubt observe an extensive use of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism. I am convinced that Luther’s little handbook has been grossly misused among us. We have isolated it from life, attempted to extract doctrine from it, and then teach that doctrine as mere information. We have ignored the vital context the book explicitly describes over and over again. The Small Catechism was not written for and was never meant to live in a classroom! Confining it there results results in its true genius being ignored, or worse, subverted. The heading of each of the Chief Parts that Luther wrote teach us where the catechism lives: “As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household.”
We have made, then, quite a serious blunder when we forget that the catechism was not prepared for pastors to indoctrinate young catechumens, but for pastors to teach parents (and particularly fathers) how they can teach and live the Christian faith in their homes; this was an essential part of nourishing the members of God’s household through habits of godliness. The Small Catechism is a primer for the household to learn the joys of life together in God’s family! In other words, it is first and foremost a book of piety, of training in godly habits. That’s why you’ll find prayer breaking out all over (even in the middle of the starkest doctrinal explanations): “Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven!” “Protect us from this, heavenly Father!” (First Petition). That’s why you’ll find in it instructions about standing or kneeling when you pray, about reverently folding hands at the table when you ask grace or return thanks, about signing yourself with the holy cross, and so on. You’ll certainly learn doctrine, for every godly habit of true piety is grounded in the truth of God’s love for us in Christ Jesus. Yet, the focus of Luther’s Chief Parts is to invigorate joy in our adoption as children of the heavenly Father through Christ, as the Spirit trains us to live in the energizing freedom of that adoption.
Weedon, William. Thank, Praise, Serve, and Obey: Recover the Joys of Piety (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2017), pp. x-xi.
Do you want wonder at Christmas? Do you want a gift? Do you want assurance, life, and salvation? Do you want Jesus to come to you? Read this book. This book is a guide to habits that latch on to Christ’s own chosen means of giving himself to you.