Over the last two posts (read here and here), we have discussed leading devotions at home in a simple and straightforward way, using resources such as Lutheran Service Book, A Year in the New Testament, and Treasury of Daily Prayer. In this post, we will discuss using a book with your family that all Lutherans are familiar with, Luther’s Small Catechism.
Why is this book so important and how can we use it in our devotional life with our families on a daily basis?
Jesus tells His disciples in the tenth chapter of Matthew:
Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Matthew 10:16 ESV
Other translations use the word shrewd instead of wise in this verse. Either way, how could the disciples have been shrewd or wise without knowing their doctrine? That is, how could they have been shrewd or wise without knowing the basis of what they believed?
Dr. Luther himself was quite forthright in his direction to pastors and preachers in his Preface to the Small Catechism:
Therefore, I beg you all for God’s sake, my dear sirs and brethren, who are pastors or preachers, to devote yourselves heartily to your office [1 Timothy 4:13]. Have pity on the people who are entrusted to you [Acts 20:28] and help us teach the catechism to the people, and especially to the young.
In typical Luther fashion, he did not mince words when writing this preface.
We also see our responsibility as Parents in the Table of Duties:
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4 ESV
We can see how important it is to understand what we preach, teach, and confess in our church. But how can we do this with everything else that happens in our life? How can we include this in our daily devotions and prayer with our families? Let’s take a look at some great books we can use to teach the faith in a simple way during family time.
Do you have younger children in your household? My First Catechism is a wonderful way to teach them the text of the Small Catechism while explaining it as you teach. Each part of the Small Catechism is accompanied with a short biblical narrative to explain in kid-friendly terms what is being taught. For those of us who may not feel comfortable explaining what this means off of the top of our heads, this is a great tool to use when teaching children.
As a bonus, you may choose to include Timeless Bible Truths as a resource in conjunction with My First Catechism. Timeless Bible Truths comes in the style of a comic book with great visual representations of what each part of the Small Catechism teaches. The artwork makes this a wonderful resource for preteens through young adults.
As your children grow older and begin to reach the age where they are going through confirmation, begin using the Explanation section of Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation. What most people don’t know is that the book most of us refer to as the Small Catechism is actually made up of two writings. First, you will find the Enchiridion: The Small Catechism. This is the material in the front the of the book, and it is the text Dr. Luther wrote himself. The second section of this book, the Explanation, is what the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) of the LCMS has approved as our official teaching on what each section of the Small Catechism means. It is a wonderful teaching and learning resource.
To use this section, read or teach from the Enchiridion. Then turn to the corresponding section in the Explanation and read to your family and children what that section means.
When should I (we) do this?
If you go back to our second post in this series, we highlight using one of the orders of Daily Prayer for Individuals and Families starting on page 294 in LSB. If you look at Morning and Early Evening (pp. 295 and 297), you will see in the rubric (the red letters) that it says, “A portion of the Small or Large Catechism may be read.” This is a great place to add your reading and teaching to your family devotion and prayer time.
If this is a topic that interests you beyond your own home, I recommend picking up a copy of Teaching the Faith at Home: What Does This Mean? How Is This Done? by Dr. David L. Rueter.
Dr. Rueter has combined his experience as an educator in the congregation and university with thorough research and insight to produce a text that explains catechetical instruction and equips the reader to realize its benefits. The history, doctrine, wisdom, and practical means of providing catechetical instruction contained in Teaching the Faith at Home make it a greatly needed resource for Christianity.
Michael Eschelback — Professor of Theology — Concordia University Irvine
To read an interview with Dr. Rueter and learn more about the book, head over to the CPH Academic Blog.
So what do you think? Do you have other ways you incorporate the Small Catechism in your family’s prayer and devotional life? Tell us in the comments below!
Quotations from the Lutheran Confessions are from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, copyright © 2005, 2006 by Concordia Publishing House. Used by permission. All rights reserved. To purchase a copy of Concordia, call 800-325-3040.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Too see all the posts in this series, follow one of the links below.