Lutheran Catechesis: A New Beginning

[My colleague at Lamb of God and I are embarking on a new year with Lutheran Catechesis.  I would encourage all of you to read this and give me your thoughts on the approach. -LL]

Lutheran Catechesis

On Sunday, September 14th, 2008 Lutheran Catechesis begins after the 5 o’clock Divine Service at Lamb of God Lutheran Church, Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. You are invited to join us at 6:15 every Sunday evening at 8411 Old Green Bay Road for a time of spiritual mentorship for young and old and a preparation for Christianity’s most profound and sacred mysteries.

What is catechesis? Catechesis is transformational. It is how we learn the new way of being human with God.

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, you hear the Sacred Things of God, repeating and learning them.

The catechists, Pastors Peperkorn and Smallwood, are your mentors and your spiritual fathers to lead you through the Scriptures and set you on your life-long journey towards the heavenly Jerusalem.

Who is catechesis for? Catechesis is for everyone preparing to eat and drink the life-giving Body and Blood of Jesus. Catechesis is for adults and youth preparing to enter a new life through the waters of Holy Baptism. Catechesis is for the parents of children enrolled at Christ Lutheran Academy so that they can know what their children are being taught each day at school. Catechesis is for children and adults preparing for the custom of confirmation.  Catechesis is for those who wish to review what they were taught as young Christians. Finally, catechesis is for those who wish to become Christians and more specifically, members of a Lutheran congregation.

Who else should come? Parents of children involved in catechesis. Wherever possible, godparents and sponsors should also accompany the children they have promised at Baptism to help catechize. For children, the strongest catechesis is the daily and weekly example of Christianity that they see in the people who brought them to be baptized.

In Lutheran Catechesis Christian parents get to see and find out first hand how they can bring solid Christian mentorship into their homes, deepening their family’s relationship with Christ.

How does it work? We begin at 6:15 p.m. with repetition and preparation. We then enter the nave to pray, using sacred texts and readings from the Scriptures. These have already been prepared for our use (see Service of Prayer and Preaching, p. 260, Lutheran Service Book). While we worship, one of the pastors shall hold a brief sermon that guides our meditation for the evening. Then there will be break-out groups for adults and children, each one led by a catechist. Afterward we join each other again in the church nave to pray and receive a blessing before we depart. Catechesis ends by 7:35 p.m. Those who wish to stay after to ask further questions or have more discussions are welcome to do so.

What does it cost? The teaching is free. Catechumens will need to have their own copy of The Lutheran Service Book, The Book of Concord (Edited by Paul McCain) and a Bible (New King James Version). Copies can be ordered through the office at Messiah Lutheran Church in Kenosha (Telephone 262-551-8182). Generally speaking, one copy of The Book of Concord per family or couple should suffice. It would be best if each catechumen had his own copy of the Bible and the hymnal for daily devotional use.

How long does it last? Catechesis runs weekly from September 14th, 2008 until May, 17th, 2009. There will be ample breaks in between for holidays. Half-way through the year the venue shall change from Lamb of God in Pleasant Prairie to Messiah in Kenosha.

Is there homework? During the week you will be asked to read and meditate on things designed to help you better understand and appreciate what you are learning. Daily prayer is the privilege of every Christian. Participants of Lutheran catechesis will be allowed to begin this discipline, provided they have not begun to do so already.

Is there memorization? Of course. We learn our favorite songs by heart so that we can enjoy and share them with others wherever we go. We learn catechism, hymns, prayers and Scripture so that we can take them along wherever we go. We store sacred words up as a reserve for the hard times, the scary times and the joyous times. What we learn at catechesis and in worship carries us and the people around us. As one college co-ed put it, “I read and learn some of God’s Word every day so that I always have something good to say.” Sacred texts inform our joy and shape our hope for as long as we live and into eternity.

A note about memorization. What we are learning is designed to be internalized, not simply learned by rote. We recite in order to believe. Our goal is a man, woman or child transformed by the Holy Spirit and the Holy Word.  That’s not an excuse to ignore the work that memorization requires. It can’t be avoided. In fact, everyone memorizes something. Every job requires that certain facts and routines be learned by heart. They become part of who we are.

But we don’t lose sight of our objective. Everyone can make these texts his own. Each catechumen will be asked to learn as much as he can to the best of his abilities to help him reach this goal.

As a catechumen, you are to learn, cherish, digest and trust in God’s Word. We want your heart to be transformed by these words, bringing you to a new life, a renewed and transformed life of faith and confidence in Christ Jesus and a new way of being human with God. We have confidence that however much you memorize, internalize and carry away with you, God shall use it to strengthen your faith in Him.

What should I have to go through instruction again? I’ve already done that!  While it is true that for some adults this may seem like review.  At the same time, we can never learn the texts of the catechsim well enough.  Read Luther’s words in the preface to the Large Catechism:

But for myself I say this: I am also a doctor and preacher; yes, as learned and experienced as all the people who have such assumptions and contentment. Yet I act as a child who is being taught the catechism. 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, and such. I must still read and study them daily. Yet I cannot master the catechism as I wish. But I must remain a child and pupil of the catechism, and am glad to remain so.

What else? Individual catechesis can and will be gladly arranged for those with learning disabilities. We shall also arrange private catechesis for those whose work schedules absolutely do not allow them to attend on Sunday evenings.

A lack of money for books should not stop anyone from being catechized. Please ask if you need help and we will meet the challenge.

Catechesis cannot be effective if the participants refuse to attend weekly worship services or refuse to repent of their sins and turn away from an openly sinful lifestyle. These persons  should wait until they are ready to enter the discipline of catechesis.

Generally speaking, the younger the child, the easier it is to catechize. Parents are welcome to begin bringing their children to catechesis as early as six or seven years of age, with the goal of the child beginning to commune and/or receiving the custom of confirmation at or about the age of eight.  This may of course also be older, if that is the desire of the parents and the child.

Learning God’s Word, hearing it and reflecting on it is a lifelong practice and discipline. Therefore confirmation and/or first communion are not a graduation or the end of the road for church attendance and Christian living. Those who have this attitude should wait until they are ready to enter the discipline of catechesis.

A note for grandparents and sponsors. Catechesis will not be withheld from interested minors because their parents refuse to bring them to church services on a regular basis or accompany them during the time of catechesis on Sunday evenings. In such cases, it is our prayer that God will grant His grace to His children, even if their parents are unable or unwilling to fulfill their duties as the chief teachers of the faith to their children. We will trust that the Holy Spirit will carry these little ones until such time as they are old enough to bring themselves to Church.

A Final Encouragement Catechesis is a privilege reserved for those who wish to be Christ’s disciples. It is a life-changing experience to be taken seriously. It is gladly and freely given to those who wish to repent of their sins and receive the gifts of eternal life and forgiveness from Christ Jesus.

Not everyone can or will attend. But to those who are called, many are chosen to become the citizens of heaven and a new human race, the first fruits of those who shall rise from the dead on the final day. We invite you to experience the full richness of God’s Word and the complete Christian life given by God through His Holy Sacraments. Come to catechesis and see the goodness of the Lord for our fallen race! Sacred gifts from Christ await you.

Rev. Sean M. Smallwood
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
Cruxprobatomnia-the cross tests everything
Trinity 15, anno 2008 Domini
Pleasant Prairie and Kenosha, Wisconsin

Modified on September 11, 2008 9:03 AM

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