Monthly Archives: November 2014

Words from Martin Luther

As many of you know, I have been encouraging each of you to dig out your catechisms and relearn what you were taught so many years ago. Martin Luther encourages us to read, pray and reflect on the catechism as a daily practice. It was his intention that parents teach their children the catechism in a question/answer form until they had it memorized. The church, then, becomes a supplement to the parents. Parents were ordained as pastors to their child within the baptismal ceremony of the child. We still practice this today.

Luther first explains his arrangement of the catechism materials in his Brief Explanation of the Ten Commandments, Creed, and Lord’s Prayer (1520), which he prepared as a confessional aid. It establishes the order and sequence of the Ten Commandments, Creed, and Lord’s Prayer within the rhythm of the Christian life:

“In order for a man to be saved, it is necessary for him to know three things. First, he must know what he ought to do and what he ought not to do. Second, when he sees that he has no power to do what he ought to do or to keep from doing what he ought not to do, he needs to know where to look, find and receive the power that will enable him to live as he knows he ought to. Third, he needs to know how to look for this power and appropriate it for himself.

In this respect, he is like a sick man. A man who is sick needs first to know what his illness is and what he can and cannot do. Then he needs to know where the medicine is that can help him live the life of a well man. Third, he must desire this medicine and look for it until he finds it or have it brought to him.

Thus the commandments teach a man to recognize his sickness so that he may know and understand what he can and cannot do, what he ought to do and ought not to do. In this way he comes to recognize that he is an evil and sinful man. After this, the creed shows and teaches him where he can find the medicine or the remedy that he needs, that is, the grace which will help him become a righteous man so that he may keep the commandments and which shows him God and the righteousness which he reveals and offers to us in Christ. Thirdly, the Lord’s Prayer teaches him how he should desire, get and appropriate this grace for himself, namely through regular, humble, consoling prayer. This is the way in which he is given the grace and thus is saved through fulfilling the commandments of God. These are the three chief things in all the scripture.” (Martin Luther, 1520)

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