The Catechism as the Glue of the Church

… only by this means can there be a bonding of families with the Catechism, agreement between educated and uneducated, or a closing up of the vast gulf between elite Christianity and Christianity for the common folk …, the fact that the rift can only be healed by way of a discipline which treats the one as the other with the same elemental portions of God’s Word, that is, the Catechism, makes it the severest task of the office of shepherd first to proceed evenhandedly with this discipline, without respect of rank, educated or not.

A.F.C. Vilmar, The Theology of Facts versus the Theology of Rhetoric” (Lutheran Legacy, 2008), 103.

The Benefit of the Doubt (8th Commandment)

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbour, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.

It has been heartening to see the way the Eighth Commandment has been applied to Barack Obama’s little stumble over the oath of office. One commentator on the BBC‘s Today Programme even suggested that it was his oratorical genius that led to the mistake.

I can’t help wondering what the reaction had been if it had been Obama’s predecessor. Does the Eighth Commandment apply to all, or only to polished orators?

Praying the Catechism

The phrase “praying the Catechism” is at least as old as Luther’s writings on the subject. I don’t know if the following contribution to the subject is original, but I haven’t come across it before.

The Catechism (in the narrower sense: The Commandments, Creed and Lord’s Prayer) can be prayed very simply and very quickly by praying the Lord’s Prayer. Conversely, the Lord’s Prayer is merely a summary of the Catechism – and thus can form the basis of an extended prayer life.

How so?

The Lord’s Prayer is simply the rest of the Catechism in prayer form. Let me demonstrate:

1st petition: Our Father who art in heaven
1st commandment: I am the Lord your God

2nd pet: Hallowed be Thy name
2nd comm: Do not misuse the name of the Lord your God

3rd pet: Thy kingdom come
3rd comm: Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy

4th pet: Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
4th-10th comm: Love your neighbour as yourself

5th pet: Give us this day our daily bread
1st article: I believe in God … the maker of heaven & earth

6th pet: And forgive us our trespasses…
2nd art: And in Jesus Christ … was crucified, died … and rose again

7th pet: And lead us not into temptation but deliver…
3rd art: And in the Holy Spirit

This becomes even clearer when we read the Commandments and the Creed through the lense of the Small Catechism.