This short phrase begins each of the six chief parts of Luther’s Catechism yet it is of vital importance to orient ourselves to what Luther intended for the teaching of the faith. You may be surprised to hear that Luther’s little book of Christian teaching was meant primarily for the home, around the dinner table, for the father to explain the basic Christian faith to his family. In his 16th century Reformation, Luther not only insisted and equipped the laity to engage the Holy Scriptures (by translating the entire Bible into German) but Luther also sought to place the primary place of Christian instruction within the home.
We don’t teach our children the Christian faith with classroom lectures, or doctrinal essays and exams; we teach our children the faith by doing the things that are central to what it is to be a baptized Christian. We shouldn’t even think of our Christian “education” in the same way we conceive of secular education. There is no graduation from learning the things of the faith until we meet the author of the Holy Scriptures. Learning the Christian faith is not a matter of shuttling an individual off to a “professional” for a certain time period and when obligations are completed, head home. Children learn the faith best from their parents. When weekly attendance at the Divine Service and Sunday catechesis is the normal pattern for a Christian family, children learn that Jesus and His Word and Sacraments are the most important thing to Mom and Dad, and the practice of our faith is at the center of our lives as Christians. When prayer occurs regularly. When forgiveness is spoken. When the love of Christ is shown within your home, you are teaching your household (by the grace of God) the one true faith.
Dear parents, dear fathers and mothers. Your children learn how you prioritize God’s Word and the Blessed Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper by your actions. So include in your weekly habits the attending of the divine service as well as the discussing of the Divine Service. Reflect on what you have heard in the service and particularly the sermon. Allow it to be a time of confessing your shortcomings and asking for forgiveness. When your children hear the words of the forgiveness spoken by those whom they love, they learn that Jesus really is present in their lives and that their faith in Him does really matter.
As I have been known to tell the parents of the catechism students at St. Paul’s, the Pastor is here to help lead, guide and encourage. I am here to serve you! But the parents are the ones with the God given responsibility to lead their children in the way they should go. This is a large part of the reason that I would like the parents to be present for the instruction of their children. So that the discussion which starts at church can continue into the home. The Lutheran faith is not complex. It is simply all about Jesus. Martin Luther’s explanation to the fundamental texts of the Christian Faith in the Small Catechism have taught Christians for hundreds of years. Who we are. What we are to do. What God has done for us. How God continues to give us His eternal gifts. Our sin is made manifest in the light of the Ten Commandments. God’s work for us in Christ is made clear in the Apostles’ Creed. We are given the words to speak to our Heavenly Father in the Lord’s Prayer. And we are given the free gift of forgiveness through the means of Grace and the Sacraments (Baptism, Confession and Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper). It’s biblical. It is clear. It is simple.
Take heart. God has sent His Holy Spirit into your heart to guide you into all truth. And as He guides you, He guides those in your household. He opens your lips to declare His praises. He leads you and your family into the way of truth.