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May 2017 - Catechism Confirmation

Catechism Confirmation

As we continue our look this year at some of the key points of Luther and the Reformation, it was in 1529 that Luther produced probably his most well-known works, the Large and Small Catechisms.  It was after making visits to the various congregations within his parish that Luther was absolutely stunned and abhorred at the lack of knowledge of the most basic Christian teachings, not only among the laity, but even among the pastors.  In his preface to his Small Catechism he writes: 

The deplorable, miserable condition that I discovered recently when I, too, was a visitor, has forced and urged me to prepare this catechism, or Christian doctrine, in this small, plain, simple form.  Mercy! Dear God, what great misery I beheld! The common person, especially in the villages, has no knowledge whatever of Christian doctrine. And unfortunately, many pastors are completely unable and unqualified to teach.  ‹This is so much so, that one is ashamed to speak of it.› Yet, everyone says that they are Christians, have been baptized, and receive the holy Sacraments, even though they cannot even recite the Lord’s Prayer or the Creed or the Ten Commandments. They live like dumb brutes and irrational hogs. Now that the Gospel has come, they have nicely learned to abuse all freedom like experts.

And so Luther produced the Small Catechism so that families would be able to instruct their children in the Christian Faith, as well as use it as a valuable devotional resource at the family altar – a practice he would encourage to be done daily. (The Large Catechism was written primarily for the instruction of pastors, but good for all to use.)  The catechism was not intended to be just a text book looked at for a couple of years, but to be used regularly, daily even throughout a Christian’s lifetime.  To this Luther wrote:

I must still read and study the Catechism daily, yet I cannot master it as I wish, but must remain a child and pupil of the Catechism, and I do it gladly…In such reading, conversation, and meditation the Holy Spirit is present and bestows ever new and greater light and fervor, so that day by day we relish and appreciate the Catechism more greatly… Nothing is so effectual against the devil, the world, the flesh, and all evil thoughts as to occupy oneself with the Word of God, talk about it, and meditate on it.  We have many enemies bent upon our destruction.  We live in a world that is hostile to our faith and an environment that seeks to sap us of our strength.  Just as we daily need to feed and care for our body, even more so is there the need to feed and care for our soul.   Not only do we need to regularly come to the Divine Service where our Living and Resurrected Lord comes to us and feeds us with His forgiveness and grace, but we need to regularly, daily be in that Word in our homes.  And the catechism is a great resource to do just that!

The month of May usually brings graduation ceremonies with the donning of caps, gowns and tassels pointing to the successful completion of studies and the earning of a diploma or degree.   It also is around the time when our confirmands have joined the ranks of our fellow communicant members via the Rite of Confirmation – the time when, like us, they have completed their Biblical studies, have learned all there is to know about God and have graduated to no longer need to be in the Word at home or at church…NO! 

Confirmation IS NOT graduation!  Perhaps it is the robes that are often used with confirmation – robes that are intended to remind the confirmand as well as the congregation of the vows made at their baptism and of the righteousness of Christ that we have been clothed in at our baptism, but sadly are often viewed like some kind of graduation gown.   Nothing could be further from the truth.  Confirmation is not an end but a beginning.   It is the first day of the LIFE LONG process of growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  It is a reaffirming of God’s work in us, and a desire to continually grow in that baptismal grace, and then living the New Life in Christ by that grace.  

Here in May we come not to a graduation or end, but the reminder to confirm the catechism’s use in our daily study of God’s Word, that we may indeed “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).


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