LUTHER AS TEACHER
Martin Luther’s greatest gift to the church was the Small Catechism. Can you think of a better confession to have on your lips when dying than Luther’s Explanation of the Second Article of the Apostles Creed; “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father in eternity, and also a true human being born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord. He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned human being. He has purchased and freed me from all sins, from death and the power of the devil, not with gold or silver but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death. He has done all this in order that I may belong to him, live under him in his Kingdom, and serve him in eternal righteousness, innocence and blessedness, just as he is risen from the dead and lives and rules eternally. This is most certainly true.” (I happen to think that Luther’s explanation is amongst the most beautiful words in the Christian faith outside Scripture).
Luther wrote the Small Catechism as his little son Hans is growing up and asking questions. The best teaching happens when students are interested enough to ask questions. So Hans is asking faith questions such as “What is that” and “What does this mean?”
“What does this mean” was not Martin Luther’s question but Hans’s. It implies that something is unclear.
So because of Han’s questions Luther wrote the Small Catechism. It should be noted that Luther did not invent the catechism. The word “catechism” comes from a Greek word meaning “to echo”. Therefore the Small Catechism was meant to teach by repetition.
The tradition that Luther inherited had a particular order; The Lord’s Prayer, The Apostles Creed, the Ten Commandments and occasionally the Ave Maria. The catechism of Martin Luther’s day was a series of “do’s” and “don’ts. Luther reformed it by rearranging to the following new order:
We live in a time when we are bombarded and over exposed to information (Fox, CNN, etc.). Martin Luther’s diagnosis and prescription in the Small Catechism has much to teach us in these “What does it Mean” times!