If you go into any kitchen and check the cupboard for the recipe books I’m guessing you will
quickly see which are the favourite recipes. They will be in the books that look the most used,
that possibly have scribbling and comments, food stains and dates so that the pages them-
selves reveal the use of the recipe.
Have you heard the quip about a well used Bible? A
Bible that is falling apart is probably owned by some-
one who isn’t! As with health and physical activity as
one gets older, the adage is often ‘use it or lose it’ and
that is also true of one’s spiritual activity as well.
Why? Because faith is living not static. Faith is rela-
tional – it is about following Jesus and not simply
knowledge about Jesus. Relationships govern behav-
iour and that is true of faith relationships – which are
relationships with someone we can’t see or hear or
walk with – but is nevertheless real while beyond our
senses. I am not talking about living or dying for an
ideal or a concept – something not personal – but the living we do with someone but in this
case someone hidden from us (which is why we say ‘faith’ so often).
And to help us with the practical living, with our daily behaviour, with our relationship with a
hidden God – who reveals himself through words, water, bread and wine – the Church devel-
oped catechisms. This was material which Christians repeated or sounded again – catech-
esis – a bit like a cow chewing its cud – instruction. I would describe it as instruction for the
head, for the heart, for the hands, and for the mouth – which is pretty much another way of
saying for living – what we do day by day. Martin Luther didn’t invent the catechism but in-
stead restructured parts of it and added things to make it something practical to help Chris-
tians follow Jesus. In the Lutheran Church we probably know the Small Catechism as a text-
book for Confirmation. And as such when we ‘graduated’ so to speak – were confirmed – we
put the textbook on the shelf. (Who revisits their school textbooks?) But it was always de-
signed to teach the Christian Faith, pray the Faith, shape our meditation and time with God,
define and guide our living in the world ‘Monday to Saturday’ and also in our personal rela-
tionships, and help us share the Christian Faith – yes, actually speak words! – when we tell
others who Jesus is and why we follow him.
Luther reordered the sequence to Ten Commandments – Apostles’ Creed – Lord’s Prayer so
we could hear Law and Gospel and he added Baptism – Confession – Holy Communion so
that we can be comforted and assured that God is talking to us personally! (For our heads.)
Then finding ourselves in a relationship with God as his precious child because of Jesus we
have our daily prayers. (For our hearts.) Then we leave our place of reading and prayer and
go out into the day at home and at work and in society and the ‘Table of Duties’ guide our
behaviour – our relationships in the world. (For our hands.) And Questions and Answers help
us – prime us – to remember – to practise words we might say about the Faith. (For our
Reading the Bible and the Small Catechism can become an indispensable part of each day
where we live by faith in those moments and then go out and live the day – it is our life but we
are living it in relationship with Jesus. And so we can wear out the Small Catechism as
well as the Bible because the Small Catechism guides us repeatedly back to engage
with God’s Word, to live with Jesus.
Maybe in one way, the Small Catechism is like a mother, patiently teaching children how
to walk, how to speak, how to behave? And we never leave our Mums on the shelf!
PS. Happy Mothering Sunday to all Mums!