In the year 1528, Martin Luther became so concerned over the lack of faithful teaching in the Christian household that he wrote these words:
“The deplorable conditions I recently encountered when I was a visitor constrained me to prepare this brief and simple catechism or statement of Christian teaching. Good God, what wretchedness I beheld! The common people, especially those who live in the country have no knowledge whatever of Christian teaching, and unfortunately many pastors are quite incompetent and unfitted for teaching. Although people are supposed to be Christian, are baptized and receive the holy sacrament, they do not know the Lord’s Prayer, the creed, or the Ten Commandments, they live as if there were pigs and irrational beasts, and now that the Gospel has been restored they have mastered the fine art of abusing liberty.”
The words later became the preface to what we know as Luther’s Catechism, that simple primer book for Lutherans. It identifies the essentials of our faith (The Lords’ Prayer, the Apostles Creed, the Ten Commandments, Holy Baptism, Holy Communion and Confession) and provides a simple explanation of each connecting their truths to everyday life experiences.
The guide below will help you to use the Small Catechism as a tool to talk about faith in the Christian home.
- Week One: Read it. Just read the words of the catechism. Start at the beginning and read straight through. Over the course of the week you will read it many times over. Invite God to speak to you through the words. Listen.
- Week Two: Pray it. Use the words and the explanations of the Catechism as your petitions to God. Seek God’s guidance and leading. Invite God to be a light to your path. Follow.
- Week Three: Discuss it. Talk about how the words and explanations of the Catechism can be a guide for life. Consider the events of each day in light of the teachings. What is God showing you?
- Week Four: Memorize it. By this time, the words of the Prayer, the Creed, and the commandments should be familiar again. Work on repeating them from memory. Write them out. Then, work on the explanations. For help in memorization, read Deuteronomy 6:7-8.
- Week Five: Live it. Luther intended the catechism to be a lifelong curriculum. Repeat the above cycle on a regular basis. Use it to encourage others.
If you have a copy of the catechism in your home, give it a prominent place. If not, the links below will take you the words of the Small Catechism.
The Small Catechism