Catechesis Notes for the Week—Repentance Is at the Heart of Advent--“I’m tired of hearing talk about our sin!” This is often the response of those who hear the call to repentance. “Sin is a downer! Can’t we get on with something else?” Yes, we can go on. That’s what repentance is all about—going on, confessing sin, turning from it to Christ, finding our relief, comfort, and strength in His forgiveness. The message of repentance is not only the knowledge of our sin, it is also the proclamation that there is nothing that Jesus hasn’t done to save you from your sin and to give you new life and freedom now! The message of repentance always brings relief when it finds its rest in Christ, our righteousness.
A Congregation at Prayer ~ November 28–December 4, 2016 ~ The Lord's Prayer – Address & First Petition
Catechesis Notes for the Week—Advent--Advent means “coming.” It is the beginning of the Church Year. "Here in late November, we are in the middle of a season of dying. The flowers are frozen. The gardens are all gone. Gone are the greens and blues of summer. Here to stay are the grey days and long nights of winter. Yet in the middle of nature’s dying, we experience a Church that is thriving! In the Church’s year, all is fresh and new as we await the birth of the Word made flesh. In nature, we see more darkness than daylight. But in the Church, we watch with wide-open eyes as the Light of the World dawns in the darkness. In nature, we come face to face with the stubborn fact that all things pass away. But in the Church, we celebrate the coming of Christ who makes all things new!"
Catechesis Notes for the Week--The End of the Church Year: Watching During the Great Tribulation--The Bride of Christ,the Holy Christian Church, waits eagerly for her Lord’s Second Coming. Then she, of whom we are all members, will be delivered once and for all from sin and the corruption that is in the world. The “Great Tribulation” of the last days is the struggle that the Church and every Christian in every age has had with the devil, the world, and the sinful flesh. These enemies attack faith in Christ. We, Christ’s Church, have been in the “Last Days” since our Lord's ascension into heaven. The faith of the Church has always been under attack. Our only defense as Christians is the Word of God and the prayer of faith that claims Christ's victory in the midst of this suffering.
Catechesis Notes for the Week—How Do We Receive the Holy Spirit--When Jesus appeared to the disciples on Easter evening, He said to them, “Peace to You! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you…Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20: 21-23, NKJV). These words teach us much about “how” we receive the Holy Spirit. We receive the Holy Spirit through our Savior’s Word of forgiveness. There is an inseparable linkage between our Savior’s words and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is “the Lord and giver of life.” He calls us to faith in Christ. He creates a new will in our hearts that desires to love God and serve the neighbor. He produces in us the good works of love that flow from faith. He brings forth in us the “fruit of the Spirit”— love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. He brings to us everything that Jesus has done for us. By the Holy Spirit, Jesus Himself actually dwells in our hearts by faith. The Holy Spirit does all this by the Word of our Savior. Christians need to know where the Holy Spirit promises to be found: in the reception of the Word of Christ. Therefore, we seek the Spirit in the very promises of our Baptism, in the ongoing preaching of the Gospel, in faithful catechesis of the Word of Christ, in the life of repentance and faith that confesses sin and receives the absolution. Even the Lord’s Supper carries the promise of the Holy Spirit because Jesus’ word, “given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,” is at the center of the Sacrament. When we pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are praying for the Holy Spirit to come to us and work in us where He promises to be found: in Christ’s Word—in all the wonderful ways Jesus’ word of forgiveness comes to us.
Catechesis Notes for the Week—The Third Article of the Creed--“Neither you nor I could ever know anything of Christ, or believe in him and take him as our Lord, unless these were first offered to us and bestowed on our hearts through the preaching of the Gospel by the Holy Spirit. The work is finished and completed; Christ has acquired and won the treasure for us by his sufferings, death, and resurrection, etc. But if the work had remained hidden and no one knew of it, it would have been all in vain, all lost. In order that this treasure might not be buried but put to use and enjoyed, God has caused the Word to be published and proclaimed, in which he has given the Holy Spirit to offer and apply to us this treasure of salvation. Therefore to sanctify is nothing else than to bring us to the Lord Christ to receive this blessing, which we could not obtain by ourselves... Further we believe that in this Christian church we have the forgiveness of sins, which is granted through the holy sacraments and absolution as well as through all the comforting words of the entire Gospel. Toward forgiveness is directed everything that is to be preached concerning the sacraments and, in short, the entire Gospel and all the duties of Christianity. Forgiveness is needed constantly, for although God's grace has been won by Christ, and holiness has been wrought by the Holy Spirit through God's Word in the unity of the Christian church, yet because we are encumbered with our flesh we are never without sin.” — The Large Catechism, Third Article
Catechesis Notes—The Second Article—He suffered, died, and was buried--“He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). On our behalf and for our salvation He suffered and died. The word for “bruised” or “crushed” for our iniquities is the same verb found in Genesis 3:15, in which the Seed of the Woman would “bruise” the serpent’s head and the serpent would “bruise” or “crush” the Savior’s heel. Everything that “chastises” our conscience and interrupts our peace with God, as well as the “chastening” or punishment that we deserved for our sin to make peace with God, fell upon Jesus. Every wound that is inflicted upon us because of our sin is “healed” by “His stripes” or His “wounds” in the shedding of His blood. (Excerpt from Lutheran Catechesis, Catechist Edition, p. 106a)
Catechesis Notes for the Week—The Second Article of the Creed--Redemption is the theme of the Second Article. It is a word that indicates that we have been “purchased and won” by Christ from Satan who had been our lord and taskmaster. Satan held sinful man and each one of us in his clutches. His power over us was the Law through sin. Because of our sinful rebellion he was able to lay claim to us and hold us under the Law’s condemnation. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, the condemnation of hell, and the power of Satan, by becoming a curse for us under the Law and pouring out His life-blood into death for us. This is how He, as the Seed of the Woman, would “bruise” or “crush” the devil’s headship and authority over man, according to the first promise of the Gospel in Genesis 3:15. “I will put enmity between you [Satan] and the woman, and between your seed [Satan] and her Seed; He [the woman’s Seed, our Lord Jesus Christ, who was born of the Virgin Mary] shall bruise your head [Satan’s power to condemn us] and you [Satan] shall bruise His heel. Christ was “bruised” upon the cross as He trampled Satan underfoot through His suffering and death. Now we have freedom from Satan’s tyranny through faith in Christ.
Catechesis Notes for the Week— The First Article of the Creed — “All that I am and all that I have comes from God. Apart from Him I am and have nothing.” These assertions are central to the Christian teaching concerning God. They declare that we, and all of creation, are completely dependent upon Him. Even when we abuse the life and gifts that He has given, we do so by His power in us. This is what makes such evil all the more blasphemous! Martin Luther’s Creedal Hymn confesses both our dependence upon God and His love for us that motivates Him to create, provide, protect, and defend us. “We all believe in one true God, who created earth and heaven. The Father who to us in love has the right of children given. He in soul and body feeds us; All we need His hand provides us; Through all snares and perils leads us, Watching that no harm betide us. He cares for us by day and night; All things are governed by His might.” The Catechism helps us to understand that what He has made and given is ALWAYS good, even if our sinful human reason might not think so and might even rebel against such gifts. There is great freedom in the gift of faith that accepts the truths of the First Article. All Christians—the deaf, the blind, and the lame— still confess that God has made them, including their “eyes, ears, and all their members,” even if they don’t work the way they want them to work. God’s created gifts are given AS THEY ARE, that we might learn to trust in Him through these gifts, extolling Him alone as God and relying upon His grace in our weakness.
Catechesis Notes for the Week—The First Article of the Creed and the Historical Account of Creation in Genesis--The Bible verse for this week teaches us that all of creation came into existence by the Word of God and that apart from God’s Word nothing exists. The stories of the creation of the heavens and the earth move quickly to the creation of man as the crown of God’s creation and the object of God’s greatest affection and love. Though man squandered God’s free gifts in the creation, God did not abandon His affection and love for us. The story of man’s fall into sin is quickly followed by God’s first promise of salvation from the devil and the condemnation that this fall brought upon us. This promise is contained in God’s Word to the devil: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” The “Seed of the Woman” is the Virgin-born Son of God who crushed the devil’s claim upon man when His heel was bruised in His suffering and death upon the cross. This promise of salvation is also accompanied by God’s curse of the fall. The curse of the fall was necessary in order that sinful man might come to believe in his need for God. The curse of the fall gives the preaching of the Law its teeth. The Law preaches repentance—revealing the sin and rebellion from which we need God’s salvation—and the experience of the curse of the fall teaches us that the problem of sin is real and has separated us from God. It is in this context of the Law’s preaching and the experience of our fallen condition that the Gospel enters in to bring forgiveness and comfort, and to raise us up to the new life of faith. By faith in Christ and the promises of salvation through Him, we are enabled to bear up under the curse of the fall until we are delivered from all the suffering of our fallen condition on the last day in the resurrection of the dead.
Catechesis Notes for the Week— Review of the Commandments and the Close of the Commandments — The first commandment is behind all the commandments, and all the commandments are interconnected in the demand to love God above all things. The threat of the Law to punish anyone who turns away from God is visited upon Jesus in His death upon the cross. He was punished for the sin of the fathers in fulfillment of the law. Therefore, there is grace and mercy for us sinners, because Jesus “loved and trusted in God and gladly did what God demanded.” He did this even to the point of suffering the punishment that we sinners deserved. Death and condemnation is the result of turning away from God, the source of all life. The tablets of the Law that were hurled at the Jews from Mount Sinai show how all our righteousness is crushed under the scrutiny of God’s commandments. This is necessary. If we do not feel the crushing blow of the Law, we cannot receive the righteousness of Christ. Christ bore the crushing blow of the Law’s condemnation in His death. He willingly took our place, like a scapegoat, and suffered all that we by our sins deserved. Why did He do this? His love and desire to save us and give us life is at the heart of all that He does for us, even when the Law is proclaimed that crushes our self-righteousness and pride.
Luther's Small Catechism
Click the button below to download a copy of the Enchiridion of Luther's Small Catechism: