Catechesis Notes for the Week—“Creation and redemption are equally impossible for man to accomplish, but not for God. ‘With God nothing will be impossible,’ not even the incarnation of His Son for the salvation of His fallen world. He is the actor, the Savior, and the Lord, who descends to our human flesh and joins Himself to our weaknesses, becoming like us in every way, except without sin, so that He might take our sin to Himself. When His Word sounds forth to announce His salvation, it can only be received and believed, for it carries with it all the saving benefits it proclaims. Mary received this Word, and the life of the world was conceived in her womb. Every Christian receives this Word too, through the call of the Gospel, and it brings to us the same Christ and the same salvation who was born of Mary. Therefore, our confession of faith is the same as Mary’s, “Let it be to me according to your word.” — Excerpted from Lutheran Catechesis, p. 90
Catechesis Notes for the Week—The Genealogy of Jesus--“The first thing to be noted in the lineage of Christ is the fact that the evangelist (Matthew 1:1-17) lists in it four women who are very notorious in Scripture: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. But nothing is said about the women of good repute: Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, and Rachel. Now [some early church writers] have been concerned about the reason why this was done. I hold that the first group was mentioned because these women were sinners and that Christ also wanted to be born into that large family in which prostitutes and fornicators are found in order to indicate what a love He bore [for] sinners. For the holier real holiness is, the closer it draws to sinners. This, then, is the reason why He thrusts and sticks Himself into a family of sinners and is not ashamed of them, nay, lets them stand in the catalog of His ancestry and lets them be sung at that altar before all the world. Had Christ been a Pharisee, He would not have boasted very much of them; nay, they would have had an evil odor to Him, and He would have turned up His nose at them. But because He was holy, [sinners], too, had to be listed among His [ancestors].” –Martin Luther
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—The Holy Trinity--"We should live in this simplicity and not venture forth on this deep and tremendously vast sea of dispute about such [questions of the Trinity] . For this article is very slippery, first because of its subtlety, then also because of our weakness. It is, therefore, complete folly and a most perilous undertaking to wish to search into these things more subtly. For if we could do this, we would not need the Scriptures for a guide. No, neither would this Teacher and King be necessary for us. Moreover, those who neglect the Scriptures and approach such questions with confidence in their own mental power are the teachers of God, not his pupils. And so they will be cast down and fall like Phaethon, who intended to rule over the sun...
If reason disturbs you here and questions arise: 'Are there, then, two gods?' Answer: There is only one God, and still there is the Father and the Son. How is this possible? Respond with humility: I do not know. For God did not wish these things to be discerned with the eyes. He only made it known in the Word and wished it to be believed. When we do this, we do not err. We truly follow a lamp lit by God himself. Our reason, however, is blind and unable to see such great things. (SL 5:131ff)
CATECHESIS NOTES FOR THE WEEK—A Brother of Real Sinners—“A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the Son of David, the Son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). “The first thing to be noted in the lineage of Christ is the fact that the evangelist lists in it four women who are very notorious in Scripture: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. But nothing is said about the women of good repute: Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, and Rachel. Now [some early church writers] have been concerned about the reason why this was done. I hold that the first group was mentioned because these women were sinners and that Christ also wanted to be born into that large family in which prostitutes and fornicators are found in order to indicate what a love He bore [for] sinners. For the holier real holiness is, the closer it draws near to sinners.” – Martin Luther
Luther's Small Catechism
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