Christians are disciples of Jesus-catechumens-for life, not just for a few years of confirmation instruction. Christians learn from His Word continuously as they sit together at Jesus’ feet in the Christian congregation and in the Christian home. From His Word they learn to believe that they are sinners, they learn repentance, they learn to confess their sins, they learn to trust in Him for the forgiveness of sins, they learn to call upon Him in prayer, they learn to confess their faith before the world, they learn to confess their sins to one another, they learn to forgive one another as Christ has forgiven them, and they learn to live faithfully in their vocation as hearers of the Word, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, citizens of the land, and workers of every kind. This life of faith all flows from the Word of God that is received and believed. Faith in Christ lives from the preaching of the Gospel and the reception of Christ’s sacraments (the Divine Service), and this faith expresses itself in the Christian’s life of prayer, confessing the faith before the world, confession and absolution in the home and congregation, acts of mercy toward the neighbor, and faithfulness in one’s vocation (the Table of Duties).
Catechesis, therefore, involves much more than as “academic classroom”; it involves doing those things that Christians will continue to do for the rest of their lives. It involves establishing “a culture of hearing the Word of God and prayer” in both the congregation and home. How does a Christian, whose faith is in Christ for the forgiveness of sins, listen to God’s Word, receive the Sacrament of the Altar, pray, confess, forgive and live in his or her vocation? These are the questions of catechesis. When catechesis is approached purely as an “academic endeavor” there is often little connection to the Divine Service, and the Small Catechism becomes only a textbook, rather than a prayer book and handbook for the Christian faith and life. But when aa “culture of prayer” is established in which the catechism can be learned by heart as one meditates upon the text of the catechism, it can begin to shape the way we think. It can also teach is how to listen to God’s Word correctly, what to expect from Him in the Sacraments, how to receive the Sacraments for our blessing, how to pray and confess the faith, and how to live in our vocations. This is how the catechism functions as a handbook and prayer book for the Christian faith and life.
In order to establish the “culture of hearing the Word of God and prayer” in the congregation and home, Growing in the gifts of God series is a weekly devotional and study guide. Growing in the gifts of God is to be prepared by the pastor and distributed each week to the confirmands and families. Although the supporting materials for “catechetical classes” are a very important part of learning to live out and confess the faith given in Baptism, Growing in the gifts of God, is the single most important resource for establishing the culture of prayer in the congregation and in passing on the language of the faith to the next generation of Christians. Growing in the Gifts of God is a weekly guide for daily meditation and prayer for the confirmands and families and the entire congregation to use at home. Growing in the Gifts of God helps to establish the culture of prayer in the Parish. This culture involves daily Bible readings, the singing of hymns, and meditation upon Bible verses and portions of Small Catechism. Each week, the material in Growing in the Gifts of God is introduced during the Catechism class . This catechetical introduction, lead by the pastor, helps to gather the entire congregation together around the same diet of the Word of God in their weekly and daily devotion. Growing in the Gifts of God becomes the principal instrument for assisting everyone in learning the text of the Small Catechism by heart, in the context of daily devotions and prayer.
The material in Growing in the Gifts of God represents “a change of thinking about the task of Catechesis” that is summarized in the following points:
Faith in Christ is the goal of all catechesis.
Catechesis is God’s way of teaching the Word of God by which faith is established. God’s way of teaching always involves the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Catechesis establishes preaching and teaching the Word of God as the center of the congregational life.
Catechesis passes on the language of our holy faith as God’s gift that is received as a gift, rather than a as something that is “force fed” into the catechumen.
The Christian life of faith is lived from the Word of God that is received and believed.
The Christian life of faith has concrete expressions:
In the ongoing reception of God’s gifts in the Divine Service through the hearing of Scripture, the hearing of preaching, and the eating and drinking of the Lord’s body and blood;
In the daily prayer of the Christian;
In the confession of one’s faith in the world;
In the confession of one’s sins to God or a brother;
In forgiving the sins of those who have sinned against him; and in living “concretely” by faith in Christ in the vocation to which God has called him.
God has His own language for learning how to receive God’s gifts in the Divine Service, how to pray, how to confess, and how to live where God has called us.
The Small Catechism preserves for us the “pattern of sound words” (2 Timothy 1:13) so that in functions as both a prayer book and a handbook for the Christian faith and life.
The chief reason why the catechism is memorized or “learned by heart” is so that it can shape the faith and understanding of the catechumen and be used by him throughout his life as he learns to interpret Scripture, listen to preaching, receive the absolution, pray, confess, and live in his vocation.
Catechesis is, therefore, much more comprehensive and involves the actual doing of things that Christians will continue to do for the rest of their lives; attend Divine Service, listen to preaching, receive the Lord’s Supper, confess their sins, receive absolution, pray, confess their faith, forgive one another, live as husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, children, workers or every kind, etc.
|Growing in the Gifts of God Week 1|
|Growing in the Gifts of God Week 2|
|Growing in the Gifts of God Week 3|
|Growing in the Gifts of God Week 4|
|Growing in the Gifts of God Week 5|
|Growing in the Gifts of God Week 6|
|Growing in the Gifts of God Week 7|
|Growing in the Gifts of God Week 8|
|Growing in the Gifts of God Week 9|
|Growing in the Gifts of God Week 10|
|Growing in the Gifts of God Week 11|
|Growing in the Gifts of God Week 12|
|Growing in the Gifts of God Week 16|
|Growing in the Gifts of God Week 17|
|Growing in the Gifts of God Week 18|
|Growing in the Gifts of God Week 19|
|Growing in the Gifts of God Week 21|