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||Newsletter & Calendar - June 2017|
Dear Friends in Christ,
“You bid Your people cleanse their hearts and prepare with joy for the paschal feast. Renew our zeal in faith and life, and bring us to the fullness of grace that belongs to the children of God.” These words, from the Preface for Lent in the communion liturgy of the Divine Service, sum up well the purpose and theme of Lent – a time of repentance and prayer, a time to prepare for the festival of Easter, a time for greater instruction in God’s Word, a time of growth in our baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection.
For this reason the focus of Lent in the early church was not so much on the Passion of our Lord – this being reserved for Holy Week itself; but, rather, on instruction in the chief teachings of the Christian faith . . . especially for catechumens who would be baptized on early Easter morning and then partake for the first time of the body and blood of our crucified and risen Lord.
In the 4th century a wealthy Christian woman from Spain by the name of Egeria travelled to the Holy Land and has left us this description of Lent during the days when Cyril was bishop of the church in Jerusalem: “His subject is God’s Law; and during the forty days of Lent he goes through the whole Bible, beginning with Genesis, and first relating the literal meaning of each passage, then interpreting its spiritual meaning. He also teaches them at this time all about the resurrection and the faith. And this is called catechesis. After five weeks of teaching, the people then receive the Creed, the content of which he explains article by article. Thus all the people in these parts are able to follow the Scriptures when they are read in church, since there has been teaching on all the Scriptures from six to nine in the morning all through Lent, three hours of catechesis each day. At ordinary services when the bishop sits and preaches, the faithful utter responses, but when they come and hear him explaining the catechesis, their responses are far louder. God is my witness. And when it is related and interpreted like this they ask questions on each point.”
Placing himself in this tradition, Martin Luther preached many catechetical sermons that would eventually lead to his Small and Large Catechisms. The prefaces to both of Luther’s catechisms make it clear that they were never intended to be mere books of theology for information purposes only; but, rather, handbooks for daily Christian living. They address the question: “What does the Christian life look like in light of faith in Christ?” They were composed so as to shape every aspect and activity of our lives in light of the cross of Christ. For this reason Luther strongly urged that adults use the catechism on a regular basis at home, that children learn and memorize it, that pastors preach and teach it, and that the congregation sing and pray it. In brief, the teaching of the catechism is such that we do not grow out of it, but, rather, that we grow into it.
For these reasons . . . and in light of our observance this year of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation . . . our focus in our Midweek Lenten Services will follow this ancient custom of Lent as, on the basis of the catechism, we consider the fundamental questions of our Christian faith and life.
In His Service,
From The Pen Of Martin Luther
“Many regard the Catechism as a simple, silly teaching which they can absorb and master at one reading. As for myself, let me say that I, too, am as learned and experienced as any of those who act so high and mighty. Yet I must still read and study the Catechism daily, for I cannot master it as I wish, but must remain a child and pupil of the Catechism, and I do it gladly. For in such reading, conversation, and meditation the Holy Spirit is present and bestows ever new and greater light and fervor. Therefore, I implore all Christians to exercise themselves in the Catechism daily and constantly put it into practice, guarding themselves against the poisonous infection of such security and vanity. Let them continue to read and teach, to learn and meditate and ponder. If they show such diligence, they will gain much fruit and God will make excellent people of them.”
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