Sunday, March 28, 2004

The Large Catechism

A Christian, Profitable, and Necessary Preface, and Faithful, Earnest Exhortation of Dr. Martin Luther to All Christians, but Especially to All Pastors and Preachers, that They Should Daily Exercise Themselves in the Catechism, which is a Short Summary and, Epitome of the Entire Holy Scriptures, and that They May Always Teach the Same.

I confess, in matters theological, I am prone to flights of fancy. I certainly chase after the ever new. I find the practice of preaching catechetically compelling. I find preaching the breadth of Scripture inspiriting. I find almost anything except for lectionary preaching enlivening (am I anti-ecumenical for this?). In fact, the biggest problem with the lectionary is that it fails catechetically at two levels. First, it jumps around so much in Scripture that it does not preach Scripture in a coherent fashion. Second, the typological comparisons between Old Testament and Gospel do a disservice to the depth and breadth of the OT and the opportunities to preach from it.

Which is not to say good preaching cannot be done from the lectionary. In fact, we follow the lectionary in our congregation. But it requires amplification to do well, especially if you are called to preach from the first reading.

But to return to Luther's admonition. Yes, we need short epitomes of the Scripture. Daily pastors and Christians should exercise themselves in this short epitome. This is itself an important aspect of our confession. We summarize Scripture and our teachings in shorter, easy to learn portions, and we refuse to fly off to "higher" levels of reflection if this means we are drawn away from the most basic things.

It may be something like this- when Greg and I call each other on the phone, we certainly are desirous of deeper discernment and new insights. But we often begin by discussing the weather. To answer the R.E.M. song, yes, we should talk about the weather. The winds blown up by the Spirit drive us back to that which holds us fast, the mast of that great ship, the cross of Christ. Otherwise, the winds bury us in the deep water.

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