Monday, March 4, 2013
A little child shall lead them. . .
Anyway... We had made out way through the complete liturgy, from the preparatory confession and absolution, through the service of the Word, and finished the service of the Sacrament. There was some silence as it all soaked in. Then a voice asked me, "Pastor, have you ever done with with older people? Cause I am pretty sure my parents don't have a clue about this stuff..."
Yes, Virginia, I have done this with adults... but apparently not often enough. It was both a delightful observation by one who sits with the family in church and who fears that the words are spoken and sung without the kind of thought experienced here in this catechism classroom... but it was also a thorny shot to the side in the realization that we never complete the work of catechization (is that a word, well, it is now... if we can have evangelization we should have catechization!!).
As someone who has only served two parishes in 33 years, being here in my current parish for more than 20 years, I would like to believe that you make some headway. That is probably not a true characterization of the catechetical teask. We do not make headway in the sense that we complete tasks and put them behind us. We continue to teach, the same things, over and over and over again. And not just to the new faces who have showed up since last we covered the material (such as the doctrine in the liturgy).
I learned something from this catechumen. I learned something that I should have known. I learned something that all Pastors need to be reminded of from time and time. We are always one generation away from losing the faith -- failing to teach the faith in an ongoing way, especially the practical stuff of worship, is the surest way to kill a congregation and turn the church into a sham religion of form without content, style without substance. The reason why some Lutherans so quickly surrender their faith to the altar of expediency or modernity is largely a matter of failed catechesis. It is not so much that Lutherans know the faith and understand worship and reject this for the sake of fluff or entertainment religion or the idolatry of self. It is that they have not been taught adequately and so they bite the apple of deception without knowing what it means, without remembering the voice that spoke to them the statutes of the garden, and without seeing the consequences of such fateful choices.
Most of the folks in the ELCA (I am convinced) do not intend to depart from the faith but have been taught poorly Lutheran faith and practice and so they have nothing to warn them of the slippery slope into apostasy that the ELCA is sliding down. Most of the folks in Missouri who are ready to surrender their church to the gods of the moment with their entertainment experience on Sunday morning and their focus on the better life now over repentance, confession, forgiveness, and holiness of life have been poorly taught. They do not realize what they have to surrender and what they are surrendering this Lutheran, evangelical and catholic confession and identity to -- and they want their church to grow and they have been told this is the price of growth.
The words of that youth were both sweet words of acknowledgment but the painful barb that reminds me that catechesis is fruitful and the failure to catechize renders the tree fruitless or its fruit poison. I hope that we all wake up to this. And catechesis HAS to include the doctrine in the liturgy for this is the most accessible doctrine to our people, the one they pray on Sunday morning and, if all is good, that which informs their prayer Monday through Saturday.