Condensation sounds as if I’m going to give a little science lecture. I’m not. All I remember anyway is to say when water vapor cools it condenses into liquid like when the clouds begin to rain or snow or when the steam in the shower begins to run as water down the outside of the shower door. But another meaning is to compact something big into a smaller form. Take Martin Luther’s Small Catechism completed in May of 1529. It takes the whole of Christian faith and teaching and condenses it to the Six Chief Parts: the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, Confession and the Sacrament of the Altar (Holy Communion or the Lord’s Supper). It is an enchiridion (Greek for “manual or handbook”) of Christian doctrine. It is also part of the Lutheran confession in the Book of Concord and remains the fundamental text for confirmation classes as well as many other times of biblical study, especially to introduce the faith.
I would think that today’s generation should like the Small Catechism. People like it short and to the point today. “Text me” is the mantra of our times. Granted, the Six Chief Parts are just a tad more than can fit onto our cell phone screens but when you think that Luther was condensing the fundamental truths of the Bible, I think he did a pretty good job. I’m going to follow his lead this month and review all six but in four weeks of Wednesday Bible study (7:00 PM). Condensation. I seek to meet the spiritual needs of my busy generation.
There is another reason, though, I think Luther’s Small Catechism is still relevant today. It was written with “ordinary pastors and preachers” in mind and also “in plain form in which the head of the family shall teach to his household”. In other words, it wasn’t supposed to be complicated. Condensation gets to the nitty-gritty and keeps it simple. When you’re dealing with all the blessed truths of Holy Scripture, that’s hard. But many busy people then and now can’t dedicate their lives to studying the Bible so Luther wrote a catechism to hit upon the essential truths. The catechism allows doctrine to be more easily taught in a classroom or devotional setting, too. Luther wrote a Large Catechism as well but it requires more in depth discussion so the Small Catechism remains the standard in which Lutherans teach the Christian faith in its most basic form.
I hope you’ll join me Wednesdays at 7:00 PM for our hour study of the Six Chief Parts. I promise to keep us to one hour. It will be good review or introduction depending where you are in your understanding of the faith. Luther who wrote it said he had to study the catechism every day to keep up with its meaning and importance lest he forget or grow weak in faith. We can at least find an hour in the week. For Christ’s sake, may it be so. Then we can have a happy Reformation Day on October 31st as we are well versed in the Word of God and it’s precious Gospel restored by Luther to the Church.