When it comes to the Ten Commandments and living with God, I automatically think of the Small Catechism. Catechism is Greek for “repeat back” and was used as far back as St. Paul for instruction for Christians. For many of you the catechism might have been something that you were taught in Confirmation years ago and maybe even had to memorize. One thing you might not have realized is that the format and order of the contents has changed. Way back as far as medieval times the catechism was organized like so:
- Lord’s Prayer/Penance
It was not until Martin Luther got his hands on it that we have the order that we do today:
- Ten Commandments (sickness)
- Creed (doctor)
- Lord’s Prayer (pharmacy)
- Sacraments (medicine)
He felt that the church was telling people to encounter Christ in the wrong order. He wanted people to see the catechism and its contents as a way to find healing in Christ and see God coming down to them instead of having to ascend a ladder to God.
First, Luther wanted people to encounter the Ten Commandments which address our sickness as humans. These commandments we cannot live up to fully show our human condition, and sometimes leave us feeling frustrated; yet there is hope. Next, we encounter the Creed which is like a doctor; it identifies the Father, Son, and Spirit as to whom we go for healing. Then comes the Lord’s Prayer which is the pharmacy. At the pharmacy we come and learn what God has planned for us for the healing to occur. Last are the sacraments - Baptism and Communion - which serve as the medicine. Through our encounters with Christ at the font or table, we find restoration. Our life with God is formed through our patterns of confession and instruction. Through faith we find strength and healing for the life laid out before us.
So, as we hear the commandments proclaimed again this day, may we approach them with new ears, understanding that even though we cannot always live up to them they are the starting point for our journey to healing and God’s promise to dwell among us.
Questions for Reflection:
- Which of the Ten Commandments do you find frustrating? Life-giving?
- How does the order of the catechism give you a better understanding of our life with God?
Creator, Son, and Spirit,
Come to our aid in life when we are in need of your instruction and healing. When we get caught up in trying to climb a ladder, may we experience your grace that comes down and dwells among us in uncertainty and hope . . . a grace that gives us strength and renewal for a life grounded in your love and service. Amen.
About the Author:
Works with Care Ministries and Confirmation Ministries along with her general pastoral duties (worship leadership, preaching, teaching, weddings, funerals, etc.). Married to David and are parents to a daughter, Matilda.