This month marks the beginning of Trinity’s 139th school year as well as the beginning of our 2013-14 confirmation year. Our confirmation students have a large process in front of them as they take part in the catechism classes. It takes much dedication from the families involved. The weekly classes, memorization, sermon notes, service hours, acolyting and all things involved may leave us wondering, “Why do we go through all this effort to teach and learn the catechism?”
Consider a tree nursery. Trees don’t start as trees, they begin as seeds in pots of soil. The pots are placed in a greenhouse where they receive water and light. Soon the seeds come to life and sprout. They draw from the nutrients in the soil as they grow in their fragile condition. After a while the seedlings are taken outside of the greenhouse and continue to grow in the real world. The blue sky, the breezy air surround the saplings as they grow among the other trees. There they continue to draw from the nutrients in the soil. At some point the growing plants become large enough to be transplanted and they may arrive at a new location perhaps part of a replanted forest. There they grow year round assaulted by the elements of the changing seasons. They may experience droughts, floods, storms and more. But as part of a forest they are safer than they would be alone. And as part of a forest they are able to accomplish things, they provide food and shelter for countless numbers of other creature, they prevent erosion, purify groundwater, and provide wind barriers.
Much like seeds in a nursery our confirmation students are being prepared to live a life in a forest and from this we have a picture of the Christian life. With Baptism, the seed of faith is planted within the soil of God’s Word where the Gospel brings it to life and nourishes it. Faith springs to life from the Gospel nutrients within the soil of God’s story. But just as seedlings need to be nurtured and cultivated in the protective arms of the nursery, so also Christians need the “milk” of the Word. Our roots in the faith need the rich nutrients of the Gospel.The six chief parts of the Small Catechism gives the shape of our life of faith: the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, Confession, and the Lord’s Supper. These six teachings, drawn from the Holy Scriptures, are the richest of nutrients that we receive as Christians. These teachings provide the structure for our lives, the DNA of our faith.
Continuing with the analogy of a tree being planted in the soil, the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer is like the humus, or organic material of the soil that provides the structure and the nutrients that the roots of the tree need (12). These three teachings provide the structure for all the teaching of Scripture. They summarize and organize Scripture for us. Baptism, Confession and Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper are the nutrients from the humus or organic material of the soil that awaken, nourish, and strengthen our faith. They deliver to us the Gospel of Christ that awakens faith in Christ. Together they sustain our faith from cradle to grave (13).
Like a tree, we keep growing. As we grow in the Christian faith we also, like a healthy tree, bear fruit—the fruit of the Spirit that we share with others (Gal 5:22-23). We continue learning and growing in the teachings of the Christian faith and in the conviction that God’s promises are true. When we grow in our faith we are more deeply anchored in the Word and prepared to weather the storms of false teachings, persecutions, and trials that blow our way (11).What is the benefit of relearning and reflecting on the chief teachings of the Christian faith? Well, the relearning and the reflecting encourage growth in our Christian faith and in the conviction that God’s promises are true. Just as trees grow from sunlight for photosynthesis and from water that brings nutrients of the soil to the roots of the tree, so also continual learning, studying, and reflecting on God’s Word and the teachings of the Christian Faith helps the Christian grow. And as individual Christians grow, our Lord’s Church grows!