Teaching Moment: Small Catechism

18:13 24 May in Synod Assembly

By Pastor Lisa Isenhower

Rev. Dr. Wayne Kannaday decided that, after such a powerful Assembly, he felt moved to do something different with the third teaching moment, the third of the three “doors” of the small catechism. “I have thrown my notes away,” he said. Instead, he led the assembly in reflecting on the motif of the door and its role in our life of faith. He observed that the we are born of a door, the door to the empty tomb—the stone—rolled away. The Lutheran movement began with a door, the door of the castle church in Wittenberg where Martin Luther posted the 95 theses.

Kannaday asked hearers to reflect on the doors to their own congregational churches. Do they swing in both directions, both to gather people in and to scatter disciples out into the world? He related the story of some friends who traveled to Wittenberg in the spring and then found themselves in Prague on Easter Sunday. They wanted to worship on Easter and found an English-speaking Lutheran church there. About 30 people from their group, some Lutheran and some not, went to experience Easter. The group was greeted at the church by the pastor, who asked “what kind of Lutheran are you?’ When he found out the Lutherans in the group were members of the ELCA, he did not permit them to take communion. Kannaday suggested that the “welcome” sign on that church door had an asterisk at the end, denoting that not all were welcome. He pointed out that an asterisk looks like a cross that has been “x-ed” out. What if our sign said Welcome*? Do our church doors have a sign on them that says “Welcome* . . . except.”

Finally, Kannaday pointed hearers to the poster of the Cranach altar piece at the town church in Wittenberg. Kannaday noted that Cranach’s genius was that he painted the faces of real people from the Wittenberg community. Thus, Katy Luther is the woman on the front row holding one of the Luthers’ sons. Luther is preaching, pointing to Jesus, preaching the Gospel. Through Cranach’s use of perspective, we, the viewers of the painting, are a part of the congregation also—we are included among the listeners, pointed to Jesus. The one face in the painting that is not pointed to Jesus is the face of Magdalena, Luther’s daughter, who had died. She is looking at us as if to ask, what are you going to do? What sign is on your door? What sign would Jesus have us put on our door?

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