By Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, Presiding Bishop
Dear partners in service of Christ,
In the Small Catechism, Martin Luther bequeathed to the church a concise but rich explanation of the basics of Christian faith and life. It has been a treasure for millions of us throughout the centuries and around the world. “What does this mean?” and “This is most certainly true.” are two of our most recognizable touchstones for thinking and talking about life and service together in Christ. One could argue that no other experience is more universally Lutheran than studying this little book — not cultural markers like cuisine nor even hymnody and worship style.
As a 500-year milestone approaches in 2017, other Christians and neighbors in our communities will have questions about Martin Luther and the Reformation. Their interest will provide an opportunity to give an account of the hope we have in Christ. Of course, our identity is in Christ and not in a 16th-century German monk and priest. But I believe there is something distinctive in our Lutheran voice that can be a benefit in our conversations with other Christians and in the public square.
“With New Voices – the Small Catechism in the 21st Century” is an invitation to all of us – young and old alike, whether we come to the Small Catechism for the first time or return to it after many years. It is an invitation to hear it anew, especially from the voices of those whose perspectives or experiences may be new to us. It is also an invitation to be renewed in our voices for our families, friends and neighbors.
A toolkit and website with suggestions and resources are available. Both will be updated throughout the coming year as new resources become available. For example, a free catechism app for mobile devices is available from Augsburg Fortress, as well as a Midweek Lenten Series based on the Small Catechism is available in the Reformation 500 Sourcebook (reformation500.augsburgfortress.org). I also invite you to share the ones you create at ELCA500.org. But I encourage you to begin planning today, especially for a congregation-wide engagement with the Small Catechism in the season of Lent in 2017.
Studying the Small Catechism together will give us a common language with which to talk about faith, engage Scripture and make sense of our lives in the 21st century. The Small Catechism is not just part of a rite of passage in early adolescence. It’s a treasure for us all today.
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America