Full Text for Church History 2- Volume 25 - The German Mass, Preaching, and the Catechism (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY CHURCH HISTORY 02 May 27, 2005 25 CH2 CAPTIONING PROVIDED BY: CAPTION FIRST, INC. P.O. BOX 1924 Lombard, IL 60148 1 800 825 7234 * * * * * This is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in Order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings * * * * >> Thank you so much for that answer. It has led me to another question. Luther writes in the German Mass about the importance of preaching and instruction in the catechism. What did he do to provide for that? Are there lessons from Luther's actions that I can apply to my work in my own church? >> Well, Nick, I think there are certainly lessons to be learned from the way Luther approached this. But in answering your first question about what Luther did to provide for instruction in the catechism, I want to make a couple of points and in talking about them refer to the standard practice of the Medieval church. First, one thing Luther did was to provide for education of the clergy. This is an area that had been largely neglected in the Middle Ages. It might surprise you to learn that there are really very few requirements for being ordained a priest in the Medieval church. You really only had to be of a certain age and find someone who was willing to ordain you. So there was no seminary training involved. There was really no training at all that had to be involved in becoming a priest. Now, the reason for that was the priest was there primarily to say Mass. So as long as he could make it through the service at the altar, he really wasn't expected to do much else. But what that meant was that the Medieval church was never able to instruct the laity the way theologians and church leaders really wanted to. You see, throughout the Middle Ages, there was the expectation that people would be instructed in the catechism. And by that, generally is meant basic text of the Christian faith. Like the Ten Commandments, the Creed and the Lord's prayer. So people were supposed to be hearing preaching on those topics even in the Middle Ages, but they very often didn't because the priest didn't have sufficient training to do that. So one thing Luther did was to provide for a better educated clergy in Saxony and for the other Reformation territories. And we've talked previously about changes at the University of Wittenberg. And the expectation was that those who were going to preach in Saxony had to be better trained than the priests had been under the old system. But that's not something you change overnight. And if you read Luther's preface to the large catechism, he complains there about the kind of priests who are lazy and know very little about what they're preaching to the people. There was quite a long time before you were able to replace all of those old style priests with university trained pastors who were able to preach on their own about these catechetical topics, to preach on the Scripture. And that gets to another thing that Luther did to provide for this kind of preaching, this kind of education. Knowing that many priests, now pastors, in Saxony weren't able to write their own sermons, Luther wrote sermons for them. We might think that that sort of helping tool is a recent invention, but it's not. Sermon books were very popular in the Middle Ages. Luther simply felt the need to provide sermon books that encapsulated the Gospel message, the message of the Reformation. So one of the things he began while he was at the Wartburg was to write the so called Church Postils, which were sermons on the texts for each Sunday. And through those, he hoped that Reformation teaching could be disseminated much more widely than Wittenberg as pastors in other towns, in other villages, in other areas would take Luther's sermons and preach them to their congregations. But that's an important part of educating the laity in the catechism, providing an educated clergy, and providing that clergy the tools to do that sort of thing. Now, the tools that you might think of immediately on this topic are the two catechisms. These were published in 1529, the small catechism and the large catechism. You're probably familiar with those. What you may not know is that Luther originally approached catechesis through preaching, as it had been traditionally done in the middle ages. In fact, we have copies of three different series of sermons on the catechism that Luther preached. And if you look especially at the third series, it's often word for word what you find in the large catechism. So what Luther did in the large catechism was simply write down what he had been saying from the pulpit about the catechetical topics of Ten Commandments, Creed, Lord's Prayer and Sacraments. Now, the small catechism was a little different. And the small catechism had a slightly different audience and use. It certainly could be used by pastors and their congregation. But as you might remember, in all of the headings, Luther talks about how the head of the household should teach this. So the small catechism is a different, much simpler document that's meant not for just church use but for use in the home, as well, for use by parents with their children. This gets back again to Luther's idea that all Christians are responsible for teaching the faith, for preaching the Gospel. It's simply a question of where God has given you the vocation to do that. So that parents, father and mother, are given by God the task of teaching the Gospel to their children, just as the called pastor of a congregation is given the job by God of preaching the Gospel to that assembled group. And so Luther provides for that sort of thing with the catechisms. Remember, he assumes that Christians can and should understand the faith, that they should understand these topics and be able to speak about them with each other. Hitstorically speaking, the catechisms come about in printed form largely as a response to the Saxon visitation. This was something undertaken in 1529 in the territory of Saxony to find out how well the Reformation was taking hold. And the first reports back from the field, back from the churches in Saxony wasn't very encouraging. What the visitors found was that the people knew very little about the faith and very often the pastors didn't know much more. And so this is really what led Luther to publish the catechisms, to write down what he had been saying on these topics, again so that it could be used more widely throughout the territory. Now, beyond all of this, Luther also instituted a very key part of the reform that didn't have an immediate impact but whose impact was more long term, and that was encouraging the establishment of schools throughout Germany. Previous to this, education had largely been the purview of the church. And it had led almost completely to careers in the church. Now Luther suggests that everyone should receive a certain level of education, and that education should be focused on making people good Christians and good citizens. He wrote a number of treatises on this topic encouraging cities and councilmen to establish schools. And so Luther is, in a very real sense, the father of modern public education. But he also always had an eye for the future of the church and the future of the Gospel. And so he encouraged people in these schools to be teaching the Bible and to be teaching the Biblical languages so that there would always be people around who were versed in Scripture and who were versed in Greek and Hebrew, the languages needed to interpret the Scriptures carefully to understand what they're meaning. So in all of these ways, Luther provides for what he sees as a main goal of the Reformation: Teaching people the faith, teaching them the Gospel so that they understand that their salvation is in Christ and His work and His righteousness and not in their own. And Luther did that through his writings, through establishing an educated clergy, through establishing schools, and especially through the catechisms, which of course we still use in our churches today. * * * * * This is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in Order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings * * * *