Renewing my Praying of the Catechism

Martin Luther wrote his Catechisms in 1529 after visits to several parishes revealed the people knew very little content of their faith. “Catechism” simply means “repeat back.”

This book is a nice introduction to Luther’s Catechisms. Click pic to go to Amazon.

The goal in composing the Catechisms was not to explain the far reaching depths of Christian theology, but rather to provide the basics for everyday people to put their faith to good use in their lives. Through short questions and answers, Luther hoped the people could learn to repeat back Christian basics. He wrote two Catechisms – the “Small” version for parents to teach their children at home, and the “Large” for parents, teachers and parents to use to teach the smaller version. The contents were simple:  The Ten Commandments, the Apostles Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, along with explanations to help clarify what was being said and taught, along with some explanations of Baptism, Confession, Eucharist along with some daily prayers and Bible verses that he thought might be helpful for people to draw strength from for their daily work and relationships.

In practice, Luther’s Catechisms have been the standard texts for teaching Christian faith among Lutheran Christians for close to five hundred years. His question, “What is this?” or more familiar among English speaking Lutherans, “What does this mean?” has been discussed, internalized and memorized by generations.

This summer I went on a mission trip to Uganda.* I was amazed by the rich faith of the girls who resided at the St. Kizito school in Bethany where my group stayed. Not only did they gather around the Eucharist daily, but they also gathered to pray the Rosary.  I found it a powerful witness to observe how they prayed those texts from memory, which are so central to their identity as Roman Catholics.

Click pic to read Luther’s Small Catechism -this version  is by CPH

I had two initial thoughts. First: we Protestants don’t really have anything like this; we pray freely or use prayer books, but other than the Lord’s Prayer we don’t have something we say over and over like the Rosary. Second: Actually we do – we have just forgotten it. Luther thought we should pray the Commandments, Creed and Lord’s Prayer, so these essential elements of our faith not only be explored intellectually, but be also explored by the heart.

When the girls at St. Kizito School gathered to pray, I joined them by praying the Catechism. I also started inserting some Bible verses by way of introducing each section, and I have incorporated those into my daily devotional life ever since.  I’ve had some time to work on it and clean it up a bit.

I offer it to you below as a resource.


In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen

 “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)


“Which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mathew 22:36-39)


There is one God.

Use God’s name right way.

Remember the Sabbath.

Honor your parents and those in charge of you.

Respect life.

Work on keeping your family together.

Help others take care of their things.

Tell the truth about others in the most helpful way.

Be thankful for the people in your life.

Be thankful for what you have.

(Exodus 20:1-17)


“Lord I believe, help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)


I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the                 Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died,  and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints,                  the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.


“Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1)

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us;  and lead us not into temptation,  but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

(Matthew 6:9-15; Luke 11:2-4)


“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)


“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sinCreate in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a new and right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with your free spirit.” (Psalm 51:1-2, 10-12)


“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17)


“Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:9-11)

This is the version of  Luther’s Small Catechism currently in use in the ELCA. (You can find it in the back of the ELW Hymnal, pp. 1160-1167. Click pic to go to Augsburg Fortress

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen


If you are willing to give it a try, recite the Catechism in the morning and/or before bed. Read it out loud it as a prayer. Commit to praying it for a week or so. Tell me what you think. My hope is that these core contents of the faith will start to embed themselves in your memory, so that “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (Romans 10:8).

Maybe in time we will even commit the Catechism to memory and put it practice in our daily lives.



* To read more about my Uganda trip, click below:,,,

** OR

Use any version of the Ten Commandments that work for you. At home we have tried       to use and teach the Commandments to our kids as positive statements, using this paraphrase listed above. Personally, I find that positive statements are easier to remember and put into practice than negative ones.

*** OR


We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary and became truly human. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

**** OR

Use a more modern translation of the Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done,     on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.               For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen

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“The question behind the question” a Reformation / Confirmation sermon on Matt 22:34-46

Reformation Day
A sermon on Matt 22:34-46
“The question behind the question”

St. Paul Lutheran Church, Old Saybrook, CT

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Missing my missing boxes

Moving is a chore, and is usually better once it’s done. However, one of the fun things about moving is finding a place for all your stuff in the new place where you live. Over the last twelve days we’ve enjoyed both finding places for things to make our new house home and clearing those empty boxes out-of-the-way.

boxes.01It is also a bit of an adventure to look through those boxes and try to locate certain things. Some items that had the center stage in our old home don’t fit the new space in the same way and become either cumbersome or irrelevant. We have noticed the pile of things to give away getting larger, and there are a few new items that we would like to acquire because our new space would be better with them in it.

There are also some of our belongings we’ve yet to rediscover. I’m sure they are in the house somewhere, but it feels like I’ve misplaced a box or two. For example, where is our silverware? (Don’t worry we have another set of outdoor silverware that goes with our patio dishes and we’ve been using those full time while searching for the everyday silverware). Where on earth did they go? Another box I’ve been searching for contains all of my neckties. I feel fortunate that it doesn’t seem that there is a large necktie culture here in Old Saybrook so I think I am off the hook.  At least I had a couple of ties with me that I didn’t pack with the others. But again where are my ties? I might want to wear one soon!

When we were packing up in New Canaan, we found a box with some kitchen items that we never used in the years that we lived there, including some covers to dishes we thought got lost in our last move. The irony was not lost on us that we had recently gotten rid of some of those dishes, and were now holding the lids.

How many lost things are we looking for in our communities of faith?

There are people that we know deep down are not coming back. We have stopped programs/ministries that have served their purpose well but are no longer viable. There are old hymnals and liturgies we no longer use. Worship service times may have changed. Former pastors and staff members are no longer present. This spring I attended a party for a colleague of mine. As I was walking to my car to come home I overheard  two ladies talking, “Now that she’s leaving should we set-up the altar the old way?” The other agreed. I’m not sure what difference that ultimately makes, but it seemed clearly they were longing for a bygone age.

boxes.02I’ve been told that when you move into a new house, if you don’t use things within six months (or maybe even a year,) you probably won’t ever use them. This wisdom calls into question the things we think we “need” to hang onto that have outlived their usefulness.   How much clutter do we unnecessarily hang onto in our lives because we can’t let go? How much nostalgia do we cling to in our communities of faith that ultimately keep us from moving forward?  Maybe it’s time to clean house.

Yet there are also things worth recovering: my neckties and silverware serve as personal examples. What about things at church? What have we forgotten that we need to rediscover?  How about this list: Are we helping people follow Jesus? Are we teaching them to be both disciples (followers) and apostles (sent to others)? Are we caring for one another and our neighbors in need? Are we joining God’s mission in the neighborhood?  Or is the box in the back of the garage or the basement somewhere, sitting on the shelf or pushed into a corner we’ve forgotten?

What misplaced boxes are you missing?

Jesus told a story about a woman who had ten coins, but lost one of them (Luke 15:8-10). What did she do about it? She swept the house, looked under the furniture, went through all her belongings and did not rest until she found it. Then she gathered her neighbors and tiesfriends together to celebrate her reclaimed treasure. I don’t know if I’ll get that excited when I find my silverware, but I did find my neckties this afternoon and I could not wait to tell somebody! How much more should we celebrate the kingdom of God when we see it opening before our very eyes (especially since we so easily overlooked it before.)? We should celebrate connecting with new people when they show us the things we never knew we were missing.  Maybe they might even point out to us that box shoved in the corner with the pile of things on top of it.

Once we take notice, maybe others could help us set the table when we pull the missing silverware out of the box.


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“Jesus is more subversive than you think” a sermon on Matt 22:15-22 and 1 Thess 1:1

A sermon on Matt 22:15-22 and 1 Thess 1:1
“Jesus is more subversive than you think”

St. Paul ELCA
Old Saybrook, CT

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Catching the Breeze from a Para-sailing Surfer

Last week I stumbled upon something beautiful. It was late afternoon and my head cold was starting to get the better of me. So I went down to Harvey Beach, here in Old Saybrook. I figured if I could sit for a while and look at some waves and feel the breeze I’d be able to face the rest of my day. It helped. What I didn’t count on was the teaching moment that trip offered.

I was sitting in my car with the windows down. There were two other cars in the lot, and a woman was walking her dog on the sand, but other than that I was alone and the beach was clear. I sat trying to breathe, hoping the cold medicine I took would kick in when another car pulled into the lot.  A gentleman a little older than me got out of the car. He was wearing a dress shirt and slacks, having every appearance of just having finished his work day. He stood in the sun with his arms out – not quite a prayer stance, but a gesture of openness and release seemed obvious to me as an observer.  After several minutes of checking the wind and feeling the sun, he made his way back to his car.

parasail (3)He opened the trunk, and looked at the water. Then he began pulling out equipment: a surf board, a harness, ropes, and a large para-sail. Part of the para-sail was filled with air, and he pulled out a bicycle pump to fill it. Several trips delivered all of these items to the beach and he went back into his car and closed the door. He emerged wearing a wet-suit; the guy who had completed his work day was now forgotten, it was now time to get out on the water.  On the beach he flew his para-sail up in the air like a child does to get a kite to fly. After a few minutes more and what had taken an hour to prepare since he had first arrived he was up on his board being propelled by the para-sail, and I watched him weave back and forth for several laps before deciding it was now time for me to leave and get back to my day. Was my head a little clearer having watched all this happen?


I’ve been thinking of this episode for about a week now (as my head keeps clearing from my head cold!).  Here was a person of considerable skill, investing his time and resources into something he loved, and not once did I see him check his watch or lose the smile on his face.  He simply loved what he was doing and lost himself in doing it. Before you rush to the conclusion that we should have a para-sailing club at church (though that could be really fun!); what I witnessed revealed God already at work outside the building.

What are you passionate about? What do you have fun doing? What can you lose yourself in, and the time goes by without notice?  Can you teach a skill to somebody or invite them to participate in it with you? Is there something you have desire to do or learn but haven’t? Who could show you how? Motivate you to learn? Mentor you in giving it a try? Where could we look to the needs around us and match up our gifts, experience and skill base and started networking things together. Frederick Buechner once wrote, “The place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deepest hunger meet.”  (Frederich Beuchner, Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC. [San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1973], p. 119). Something new and exciting can happen when those two mesh. You never know – we might catch a breeze we could never harness before.

parasail (4)What if we stopped looking at church only as a tally of programs and attendance and instead looked at assets and relationships – what we could teach and what we could learn – all by sharing in partnership?

What might happen then?

Maybe then we could really sail.




It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom.” (Galatians 5:13-14 – THE MESSAGE)

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” ‘Not’ wearing the Emperor’s new clothes” a sermon on Matt 22:1-14

Sermon on Matthew 22:1-14

” ‘Not’ wearing the Emperor’s new clothes”

St. Paul ELCA, Old Saybrook, CT

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Our moment in time

IMG_2565I love this picture, and not just because it is of my children (though that is a big part of it). I love it because it captures a moment in time almost perfectly.  It was July 1, 2014. We spent the day in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park in Alberta. We were advised to stay out of Banff National Park and away from the towns as extra visitors and parades were scheduled for Canada Day. In the afternoon we spent our time at Upper Lake in Kananskis country.  The moment of bliss shared in this photograph tells the story of the afternoon. Joe skipped rocks. Mia jumped in frigid waters. All of us had a great time. Besides Tammie, her parents, my mother and the kids, there was hardly anyone else there. It was a near private lake in the mountains on a beautiful summer day as the country that hosted us was celebrating its national identity. Of our ten day adventure to see Banff National Park in Alberta and return to Glacier National Park in Montana, this was a side trip, not originally on the itinerary.  Yet on that trip, it was my favorite day, captured here, by my kids at Upper Lake.

There is more going on in the picture than a moment on family vacation, however. In the background are the mountains themselves, formed by both the layers of sedimentary rock thrust upward by plate tectonics and the glaciers of the last ice age that carved them. Geologic time is vast and old and yet ever here in this captured moment those mountains are still being carved and shaped by melting ice and rivers cascading down them. In a million years, what will this location look like?

A perfect moment is captured here. Human interaction and the meaning attached to it; complemented by the forces well beyond our experience or control that form this landscape.

In the grand scheme of human history our time on earth is but a moment. We are born, live and die within a nanosecond of the age of the universe (if even that much). Yet we have the ability to impact the lives of others (positively or negatively) with amazing capacity. We attach meaning to relationships, actions, and the things that appear to be constant in our own experience. Human history and culture apply their subtle pressures upon us as well, providing context and perspective. Like a glacier slowly carving mountains, these forces at work in our own experiences shape who we are. Sometimes the detours carry the most meaning. Our self-discovery becomes like this snap shot – a picture of real people in motion caught against a seemingly static backdrop, but constantly in motion.

We tend to approach God as distant to our everyday experience, or at least static in the background. The glaciers that shaped these mountains remind me that nothing is permanent. Faith forms and shapes people over time by story, practice and wisdom, sometimes like a flash flood; other times like a glacier.  At the center of the Christian story is the incarnation – God who enters time specifically in the human life, ministry, execution and resurrection of Jesus. Those who are shaped by this story begin to see it carving them by mercy, love and selflessness. We share that mercy, love and selflessness with others as we are weathered and made beautiful by that story.

I return to this image of my kids playing at the lake. It is a moment caught in time with joy and laughter against the backdrop of forces that will reach far beyond any of our life-spans when we will all be forgotten by the sands of time. Yet God calls out, “Do not fear for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1b). Perhaps we should stop trying to make our permanent mark on the world that will eventually pass away, and instead invest in the people around us who can feel our care now.  The things we continue to discover and learn from Jesus – how to love, show mercy, forgive, welcome, and give ourselves away may be easily forgotten or ignored by the world around us, but to those we encounter in our brief moment captured in time, they might make the world of difference to the people we meet in real time.


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