Time for Catechesis

I just realized that, right now, I am spending eight hours each week teaching catechism or Bible Information Class. I have three different BIC classes going, as well as our regular LES catechism and our public school confirmation class. For a total of 16 people. It would seem to be a better use of my time to have bigger classes, but I have found many perks of working with 2–4 people at a time. It seems to invite better discussion than in a large group, where the same number of individuals tend to dominate the discussion. That said, I wouldn’t mind having a few more people in any of the classes. (You’re welcome to join us.)

The Small Catechism title page

The Small Catechism title page

And as much time as all this takes, I must say that it remains one of the most enjoyable parts of my week. In just one week, I had the lessons on the purposes of the law, the 2nd Commandment, Holy Baptism, and the characteristics of God. Can’t wait for this week’s lessons.

But can you just imagine it—spending so much time with the basics of the Christian faith? And the most amazing thing is that it never seems dull. I never get tired of it. I never master it, or reach the point where I don’t benefit from the basic teachings of the Scriptures.

Maybe you don’t have the opportunity to teach these things time and again. But most probably have the opportunity to attend your pastor’s Bible Information Class (or whatever he calls it). I tell people every time I start a class that it’s a great refresher for long-time Lutherans. I’ve had just a handful of people take me up on it. But every single one of them has remarked at how much they (re)learned, or how much they had forgotten. Try it. You won’t regret it.

September 1999–September 2009

I guess that makes it 10 years ago that Grandpa Linkert entered glory. September 3, 1999. I don’t know that I thought about it much when the actual day came earlier this month, but I have had several opportunities to remember recently.

  • A couple weeks ago a member asked me for the contact information for the WELS European Chaplain. That’s Josh Martin, who was the vicar who just arrived in Hastings in August ’99 and who (I was told) was arriving for one of his first solo hospital calls when Grandpa died.
  • Every year at the start of catechism class, I explain to my students the way my grandparents found a new church when they moved to a new town. He used his catechism to determine the teaching of the church to which he would belong. I make the point that is was because of what someone learned in catechism class back in 1922 that I am standing in front of them—teaching the same catechism.
  • Last week in Bible Information Class, in our lesson on the resurrection of the dead, we talked about the glorified bodies which believers will receive. I mentioned how Grandpa was pretty hopeful that he would get his thumb back. (He had lost his thumb in a farm accident.)
  • Last week I finally bought a desk for our “extra” room upstairs. That allowed me to get out all my Model ‘H‘ memorabilia. It prompted my Andrew to ask questions about the tractor and my Grandpa, so we spent some time looking through old pictures. I noticed the picture of the barn repair that Grandpa and I did after the storm knocked in the wall of the feed room. We were both in the barn when the storm hit. We saw the pictures of Grandpa on the tractor with the whole family surrounding him at one of the reunions. And all the many pictures of Grandpa surrounded by kids, usually with someone on his lap. I imagine I’m not the only one of my cousins who wish that their kids would have had the chance to sit on Grosspapa’s lap.
  • Today I was playing through next Sunday’s hymns. The Hymn of the Day is “Come, Follow Me, the Savior Spoke.” Grandpa sang a lot of hymns. But there are certain ones that I can remember the way it sounded while he sang them. This is one of them. He would sing while milking the cows. And in my mind, I can hear the way his voice sang the last words of each phrase, “a-bid-ing” and “guid-ing.” I don’t think I’ll ever forget that sound.

Milking

I could really go on and on with memories that I have of my Grandpa. But what’s really interesting is just how often I find some way in which his life and the time I spent with him influences my life. The examples above are just the obvious ones. That’s not even to mention the fact that Grandpa was certainly the greatest single influence on my decision to study for the ministry. And how many other areas of my life—church, home, you name it—are still impacted by the things I learned from him.

There is one thing, though, that I think goes beyond the others. My family will remember that mornings after breakfast was time for devotion. A Bible reading, Meditations (or Portals of Prayer), The Lord’s Prayer, Apostles’ Creed, Luther’s Morning Prayer. Every day.

I spent many summers out at the farm. Sometime after Grandma died (1986?), for at least one summer, I stayed with Grandpa in his room. I kept a journal for a good part of that summer, and I would write these insignificant details about the day, like where the cows were grazing and which field was being cultivated. I would regularly write the first and last things of each day. And it struck me how many times I would wake up to find Grandpa reading his Bible and I would go to sleep while he was still reading (Yes, with his face right up to the book with his magnifying glass in between). And then how many times Grandpa would mention whatever it was that he was reading sometime during the course of the day.

If there is one thing that I take as an example from my grandfather, it is this. That I would have such a love for the Word of God that I would keep it as my constant companion, from morning to night, whether I’m milking cows or tending my sheep.

High School GraduationAt our family reunion in 1999, I had some time to talk with Grandpa. We were in the house. I think the bonfire was still going. We must have been singing a little bit, because I remember singing with him a hymn that I learned was the hymn he used as a prayer before worship. I have taken that as my prayer, too, as I prepare to serve the congregation with the means of grace each Sunday. That night we sang it in German, and I usually use the German, too, but here it is in English:

Lord Jesus Christ, with us abide,
For round us falls the eventide,
Nor let your Word, that heavenly light,
For us be ever veiled in night.

In these last days of sore distress
Grant us, dear Lord, true steadfastness
That pure we keep, till life is spent,
Your holy Word and Sacrament.

Oh, grant that in your holy Word
We here may live and die, dear Lord,
And when our journey’s ending here,
Receive us into glory there. (CW 541, st. 1,3,7)

Anniversary Slideshow

For tomorrow’s anniversary celebration, I put together a slideshow of pictures that people brought to me. I ended up including around 100 pictures—of the pastors, fellowship events, school activities, confirmations, etc.

Anniversary Slideshow

The music is from the album The Heavens Declare His Glory by Kirk Meyer (Buy in iTunes). I use these piano recordings of hymns all the time. And you can’t beat getting 80 songs for under $10.

Not Unto Us

On Sunday morning, our school kids will be singing a couple stanzas of Kurt Eggert’s hymn, “Not Unto Us” (CW 392). Our kids have been practicing it both at school and at home. This evening while the kids were singing I managed to record a little bit. Consider it a preview. This is Hannah (6), Andrew (5), and Lydia (3). Lydia isn’t really in school, but she always learns the songs that the big kids learn from school (Go here for another example).

O faithful love—that shepherded through faithless years;
Forgiving love—that led us to your truth.;
Unyielding love—that would not let us turn from you
But sent us forth to speak pardon and peace.


“Not Unto Us”

Stained Glass Catechism

This week our new stained glass windows at church were installed. This project has been in the works for almost a year. And I understand that the congregation always intended to put in stained glass windows someday. The church was built almost twenty years ago.

On Tuesday night, the windows in the nave were installed, and tonight they installed the window in the pastor’s study. The windows contain symbols for the six chief parts of Luther’s Small Catechism. The seventh window, in my study, has Luther’s seal.

Stained glass windows have historically been a means for teaching the faith, even to those who were not able to read. I am looking forward to making use of these windows to teach the core elements of the Christian faith. And yes, even to those unable to read. Just today I walked with Lydia (she’s 3) into church and had her guess what the symbols were for. She knows some of them. The easiest for her is baptism. The older two kids can at least name the chief parts. We’re working on learning them.

I imagine that there will be many opportunities to refer to these windows in sermons, chapel devotions, catechism fields trips, etc.. The ones in the back of church (Commandments, Creed, Lord’s Prayer) are more like summaries of the faith, whereas the three in front of church (Baptism, the Keys, the Lord’s Supper) are more specific. These are the concrete ways in which God brings to us the content of our faith. But all of these will surely find constant application to our life as a congregation and constant use in daily lives as Christians.

Windows at Night

There is yet another use that I believe these windows will have. When evening comes, and the lights inside the church are on, light shines through these windows and displays the same images to those who drive along Hondo Pass. Perhaps they won’t get a good look at the symbols. Perhaps they wouldn’t even know what they mean. But maybe, just maybe, they will give some of our people the opportunity to explain them to someone. Of course, that means that our people must know what they mean. They really should be taught (catechized) well enough that they not only know and take to heart the basics of the Christian faith, but that they can then relate that to others. I guess that’s our goal, and these pieces of glass and metal will, God-willing, give us, both inside the church and outside, the opportunity to reach it.

On Sunday, during our 40th Anniversary service, we will dedicate these windows to this use. I’ve uploaded an album of pictures of the windows here.

And now…WordPress

First Blogger, then Typepad, then iWeb, then RapidWeaver, now WordPress. That’s been my blogging adventure. I’m ready to settle down and get back to writing.

I’ve got a new site. It has the same address, but it’s like starting over in many ways. Fortunately, I was able to bring all my old posts and comments over from Typepad. Those would have been lost if I had stayed with iWeb or RapidWeaver.

I noticed this morning that RapidWeaver was not updating the RSS feed. That would mean that the posts weren’t showing up in newsreaders or going out to those who subscribe by email. In that case, I’m going to give you links to the last few posts, in case you haven’t seen them.

Concordia – June 25th
Month in Review – August 8
Back At It – August 17

These posts are a start in explaining the crazy-ness of this summer. I hope that even though school has started again and I’ll be busier than ever, I’ll still have time to write a little here. And I hope that you’ll still take the time to read.

I have many more things that I want to put together on the site. I think the site and the feed should be working as normal, but I’d like your help. Would you do me a favor and leave a comment, letting me know how you read the post (email, Google Reader, another newsreader, directly from the web site).