(For children and teen-agers, and especially for young people.)
Catechisms are once more in full swing.
Some of you are going for the first time; some are more familiar with catechism, some are veterans. You have your memory work, the lessons in your workbook, your other assignments and your weekly meetings. Somewhere in your busy schedule you must also take time for all that.
No, you must not try to squeeze it in somewhere. Some children and also some teen-agers try to get away with as little work as possible. They quickly memorize their lessons just before catechism, so that they can recite the answers; but by the time that they get home they have forgotten already what they learned. Some do their written work so carelessly and slovenly that you wonder why they bother to do it at all.
Your catechism is important. I can already hear you say, “But so is my school work. And so is my music lesson. And so is my practice for the team,” etc. Maybe all those are important. But you cannot put catechism in the same category as those other things. Your school work is important? Well, this is more important. Your other work is also important? This is far more important.
Catechism lessons always come first.
You say, “You just think that because you are a preacher.” Or maybe you counter with the argument, “My teacher says the same thing about my school work, my mom says the same thing about my music lessons, and I think that my ball game ought to come first. So who is right?”
Yes, I agree that I do say that catechism comes first because I am a preacher. But that does not mean that your school teacher and your Mom will not agree with me if they stop to think a moment. And even you will agree with me if you think about it a bit.
I could point out to you that catechism prepares you to make confession of your faith, and thus prepares you to become an active member of the church, so that it even prepares you in a very special way for your place in the kingdom of heaven. That in itself gives catechism top priority. But instead of that I am going to stress the very important fact that is often forgotten or completely overlooked: Catechism is official ministry of the Word. Catechism and school are not the same. Catechism and Sunday School are not the same. Catechism is led by your minister, and if not by your minister then surely by an elder of the church.
I want to show you, first of all, that this makes all the difference, because ministers are called of God for the very special office of preaching the Word.
Will you turn with me a moment to Acts 13:2? There we read in verse 2: “As they (Barnabas, Saul and others) ministered to the Lord. . . .” They were laboring in the work of the Gospel in the church at Antioch. Now when they were busy with that, “the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul (later called Paul) for the work whereunto I have called them.”
The Holy Ghost told the church that these men were called of God for a special work of the ministry. The church is told to separate these two unto that work.
Now we read in Acts 13:3: “And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.”
This is what happens when a new minister comes to a church. The whole congregation comes together. Another minister preaches a sermon. A Form is read from our Psalter. You can find this Form on page 67. It is called “The Form For The Ordination Of The Ministers Of God’s Word.” In this Form the office and the duties of a minister are described. And then we read: “From these things may be learned what a glorious work the ministerial office is, since so great things are effected by it; yea, how highly necessary it is for man’s salvation, which is also the reason why the Lord will have such an office always to remain.”
Now I want to ask you a question. Who sent Paul and Barnabas out as missionaries? To find the answer, read Acts 13:4. Now another question: Who calls and sends a minister to a congregation? Does the church do that, or does the Holy Spirit do that? Does that make the office important?
Paul thought so. He wrote to Timothy: “According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.” (I Tim. 1:11, 12). Did you get that? A glorious Gospel. A glorious Gospel of the blessed God. This was committed to his trust, that is, as minister of the Gospel. And then he says: “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that He counted me faithful, putting me in the ministry.” Again here we are told that not man, but Christ puts a person in the ministry, and Christ also enables him, fits him for the work.
Now I also want to show you that this makes the work of the minister important. It makes catechism just as important as our Sunday worship.
We turn next to II Corinthians 5:10. “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ.”
You have heard that our government sends an ambassador to foreign countries, to England, to Russia, and the like. The ambassador speaks in that country for the president. The president tells him what to say and he says it. Two Americans may be in Russia; the one an ordinary citizen, and the other an ambassador. The American citizen may spread around that our country is making plans to help Israel in a war against Egypt and the Arabs. But no one knows whether this is true or not. It may be an American who is just trying to stir up some excitement in a foreign country. But if the ambassador goes to the Russian government with a message from our president that I we are going to involve ourselves in that middle-east trouble, then you can be sure that the Russian government will sit up and take notice. The American citizen talks for himself; the ambassador speaks the official language of the government.
That is the importance of catechism. There the minister speaks as ambassador of Jesus Christ. He does not teach you what he thinks or he knows. But he teaches you: “So saith the Lord.” Now your parents and your school teacher may do the same thing, but when the minister does that he speaks directly in the name and on the authority of Christ. Catechism is official ministry of the Word. Christ speaks there, just as in the preaching of the Word through the minister.
We have a name for that. We speak of means of grace. As you have learned or will learn in catechism, Means of Grace are those means used by the Holy Spirit to apply to our hearts the Grace which is ours in Christ Jesus. We even refer to two means of grace: The preaching of the Word and the sacraments. And of those two we say that the preaching of the Word is the more important, because it both works and strengthens our faith.
That makes catechism very important; gives it top priority.
There Christ teaches us from the Bible about God, about Himself, about us, and about the whole way of salvation. All that we must know to grow up as men and women of God, to take our places as active members of His church, is taught us in catechism.
And God uses that by His Spirit in our hearts. Everything else we learn depends on that.
We had better work hard this year in catechism. Don’t you think so?