Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What I Learned in Catechism

I was raised in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, and that meant two years of catechism in 7th and 8th grades. Every Tuesday and Thursday during the school year, 4 p.m. would find me and other junior higher waiting outside the door of the pastor’s office for catechism class to begin. Both grades met at the same time, which meant in 8th grade you repeated what you had studied the first year.

We sat in rows of light brown metal folding chairs in front of the pastor’s desk. Without anyone ever communicating the message, we knew the 8th graders said in the back rows and the 7th graders in front. There were usually about 25 of us, half from each grade. Our textbook was Luther’s Small Catechism. (Would you believe I still have my original copy?)

The end point of catechism was confirmation (wearing white robes) and first communion. What we were doing, or what we were trying to do, was to learn about God.

And we did learn. A lot stuck – more than I expected. I still remember the first verses we memorized – Romans 8:38-39 (“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons…”). Our Bible was the King James Version. We learned the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds. We learned the Ten Commandments. We studied the life of Jesus. We had assignments, just like school.

When it came time for confirmation (and the dreaded questioning by the pastor in front of the entire congregation), only four of our original 12 or 13 were left. Moves out of the city or to other parts of the city had taken its toll on our class. So there stood Rosalie, Theresa, Susan and Glynn, wearing our white robes, waiting for each of us to be questioned. The girls were smiling, because they somehow knew that the only boy in the group was going to get the tough questions.

They were right. I got the tough ones. But the pastor knew his students, and he figured I would come through with the right answers. And I did, sweating the entire time, but I did.

Catechism was mostly about head knowledge. But head knowledge was important. It awoke something in me that grew very slowly in high school (I almost joined a Baptist church, much to my mother’s horror), suffered a serious setback the first three-and-a-half years of college, and then one cool January night in 1973 migrated from my head to my heart.

As A.W. Tozer might say, I had been led (sometimes dragged) to God. “At the heart of the Christian message,” he writes in The Pursuit of God, “is God Himself waiting for His redeemed children to push in to conscious awareness of His Presence.”

And that’s what happened. I pushed into that conscious awareness.

Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been reading and discussing Tozer’s The Pursuit of God. To see more posts on this chapter, “Removing the Veil,” please visit Sarah at Living Between the Lines. Next week we’ll conclude the discussion of this chapter.


Martha Jane Orlando said...

"From head to heart . . ." God sometimes moves us there, kicking and screaming, but never gives up until we finally "get it" (get Him!). Great memory, Glynn.

S. Etole said...

This sounds like my memories of Catechism and I still have my book, too. Actually take a look at it every once in awhile.

Anonymous said...

You still have the book. Funny that i have no problem believing that.

jasonS said...

Interesting how deeply those ideas and verses get ingrained in us. There are certain verses that almost exclusively remain in my mind as KJV since that's the way I learned it in 1st grade (even though I haven't read much KJV since then). He is the Lord of the process and He will bring us from head to heart as we yield to Him. He's a faithful Father! Thanks Glynn.

Fatha Frank said...

It's funny what we remember. All I remember of one Sunday School classroom is the picture of Jesus holding a lamb surrounded by children. I would stare at that the whole time blocking out whatever was being taught, asking myself if Jesus was really like that.

I struggle all the time getting faith from the head to my heart. I need to remember those times as a child when I could just picture Jesus and fall in love with him.