We’re rapidly approaching the time when the children of our community resume their instruction after a break for summer. Historically, this break was from the spring planting until the fall harvest. The children were needed to assist on the farm through the summer and could not be spared for the typical morning instruction. This was true of our parish school at St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church in Town Sherman, which began teaching our youth in 1855, 167 years ago. While the pastor initially led the children, our first teacher began in 1866, and has been in continuous operation since. For reference, Random Lake High School wasn’t established until the fall of 1912.
From the worldview of God’s Word flows all knowledge and wisdom to train our children for life in the world. Our parochial schools were established in the first years of the Lutheran Reformation in Wittenberg, Saxony. We established primary and secondary schools where all children in our parish would receive a liberal arts education, what today is called “classical education.” Our schools prioritize language, beginning with grammar, then logic, and finally rhetoric. These skills were taught through subjects of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy, with new subjects added later. We adopted this education method primarily to equip children to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest God’s Word and secondarily to learn to live as good neighbors, workers, and citizens.
The LORD says, “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and your gates so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth” (Deuteronomy 11:18-21).
And St. Paul wrote, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Finally, Jesus said: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:19-20).
For Christian congregations and schools, instruction in God’s Word is our priority. We gather regularly for instruction in the Word of God, not simply to learn knowledge about God, but that our faith in Jesus Christ might be strengthened and that we might live by that faith in our lives. We call this teaching “catechesis.” From the cradle to the grave, receiving our Lord’s teaching from the Holy Scriptures is a way of life for us, young and old alike. Our Lord is with us wherever His Word is faithfully taught and received. This does not begin in the fall and end in the spring but occurs daily in our schools, homes, and congregation.
God has commanded fathers specifically to raise their children in God’s Word. The task is not always easy, but it is the father’s sacred duty. Our congregation prepares a resource, “The Congregation at Prayer,” to come alongside our members with memory work, psalm, catechesis, readings, hymns, and prayers. And God has also given you a pastor that His Word is preached and taught to you. The Apostle Paul insists upon “doctrine” as one of the essential duties of a pastor (1 Timothy 4:13, 16; 5:17; 2 Timothy 4:2). Doctrine is not naturally known but must be learned. It is the safeguard given by God to guard you against false belief, despair, shame, and evil.
And “catechesis” is much more comprehensive than mere education and involves the actual doing of things that Christians will continue to do for the rest of their lives: attend Divine Service, listen to preaching, receive the Lord’s Supper, confess their sins, receive absolution, pray, confess their faith, forgive one another, live as husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, children, workers of every kind, etc.
I write primarily for our community’s Christian parents and all Christians. As our children resume their day school education soon and with it the multiplicity of extracurricular activities, consider your priorities. Put the hearing and learning of God’s Word as your first daily. Set aside a half hour each day to hear, pray, and discuss the Holy Scriptures together. Commit to weekly attendance to the Divine Service, where your pastor preaches and teaches you God’s Word. And utilize every opportunity given for “catechesis” to study and learn with your fellow Christians. I promise you that Jesus will bless your life richly through His Word.