What IS "__________", anyway?
What Is the "Catechism", anyway?
The Small Catechism is the title of a short book by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther, written in 1529. Sometimes nicknamed “the layman’s Bible,” it contains the core pillars of the Christian faith, along with simple explanations by Luther.
These “pillars” are what we refer to as the “six chief parts.” In other words, there are six main sections of this book, each vital to faith in Christ.
Creed (the Apostles’ Creed)
Lord’s Prayer (the Our Father)
Sacrament of the Altar (the Lord’s Supper.)
These are all taken directly from Holy Scripture, except the Creed, which is a compilation of scriptural phrases, placed in an orderly manner.
What is the Catechism’s Purpose?
The Small Catechism is meant to be both a handbook of the faith, placing God’ Word into our memories, as well as a prayer book, providing much substance for our conversations with the Lord.
As a handbook, we look to the biblical truth it teaches, and strive to live Christian lives accordingly. (Yet, all the while we see we cannot do that, and confess our sin, and receive God’s mercy and forgiveness.)
As a prayer book, we glean many thoughts and topics for prayers of confession, thanksgiving, and Christian living.
How is the Catechism Used at St. John’s?
Each week at St. John’s, we spend time learning by heart a Bible verse and a portion from The Small Catechism. While the book is not familiar to many Christians outside the Lutheran Church, one can see that it is thoroughly biblical and God-pleasing.
Is the Catechism Just a “Lutheran Thing?”
From the most ancient times, the entire Church has had a “catechism,” providing a simple order of the Christian faith and prayer-life. (Although it has not always been written or published; sometimes it has simply been passed orally.) The contents have varied from place to place and age to age, but certain elements have always remained, such as the Ten Commandments, Creed, and Lord’s Prayer.
Why Have a Catechism?
Dr. Luther wrote our Catechism in response to a terrible lack of biblical knowledge of most people (including parish pastors) throughout Germany in the early years of the Reformation.
The Small Catechism was to be taught to all, and learned by heart. By the memorization of these basics of the Christian faith, a framework was in place, so that a person could process and “digest” what the Holy Scriptures teach us about our Lord and the forgiveness, life, and salvation that He freely gives.
A Large Catechism was also written by Luther for deeper understanding, and to aid pastors, teachers, and parents in understanding what they should be teaching their children regarding these topics.
What Is “Easter,” Anyway?
By Rev. Rich Heinz
For two millennia, Christians have understood that Easter is not simply one day, it is THE day that our Lord and Savior was resurrected. Even more so, we do not celebrate it for just a day; Easter is a season – a “week of weeks” – seven Sundays with the weeks that follow them. Easter is the “Queen of Festivals” for the Church, as she celebrates her Risen Lord!
Why “Easter?” Isn’t it pagan?
Many Christians all over the world have simply brought the Hebrew word for “Passover,” pesach, through its Greek variation, pascha, into their own languages. The Last Supper, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus are the fulfillment of the Passover that God gave ancient Israel. So Christians continued to call the observance and celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection “Pascha.”
Varying theories try to explain why Germanic languages (including English) use an old Germanic word for spring, instead. One thing is certain, the hypotheses and rumors of Easter having pagan origins is completely bogus. From the first Passover in Egypt, in 1446 B.C. to the 1st century A.D. fulfillment with the cross and empty tomb, to our celebrations now, until He returns in glory, the Christian Pascha/Easter is much older than any coincidental European pagan traditions.
When is Easter?
Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring; not due to any pagan moon worship, but due to the fact that the Hebrew calendar used lunar months. The lunar month for Passover always falls sometime during March or April for our calendar; thus, the varying dates. From its vigil on the night before, to the Eve of Pentecost Sunday, 50 days mark this joyous season.
What is particular to this season?
Throughout the season of Easter, the Paschal Candle is lit. This tall candle stands near the altar for Easter-tide, and may be at the baptismal font for the rest of the year. Lit also for baptisms, it reminds us that we are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection. Lit also for funerals, we are reminded that since we are baptized into Christ, His resurrection brings about our own! New spring flowers, especially the trumpet-shaped Easter Lily, are common in our churches at this time. This is also an especially joyful season musically, with abundant “Alleluias!”
What Is "Lent, anyway?
By Rev. Rich Heinz
What communities does St. John’s serve?
St. John’s is near the edge of boundaries drawn for Chicago neighborhoods. We are located in the northeast corner of Portage Park. The Six Corners shopping district, Irving Park, Albany Park, Jefferson Park, and Forest Glen are all in close proximity. Within Albany Park is the smaller “unofficial” Chicago neighborhood of Mayfair. The closest Metra station to St. John’s is the “Mayfair” Station.
Sometime in the distant past, to help distinguish from other congregations by the same name, St. John’s acquired the nickname “St. John’s, Mayfair.” No one really knows how or why it came about, but for a few generations the nickname stuck, especially among other Lutherans in northern Illinois. Former Walther League (youth group) members from other Lutheran parishes will still refer to us as “St. John’s, Mayfair.” Most of the younger or newer members of St. John’s are unfamiliar with this name, however, and know our church home simply as “St. John’s, Chicago.”
Among Lutherans, there are no hard and fast rules about parish boundaries. Many of our members live right here in these immediate neighborhoods. Yet others come from Bensenville, Harwood Heights, Des Plaines, Mt. Prospect, Park Ridge, Northbrook, and various other suburbs and villages. No matter where one lives in Chicagoland, s/he may become a part of St. John’s.