Why the Catechism for the New City?

IMG_2976I opened last Sunday with the rhetorical question, “why are we here gathered in this place, on this day, with each other?” Our Shorter Catechism summarizes our ultimate purpose in the most succinct of phrases: to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  I argued that implicit within that foundational reason for being is the call to mature into that kind of life. So we began a series on what precisely a mature life in Him is, and how we discover that maturity.

The reason we entitled the series “Enduring Spirituality for a New Year” was that the means we employ to cultivate this mature life we seek (and for which were made) is the stuff of spirituality–the attention to and nurture of a life that is spiritual.  That is the life that desires to mature in glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.

So, why the catechism as part of our spirituality for the new year–this apparent throwback to a bygone era, even if it is a New City Catechism with an iPad app?Screen Shot 2013-01-08 at 3.07.16 PM

Remember me quoting a while back that sociologist from UVA named James Davison Hunter who wrote a book two years ago entitled, To Change the World?  It’s his argument that the only way the Church shall ever change the world is first to stop thinking that it can–or at least stop thinking it can in the ways it has tried (and failed) to do.  Rather than elevate the election of people into positions of power, he insists that change comes when people seek to be “faithfully present” to God, and to the world they find themselves in.

But maturing in that faithful presence rests on a robust and purposeful approach to spirituality, not a mechanistic way of forcing God to change us (as if we could), but one that is, as we quoted from Eugene Peterson last week, “submissive to the conditions in which growth takes place: quiet, obscure, patient, not subject to human control and management.”

And one crucial element of that robust, purposeful spirituality is being shaped by the basic contours of our theology.  In Hunter’s words,

“At the foundation of this task [of spiritual formation] are the fundamental preparations of the catechesisinstruction into central truths of Christian belief, the development of the spiritual disciplines, and the observance of the basic sacraments. It will also include teaching a new language rooted in Scripture. . . .Words such as covenant, grace, gift, sin, mercy, forgiveness, love, hope, blessing, the flesh, glory, creation, resurrection, sacrament, and the like must be learned anew. . . within the context of the social, political, and cultural realities of one’s own time.”

The catechism does what Hunter says we need, in part, to be matured into that kind of life that is faithfully present.  As those who are faithfully present we shall indeed glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.

How shall we use this catechism?  We’re simply going to let it intrude into our lives, interrupting what else we’re thinking about, and letting it respond to what comes our way.  We’re also going to let it shape our worship, our discussions, our prayers.  One question and answer each week.

What that means is that you’ll need to find a way to move it into your week, to insert it to your daily routine.  Memorizing it would be no waste.  Meditating on how a given week’s answer relates to your circumstance will be crucial.

So go the website each week if you wish, or print out the document that has all 52 questions and answers. And then perhaps we’ll start a blog thread each week with that week’s answer that you can comment on–asking questions it provokes, or sharing stories relevant to its meaning.

Will we change the world as a result?  I do not know, but we will be different. And as those who become more mature in Him, the world cannot help but be changed.

Author: Glenn Machlan

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