Three Questions with John Pless…
Registration is now open for the 27th Annual Theological Symposium, “From Font to Grave: Catechesis for the Lifelong Disciple” (September 20-21, 2016). We have invited a few of this year’s presenters to answer a few questions as they prepare for the Symposium. John Pless is assistant professor of pastoral ministry and missions at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he also serves as director of field education. He will be presenting on the sacraments in Luther’s Catechisms.
What first sparked your interest to devote much of your life to the study of Luther’s Catechisms?
I had a very good teacher of the catechism in my childhood pastor. He recognized the catechism’s importance and he taught it with clarity and confidence.
Does any particular feature of Luther’s text stand out to you as especially noteworthy for us today?
A number of features stand out. First, I have come to appreciate how Luther connects elements and aspects of the chief parts to each other. For example, he sets the basis for daily prayer and table of duties in his explanation of the First Article of the Creed. He brings the teaching of Christ’s redeeming work in the Second Article into the exposition of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The “This is most certainly true” becomes the foundation for the Lord’s Prayer. Second, I agree with Oswald Bayer that Luther provides us with a “catechetical systematics.” The Small Catechism (SC) provides a way of understanding the whole of Lutheran theology. Third, the SC is more than a textbook. It is a book for prayer and vocation.
How have you seen your students respond to the catechism over the years?
It has been a joy both in the USA and in South Africa to see students re-discover (or discover for the first time) the vitality of the catechism for preaching and pastoral work.