YFA – November 26, 2017

A colleague and classmate of mine serving a parish in Nebraska shared a devotional aid several months ago that he developed for his congregation.  It provides a daily suggestion for personal study and devotion time based on the Sunday readings, hymns, and Luther’s Small Catechism.  He calls it Your Family Altar.   I stole the format and began putting together my own content for it, and I’ve decided to start posting those here in case they’re helpful to anyone.  The intent, again, is to encourage parishioners to get into the Word throughout the week by directing their attention to the Scripture selections for the coming Sunday, similar to my Reading Ramblings.  By also referencing the Small Catechism as well as hymns (chosen from the Lutheran Service Book),  I hope to provide folks with a way to see the unity in each worship service and reflect on the readings prior to hearing me preach on them.

A few notes.

First off, there’s an excellent, free, web-based version of Luther’s Small Catechism (and other of his key writings) here.   I like encouraging people to make use of this great tool for studying the elements of the life of faith that impact us day to day.  How should I pray?  Why bother going to Church?  How should I live my life?  These are tangible questions with Scriptural answers, and Luther’s ground-breaking Catechism is a bite-sized means of digging into those answers.

Secondly, I have to admit that his title for the tool (Your Family Altar) threw me a bit.  It seems so un-Christian at first, like a Buddhist shrine in a family home.  But over time the language has grown on me.  After all, the home is to be a place of worship no less than the Church, and in some respects far more so, since much more of our life takes place in our home than on church grounds.  I like also that it encourages families to be proactive in their life of faith.  It is the family unit that is charged with passing on the faith, with the Church as support for this process.  I think the centralization and compartmentalization of the life of faith in terms of what happens in worship or at Church is problematic, to say the least, and whatever encourages families to take a proactive role in the life of faith is good.

Thirdly, I want to ask questions that help people probe and consider Scripture not just academically but personally as well.  How do the words in Scripture describe or assist me in my life today?  I want people to explore and search on their own and, if they come up blank, we can talk about it on Sunday in Bible study.  I much prefer trying to push people to sharpen their theological skills than tread water at a basic Sunday School level.

Fourthly, I like that it encourages families to be specific in their life of prayer.  It’s so easy to say we’ll pray for someone and then neglect actually doing it, or neglect doing it repeatedly.  Visualizing who we’re praying for is a great way to keep us on target with our prayers.

Fifthly, our congregation generally follows the three-year Revised Common Lectionary, LC-MS edition.  That means that we are starting the Year-B cycle on 12/3, which highlights the Gospel of Mark throughout the rest of the liturgical year.  I sometimes depart from the assigned readings during Ordinary Time (between Pentecost and Advent), but I’ll note when I’m doing that.

Finally, there is a rich treasury of theology expressed in hymns.  By taking time to actually think about what we’re singing, our faith is strengthened and nurtured.  Music is a great memory-aid and provides a ready means of recalling words and the ideas they summarize.  I’ve had multiple parishioners – just in the past few weeks – share how deeply they were calmed and strengthened in very difficult times because the words and tune of a hymn were brought to mind when they needed it most, and they clung to that hymn as an anchor in the storm.  If you don’t have access to the LSB, you can find the lyrics to most of these hymns online at several very good sources such as this or this.

Suggestions?  I know the format doesn’t translate as nicely here, so I’ll see if I can clean it up a bit.  Again, the idea isn’t my one – thanks to Michael for that! – but the content is mine (for better or worse).  I pray it might be a useful tool for you and your family each week.

Your Family Altar

A Weekly Devotional Resource

The Week Starting November 26, 2017

Sunday: Reflect Upon Today’s Sermon & Service

Monday: First Reading – Isaiah 64:1-9

  • What Biblical event is v.3 referring to?

  • What is an example of v.4 in your life?

Tuesday: Epistle – 1 Corinthians 1:3-9

  • Who is the cause and source of God’s grace to us (v.4)?

  • Who do we rely on to fulfill the promise of Christ’s return (v.9)?

Wednesday: Gospel – Mark 13:24-37

  • Is Christ’s return imminent, based on your observations (vs.28-29)?

  • How will you prepare your heart this day for Christ’s return?

Thursday: Psalm Psalm 80:1-7

  • Who are Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh (v.2)?

  • What do you look forward to about our Lord’s return?

Friday: Small Catechism – Luther’s Preface 

    • What is the misery that Luther discovered in his travels?

    • What are Luther’s four recommended ways to teach the faith?

Saturday: (LSB #332) Savior of the Nations, Come

  • How do stanzas one and four make this an Advent hymn?

  • What has Christ accomplished, and what remains to be done (ST4)?

Our Family’s Prayers This Week Include:

 

 

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