Luther’s Small Catechism and my Fitbit
I’m not always the most health conscious person, but over Christmas, my younger sister kept fussing with her Fitbit so, growing curious, I asked her what it did. Pulling up the app on her phone, she showed me how it tracked her steps, monitored her sleep, and especially fascinating to me was a place where you could log how much water you drink each day. My dad overheard my interest, and, saying nothing, days later had one delivered to my door. (That’s just the kind of dad I have.) It’s a fitness tool, I guess. But for me, it’s been more of a toy; a video game that lives on my wrist and I get to play it every day. When I thanked my dad, I said to him, “I needed another app on my phone to obsess about!” (Which is absolutely not true.)
Recently, I started reading a thoughtful book on Luther’s Small Catechism called “By Heart,” a collection of Lutheran scholars in dialogue about this work. As soon as I began reading, I was struck by something about Luther’s language in the catechism: it encourages movement. By committing to heart these tenets of faith – the ten commandments, the Apostle’s Creed, the Lord’s Prayer – we are not just memorizing factoids, but hopefully, we’re actually moving. Moving “from sin to faith, fear to love, and from life under the law to true freedom in Christ” (By Heart, 8).
As I read those words, I imagined a gentle tap from God. Bzz! Bzz! Not unlike a certain wristband device, getting my attention. “Move, Kendra! It’s time to step out in faith!” And also, like my Fitbit, there is surprise. For what should be discipline sometimes can feel like play; even bring some joy.
Is this possible? For the disciplines of our faith to be joyful? I’d argue, that’s what it’s all about. Martin Luther emphasized freedom playing a big part in the life of faith. He wrote the catechism to put the church’s theology and spiritual practice in the hands of everyday people, their ordinary lives and humble homes. When infused with the rhythms of our daily lives, remembering God’s commandments, realizing the realities of the One we worship, and praying the words of Jesus, these can stir something deep within us and, with our own personal input, even feel like play.
Over Christmas, I got a piece of technology that I wear on my wrist and let’s face it, I’m late to this trend. But just as it ‘senses’ when it’s time to move around some more, so does the catechism in the hands of a person of faith encourage them to live out what they know to be true not just in the pews, but in every place that the human spirit occupies and longs for more of God’s grace.