Our Thursday morning bible study is a great group. For an idea of the maturity they have, when I said I was doing a small catechism class for new members, they said “why don’t we do that as well”. Paraphrasing Luther, always returning to the basics or the seeds of faith, is fruitful, because we have not mastered even such trifles.
We are on the 10 commandments. We spent the last couple of classes on some basic theology – law & gospel, revelation, scripture (and those tougher words authority and inspiration). The point is to make clear how we read the bible and how we make the claims that we do based upon it. But today we got to the commandments themselves. And Luther’s explanation to the first commandment is a tiny treasure. “We should fear, love and trust God above all things.”
All sins are ultimately a trespass of the first, but Luther in the Larger Catechism expands on his explanation. In that expansion he writes, “the heathen really make their self-invented notions and dreams of God an idol…so it is with all idolatry. For it happens not merely by erecting an image and worshiping it, but rather it happens in the heart. For the heart stands gaping at something else…” We all worship something. We all have something, maybe multiple things, which we fear, love and trust above other things. Even the atheist. The atheist fears the idea of God more than God himself. Our age, as the older song says, “has fallen in love with love” without hearing the next line “is playing the fool.” The list of idols of the heart is endless. Cranmer gets at the same thing when he writes, “what the heart wants, the will chooses and the mind justifies.”
God’s Word succinctly captured in Luther’s simple catechism, is a great tool to knock down those idols. Examine yourself (2 Cor 3:15). What do we fear, love and trust above God? Then look to the cross. Look at Jesus there. Is there anything more precious? The judgement and love and trust of God rolled into one man. Judgement of sin brought our release. Love willing took that judgement while we wandered. Jesus trusted his Father that injustice would not stand, and he was raised first to new life and now to the right hand of God. Fear, Love and trust God above all things.