It’s a Lutheran thing. Just ask anyone who grew up in the Lutheran church that question – “What does this mean?” Like one of Pavlov’s dogs, he or she will automatically respond, “We should fear and love God…”
It’s in our DNA.
If you didn’t grow up Lutheran, allow me to explain. Nearly 500 years ago, in 1529, a German priest named Martin Luther wrote a book called “The Small Catechism.” The book was meant to be a primer to help parents teach their children the basic truths of the Bible.
In his Catechism, Luther included sections on the Ten Commandments, the Apostle’s Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, Baptism and Holy Communion. After every Commandment, article of the Creed and petition of the Lord’s Prayer, Martin Luther pointedly asked, “What does this mean?”
He then wrote a simple summary which children could memorize. The meaning of each Commandment begins with the words, “We should fear and love God…”
What does this mean? Martin Luther didn’t ask that question and write those simple meanings in order to impose his will on God’s people. He wasn’t saying, “You can’t understand this without me explaining it to you.”
To the contrary, Luther simply wanted to emphasize the importance of asking the question. Why do the words of worship so often become rote and boring to us? Why do the words of Scripture so often seem distant and detached from our lives today? Because we fail to ask that simple question, “What does this mean?”
What you say and do in church on Sunday morning has meaning for your everyday life. The Bible is not simply a book meant to entertain our thoughts as we read it. God wants us to read, learn and inwardly digest it. He wants us to meditate on it day and night – to ask the question, “What does this mean for me and my life?”
For example, God commands, “You shall have no other gods.” What does this mean? “We should fear, love and trust in God above all things.”
The Bible tells us that Jesus died on the cross for us. What does this mean? It means “he has redeemed me a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sin, death and the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with his holy precious blood and innocent suffering and death.”
God invites me to pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven.” What does this mean? “By these words God would tenderly encourage us to believe that he is our true Father and that we are his true children, so that we may ask him confidently with all assurance, as dear children ask their dear father.”
Whether you’re Lutheran or Catholic, Presbyterian or Pentecostal, Baptist or Non-Denominational, never stop asking that question. As you quietly read your Bible at home, as you sing and say the words of worship on Sunday morning, as you read Bible stories to your children, take a moment to ask the question, “What does this mean?”
Because God is speaking to you. His words have meaning for this life and the next. In his words, you will find help, hope and forgiveness.
Know what I mean?