What about memorization?

First Lutheran Church   Plainville, Kansas

Peace Lutheran Church  Natoma, Kansas

August, 2016

Some time back, I was involved in a discussion on education, and the matter of memorization came up, and in an effort to poo-poo the effort required to memorize, another person in the discussion asked when in their life would they ever be asked to answer something with absolutely no access to resources such as books and computers, or now smart phones.

That is a compelling argument, is it not?  After all, on my smart phone, I have the entire Bible and the entire Small Catechism.  I can also access YouTube and get most hymns at a moment’s notice.  So why bother memorizing these things?

No doubt you have asked yourself the same question.  With all of the other things that we need to keep in our heads, not to mention the fact that we forget most of those things anyway, why do we still bother with memorization?  Why do children still try to cram the meanings to the Commandments into their brains just to recite it back to their parents and to the pastor?

I could tell you that it is so that these things remain with you when you are old.  I could point out that on my many shut-in visits, members who can’t remember the name of their children, or even tell you what day it is, can still recite the Lord’s Prayer and Apostles Creed, as well as the words of Psalm 23 and some favorite hymns.  I could tell you this, and it would all be true; but for most of us, that day is still a long ways off.

Instead, I will tell you that if you don’t memorize it, you just don’t know it.  Before I went to seminary, I studied accounting for a few years, thinking all I had to do was tell the computer what the numbers were and it would do all the work, while I cashed the big paychecks for my efforts.

Well, as you can probably tell, that is not how it works.  In accounting, you need to know the equations and formulas and where to put all these numbers; as it turns out, the computer just makes it look pretty in the end.

To memorize is to know.  If you have to go look up the Ten Commandments and the Words of Institution in a book every time, it tells me and it tells everyone else, that you do not know the information, you just know where to find the information if someone asks.

To memorize is to know; you know the 6 Chief Parts of the Catechism; you know the liturgy; you know the hymns; you know the Psalms; you know the word of the Lord, because you have made it a part of your daily life in your devotions, in your prayers, and in worship.  And because it happens there, it cannot help but happen at school and at work and in the store as well.

And to know these things is to believe these things, because you have made them a part of your daily life as you have taken the words of Deuteronomy 6:1-9 to heart.  The Word is not just a piece of information, it is a way of life, and that way of life is on your mind and in your heart every day.

And it cannot be lost.  Not just when you are old and gray and in the nursing home; but when the persecution comes.

That is the lesson of the Jews throughout history, both in the Exile to Babylon of 587 BC and during the Holocaust of the 1930 and 1940’s.  Books and synagogues were all burned to the ground; but the people remained faithful, because they had the words of the Torah memorized.

As our day of persecution draws ever closer, there may well come a day when all you have is what fits inside of your head.  Let some of that space be set aside for the Word of the Lord, for that alone is what is necessary for salvation.

God Bless!   Pastor Schmidt

About revschmidt

An LCMS Pastor in North-Central Kansas
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