If that seems a little draconian, let me tell you of the numerous occasions I’ve come across people in challenging circumstances who have found great comfort in the lessons learned as little children, often by such mechanical methods. Elderly dementia sufferers who don’t know what day it is but know the Lord is their Shepherd. Prisoners who don’t know their release date but know their trespasses are forgiven.
One of the things which admittedly we hated learning was the Catechism. Huge, long answers in centuries-old language we couldn’t understand – urgh! It’s great, sound, Bible based material but try convincing 9 year olds, even back then! My brother (he of the Inishbofin expedition) was very conscientious and recited all 107 answers correctly for which he was awarded a Bible. I wasn’t so good and gave up part way through.
The funny thing is, ask any Irish Presbyterian over a certain age and the odds are we’ll all remember the first question in the Catechism:
‘What is man’s chief end?’
In other words, why are we all here? What is life all about? What is our main purpose as human beings? Perhaps this first question is the most important one.
The Catechism answers, ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’
Now there’s a different perspective from the one we’re used to! We’re conditioned by modern human rights teaching that we’re all created free etc. to pursue happiness. But if in fact we exist first and foremost to please and glorify God, that releases us from the desperation of always having to be happy, or feeling life is meaningless or over if for some reason we’re not!
We can live fruitful lives, bringing honour to our Maker even in times of great personal trial and sorrow. And here’s a delicious irony many discover – as we stop trying constantly to gratify ourselves and submit our priorities to God’s agenda instead – He makes us happy! We find comfort, higher purpose, peace, joy, balance and wellbeing. And this ‘enjoyment’ lasts forever!
It brings to mind a promise of Jesus (incidentally one of the ones I did manage to learn off by heart in Sunday School) in Matthew 6 v 33 :
‘Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.’
Deal with the vital stuff first, like God, and He’ll cover us for everything else!
It also invites an echo from last Sunday’s sermon which featured some words of the Apostle Peter, 1 Peter 2 v 9 :
‘But you are… a people belonging to God that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.’
Christians are children of light. We can’t help but declare the praise of our Saviour/Master Jesus. He’s wonderful! And when we believe this, share it and act like it we are doing what we were created to do, we’re glorifying God.
And it's actually really enjoyable.
And according to the Catechism, it looks set to stay that way for quite some time!