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Archive for the ‘New Testament’ Category

For the past almost four years, I’ve been a member of a small group studying the ecumenical Disciple Bible Study curriculum.

One of the most satisfying parts of the entire experience–and there have been many!–has been studying the Old Testament and learning much more about the history of our faith from the beginning. I mean, we all know the story of Noah and the Ark and Moses parting the Red Sea, but there is so much more there. The New Testament is so much more vibrant, so much more meaningful, with the context of all the history and prophecy of the Old Testament behind it.

More than once, I’ve admired the Jewish faith for maintaining the rituals that mark their holy days. As Christians, I feel like we’ve let go of a lot of our faith heritage in some ways; we don’t always remember or reflect upon where we came from and what that means. It’s not that I am suggesting that we go back and begin living by the law prescribed in the Old Testament; I’m not. But I think we can learn a lot more about our faith and our faith traditions by remembering how it developed.

While we may not actually celebrate Passover, we surely must remember it. The Last Supper, after all, was a Seder meal. When we refer to Jesus as “the Lamb of God,” that’s an allusion to the sacrifices that the Jews made to God so that the angel of death would pass over their homes.

Passover begins next week; the first full day of Passover this year is Tuesday, April 19. To that end, I interviewed an old high school friend of mine, Beth Marler, because she and her family have recently started honoring some of the Jewish holidays like Passover in addition to the Christian holidays.

Beth said that she discovered, while studying the Old Testament, that God told the Israelites to observe certain days so they would remember what God had done for them.

“God knew that humans are quite forgetful, and indeed, the Israelites routinely forgot what God had done for them,” Beth told me. 

Beth noted that, no, she’s not Jewish. So it’s fair to ask why she believes she’s been told by God to remember and celebrate.

“I don’t know that I”m not a descendant of one of those brothers [of the 12 tribes of Israel],” she said. “I think it’s very possible that I am. Don’t know, but could be. Look how many decendants of Judah (modern day Jews) there are.”

But beyond that… “I want to REMEMBER what God has done,” Beth said. “I also want my kids to REMEMBER what God has done.”

So she and her three young daughters do things like make special treats for Purim, blew a shofar (ram’s horn) at Rosh Hashanah and put up tent for the Feast of Booths. And this year, they will try honoring Passover for the first time.

“I may try to cook a lamb,” Beth said.

Pretty thought-provoking, isn’t it?

The title of the fourth year of the Disciple curriculum is “Remember who you are.” Perhaps it will help even more of us in our faith formation if we think more about where we came from, theologically speaking.

Now, someone recently mentioned to me that, when doing this sort of thing, it’s important to stay true to the remembering-who-we-are part, and not cross over into the co-opting-another-faith’s-traditions territory. I completely agree. And I think Beth would agree, too.

It’s important to frame the observance with the context. My church hosts a Seder meal each year to educate church members about the origins of Passover–and how the Last Supper fits into that context. It’s all in the approach and the intent.

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My older son, who is almost five,  is playing soccer for the very first time this spring. He was a little reluctant when we first registered, despite the fact that he has always loved kicking around the soccer ball in the backyard. But by the time practices started a few weeks ago, he had embraced the idea.

His team is mostly soccer rookies. There’s one boy who I jokingly refer to as “the ringer” because this is his third season, and he’s quite good. But the rest of them are still novices. Enthusiastic novices, but novices nonetheless. Which is fine. You have to start somewhere, I’ve always said. 

Also, this particular league is a low-pressure league where there are actual rules spelled out to govern good sportsmanship on the part of coaches and other involved parties. Which means that it’s less likely to be full of Those Parents. You know. The dads (and moms) who are hard core about the sport. The ones who yell constantly at their kids to work harder, play harder, run harder, do better, beat up the other kids and win at all costs. Okay, so the last two things are (mostly) implied. But you get my drift. Low pressure situation. People there to learn. People there to have fun. Emphasis on having fun and learning to play, not on winning games. Check, check, check, and check.

So it was a little disheartening to hear a little boy on the team that mopped the floor with my son’s team on Saturday (hey, I said they were novices, right?) crowing loudly about how many goals he’d scored. He and a couple of the girls on his team were scoring over and over again, and our little bunch was starting to droop a little bit.

Now, I’m realistic about kids. Five- and six-year-old kids don’t always do the right thing every single time. Heck, adults don’t always do the right thing, so why would we expect children to? Children do have one excuse, though: they have to learn how to do the right thing. And that means someone has to teach them. From what my husband and my friends said, no one from the boy’s team was gently advising him that it wasn’t about all the goals that he’d scored, that it was about playing the game the right away.

It wasn’t all the boy’s fault that he wasn’t behaving in the most sportsmanlike way. But someone should have said something to him, so that he’d recognize that what he was doing wasn’t very nice.  No one begrudged him the right to be proud of his skill. But we didn’t want the other kids to get discouraged. We didn’t want our rookie soccer players to start feeling so low that they just gave up. And with a bunch of newbies, that’s always a possibility. All the parents and fans tried to cheer things like, “Good try!” and “Good hustle!” to keep the kids’ spirits up, to let them know that we appreciated their effort more than anything else.

Luckily, the kids on my son’s team didn’t seem to suffer any long-term ill effects from the experience. Kids are pretty resilient. Thankfully. Also, there were plenty of other kids on the other team–and parents, too–who weren’t acting like that. Of course, they were will demolishing our team, but well, that was pretty inevitable.

As my friend said after the game, “Were our kids having fun? Were they playing by the rules?” Yes and yes. So we were all good. That’s what we are trying to emphasize, and as long as we continue doing that, we’re succeeding. Maybe they’ll also gain a few soccer skills and score a few goals, too.

The point of this long anecdote, as you can probably guess, is that it’s another example of how important is it to both 1) lead by example, and to 2) make the effort teach our children what we value as important.  Colossians 3: 12–“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience”–has always been one of my favorite Bible verses. If I value compassion and kindness, which I do, then it’s up to me to try to instill those qualities in my child. And to show him what compassion and kindness look like. That’s my goal as a parent. (C’mon. You knew I was going to make a soccer pun at some point.)

Even–especially?–on the soccer field.

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This morning, my elder son clamored at my arm, “Mommy, help! I need a can of vegetables!”

Yes, he does like vegetables more than the average kid, which is wonderful, but he wasn’t begging to eat a breakfast of cold canned green beans. He was reminding me that we are trying to get back on track with something that we used to do religiously* but have kind of slacked off on in recent months.

(*Er, you know what I mean.)

Until last summer, my son took a can of vegetables or fruit with him when we went to church. When we got to church, he placed the can in a shopping cart just inside the entryway at the side door. The shopping cart is our church’s collection bin for Second Harvest, a non-profit that collects food donations for its Food Bank, which then distributes the food to agencies that serve the needy in our region. 

The point was that my son took a can to church every single time he went to church. If we went to church twice in one week, we took two cans of food. If we went three times, then the shopping cart was three cans heavier, thanks to my son. The can of food was his offering. It was his visible reminder of how privileged we are to have plenty to eat and because we are so grateful, we want to share what we have with others who are less fortunate. It is our response to God’s grace.

A relevant Scriptural reference for this comes from the following passages in the book of Matthew:
  • Matthew 5: 35: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”
  • Matthew 5: 40: “The King will reply, I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”  [Life Application Study Bible, New International Version.]

The food donation worked well, too, because every toddler and preschooler on the planet starts to grapple with the concept of sharing. Taking a can of food from our pantry and leaving it in the shopping cart was excellent practice in the art of sharing. My son understood 1) sharing is good, 2) there are hungry people out there, and 3) so we’ll share our food with them so they won’t be hungry.  And bless him, my son always liked to pick out his favorite food from the canned food stock in the pantry to share, not the stuff that he couldn’t care less about. Sometimes, I even let him pick out the cans at the grocery store so he could make sure to get some good stuff.

Then last summer, I broke my ankle. Yeah, no,  it wasn’t such a good time. There I was, with a new baby, a four-year-old and a bad wheel. Except for one committee meeting that required the entire committee to get me there, I didn’t make it to church for quite awhile. I was stuck in my house with a boot on my bruised-and-battered leg and a pair of crutches. By the time I did start going to church again, we were out of the canned food habit. I was lugging along an infant, his diaper bag, my purse, my elder son and his stuff, all on my wobbly ankle, while trying to gingerly navigate the long walk from the parking lot to the nursery where I could at least deposit some of that load. 

Oof. I’m having flashbacks, remembering.

It just seemed like I couldn’t manage a single additional thing, and unfortunately the can of food fell by the wayside. But occasionally, my elder son would walk by the shopping cart and say, “We really need to start bringing some food for the shopping cart again, Mommy. The cart’s almost empty.”

He was right. Second Harvest desperately needs food donations. You can probably guess how dire the need for food donations has been during the last few years, with the shaky economy and then the flood that demolished so many people’s homes last spring in Middle Tennessee. I fretted about how we fell away from our commitment to help.

So this morning, when my son reminded me that he needed a can of food, I resolved to stop letting things get in the way. He and I walked over to the pantry and studied the contents. I try to be mindful of the food bank’s actual needs–they like to get donations of beans, protein, peanut butter, canned tuna, veggies and fruits because those are the most nutritionally useful–so I’ve always tried to steer my son toward the healthy options.  We assessed the possibilities, ruling out the cans of chicken broth (why on earth do I have so many cans of chicken broth?) and the Chef Boy-R-Dee.

“How about diced tomatoes?” I suggested. “Or, hmmm, garbanzo beans? Those are good.”

Not sure what garbanzo beans were, he chose the tomatoes. And he was happy to have an offering to take to church again.

That’s it. We’re getting back on the wagon. We’re going to resume our good habit. People need us. God needs us to respond.

***

If you’re seeking a way to make giving relevant to your young child’s life, I highly recommend the food donation. My child loves the hands-on nature of thunking the can into the shopping cart. It’s tangible, and he remembers it afterward, which is even better.

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Welcome to the House on the Rock!

This is a blog about faith, family, questions and certainties. The name of the blog comes from Matthew 7: 24-5 : “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” [The Life Application Study Bible, NIV.]

I’m not a wise man. I’m probably more like the foolish man in Matthew 7:26 who builds his house on the sand. [“But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”] 

But I want to be more like the wise man. I want to have a strong faith, a sure foundation. I want to raise my children to love God, to love their neighbors and to respond to God’s grace. I’m not always exactly sure how to do it, so that’s why I’m here now.

Come join me on the journey.

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