Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Intentional Faith Development

This Sunday, as we focus on intentional faith development as a practice that strengthens our church life, we also celebrate Mother's Day.

And, while Mother's Day is a relatively new holiday (in comparison to our ancient celebrations like the season of Easter), the practice of honoring our foremothers is not new. Our passage for this week from 2 Timothy tells of the important role a mother and grandmother played in shaping a life of faith, as Paul gives thanks for Timothy's mother Eunice, and grandmother, Lois.

As may be expected for a time a culture when women's roles were limited by a boldly patriarchal society, we know little about these two women; we learn, from Paul's mention of them, though, that their role in the shaping of their son and grandson's faith was critical.

In Deuteronomy, just after Moses has shared the central law that God gave on Mt. Sinai in what we've come to call the "Ten Commandments," Moses summarizes the law, and gives clear instruction to pass it on. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might," he says, continuing that we should impress this on our children.

I've been intrigued with the phrase about how to teach them to our children. Some translations say to "impress them" on our children. Others read "teach them diligently." Or, simply, "recite them." The Hebrew word used, shanan, can be defined either as teaching diligently, or (as it's used more commonly in the Hebrew Bible) as having a slightly more visceral definition: something like whetting, piercing or incising. Tattoo them on your kids hearts, perhaps.
Photo by Piero Sierra, shared through Creative Commons via
This doesn't seem to be about the kind of teaching that might allow one to do well on a standardized test; this teaching comes with a kind of whole-self, lifelong demonstration of loving God.

I give thanks for those who have been models for me in this work--who teach by a way of living that models deep love for God and neighbor.

May it write this law incisively on my heart.

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