I think we are now at the heart of a more traditional, liturgical worship service. This is the part that I really longed for in worship. I will take a step back to make a few comments on baptism - since somehow I missed it last week. See what others are thinking over at Simply Convivial.
I really don't want to get into the different thoughts about baptism. I've been a part of churches from all sides. Honestly, this is something that we currently don't totally agree with in our worshiping community. Instead, I want to discuss his thoughts about how baptism develops a new "first family". I have been blessed to be a member of a few churches where this was true. I was brought up in a church that had this feel - even though not everyone participated in the family aspect of our community.
His point about "if the church is our first family, then our homes should be defined by it, and our doors ought to be open to the stranger, the sick and the poor" struck me. I think I've mentioned before that our church is preparing to move downtown and our pastoral team has been trying to prep us for what this might mean as a congregation. I am part of the prep team and excited by the move, but I know that it will be a test to see if we truly are willing to open our doors to the "disruptive friendships" that community brings. This is one reason I choose to homeschool because it allows me to draw my boys into community in ways that cannot happen in school. I think you can build community around attending a school - I have one friend who has done that incredibly well. It's not what I am called to though. I want my children to see community as something that isn't foisted upon you (25 kids and one teacher - one whole year), but as something that you have to choose to engage in, work on nurturing and deal with the good and the bad. It's across ages, interests, races, languages, and so forth. I want them to experience true community in church - like no where else.
Just one quick thought about prayer. I miss the "prayers of the people" that we used in the Book of Common Prayer. It wasn't very personal and yes, it could get rote, but every week we prayed for the sick, dying, lonely, other congregations, local and world leaders, etc. It taught us the whole range of supplication. Maybe I should dig that one out and do it with my kids to help them know. I do like the more "sincere" weekly prayer for our church and community - and over the course of a few week we probably cover all of these topics, But, I think there is a role for both.
In our congregation we mix up what type of affirmation of faith we do - so it's not always the Apostle's Creed - but this week it was. My younger two weren't 100% so they stayed home - but when my 7 yo was able to recite pretty much the whole thing it made me smile. Honestly, at this stage he doesn't know very much about what other people believe, but he has something that he believes in. This is why I don't understand parents who say that their kids should choose what they believe. Really, instead of passing on the wisdom of generations and what you believe to be truth - you are going to leave it up to an 8 yo. I guess they are passing it on - they believe in nothing or free choice. I am glad that I have the opportunity to share with my children what we believe, why we believe and how that should make us different.
I hope the day will come when all my boys will question and test out their faith - and learn that God is big enough to find, forgive, reveal and heal. However, I do think they need a firm foundation so that they have something to guide their questions.
Because we are story telling animals, imbibing the story of Scripture is the primary way that our desire gets aimed at the kingdom.One of my long time favorite books is The Call of Stories: Teaching and the Moral Imagination by Robert Coles. Basically, Coles is a medical doctor who spent most of his life reading good literature and collecting stories from all types of people (he won a Pulitzer Prize for it). His connections were pretty incredible (just look at the biographies that he wrote - many of them he knew). My favorite story is about a class he teaches to Harvard Med students on literature - especially using poetry - to help them develop a deeper sense of story and maybe a better bed side manner. I guess, I have always loved this subject. I first read this book in college - I found it (or maybe it found me) - it wasn't assigned to me. Coles' actual faith is a little bit of a mystery - but he shows what a true love of story looks like.
Back on track here after a jaunt down memory lane.
To me, this quote speaks directly to what Charlotte Mason says about Bible reading - read the Bible - aloud. Allow the children to hear it and trust that God will speak to them (and you) - pray for illumination as James discusses. Honestly, this is struggle because there are so many "good" things out there that look like they can promise to help our kids get "there". However, teaching them to read the Bible in community is one of the best things that we can do. Starting with our family community. Jame also highlight that this is a LONG process - it's not about getting through the book and answering questions. It is about letting these stories sink into and form our hearts. That takes time - years - not weeks. We all know this for ourselves - I need to remember this for my children though!
I thought his ending point that the practice of reconciliation is tethered to communion was very interesting. It calls us to be right with God but also right with one another as we stand before Him and all receive His gifts. I like his thought of it being "to go" as well - in the sense that this is not the final celebration - this is simply a peek at the kingdom celebration in an age to come.
My final thought is sadness though. So many churches no longer incorporate any of these practices on a regular basis. Scripture read aloud - only the topical passage chosen. Prayer - silent, maybe the preacher - but nothing that teaches the whole breadth of supplication. Baptism - I think we've touched on that and if we aren't a community marked by Him - then what are we? Eucharist. That's the saddest part. Hearing and participating in the story of our Lord's life, community, sacrifice, death and resurrection - it will shape you.
The tide is overwhelming - tell the story OVER and OVER and OVER again in words and deeds!