"Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." - Deuteronomy 6:4-9
This verse in Jewish culture is at the heart of Jewish faith and is known as the great Shema. Like the Lord's Prayer is familiar to Christians, the shema is just as familiar to Jews. A Jewish custom is to take this passage, write it on parchment paper and encase it in the mezuzot; the small boxes on the doorposts of Jewish homes and tefillin: the small boxes worn on the forehead and arms of Jewish people during Jewish morning prayer services. In Jewish culture, this verse is literally being written on the doorposts of their houses and on their gates as well as on their foreheads and their arms.
We don't walk around with this passage written on our foreheads and our arms. Yet I wonder what the world would look like; what faith would look like if we did. Yesterday one of my colleagues preached his Confirmation sermon about faith and how we aren't afraid to share our opinions about politics, etc on our Facebook pages.
But when it comes to faith, we have a harder time sharing that on our Facebook pages.
Why is that, anyway?
I have been thinking a lot about the language of faith and today's youth/young adults. These words from the great Shema are words that I pray more of us live out in our daily lives. They are words that I pray more families and homes will cling to and realize how true they are. The front doors of the church aren't the actual front doors we walk in and out of to go to church, but are the doors of our homes. Faith begins in the home.
Think about the people who have passed on faith and values to you. Who are they? They are, more than likely, parents, family members, and other caring adults who have been there with and for you as you walk and continue to walk along this lifelong journey of faith.
Too often (or rather more often than we care to admit) it seems that we forget the words that we hear in the great Shema. I will be honest. In the congregations I have served, it has been so very hard to watch youth affirm their Baptismal promises, but then to never see them again. (And I am pretty sure this isn't uncommon; that many of us have experienced this in one way or another) What are we missing? How can we set the bar higher for families? It is my prayer that together we can be allies. We cannot do the job for each other BUT we can support each other and be each other's cheerleaders.
I don't claim to have any of the answers, but I have seen the power of the great Shema lived out in congregations and families. I have seen divorced families sit together and learn together. I have seen lively inter-generational conversations take place.
I have seen families carry out the baptismal promises they made for their child/children.
And in return, I have seen children fully embrace those promises and affirm those promises for themselves at their own Confirmation. I pray that these words from the Great Shema become our battle cry, our rallying cry for all the generations here and all the generations yet to come. "Write it on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." We might look rather silly walking around with those words encased on our foreheads.
But in today's technological age, there are many places for us to share our faith.
Facebook is one of the virtual doorposts for us to share our faith. So are all of the many online and off-line spaces where we - and our children or parents - spend most of their time each day.
It's not something that only happens on Sundays.
It seems to me that when faith becomes our everyday language and we aren't afraid to share our faith, this world and the generations to come will be a much better place. I don't know about you but I want better for our youth and young adults. I want them to know what it means to live out the Great Shema in their daily lives and in their homes.
Will you join me in this rallying cry for all of us and for the generations to come?