Ah, we are safely into the beginning of the school year -- new books, shoes, backpack, pencils, a loose-leaf folder, stylish clothes and a new outlook. Exciting things happen in the fall, and for us, it never seems to grow old.
In my formative years, school was something I looked forward to. I was lucky to have excellent teachers, adequate classrooms, well-groomed playgrounds and unending community resources. I can't imagine a better community in which to develop and blossom. With so many caring and professional leaders here in Norman, you probably feel the same.
Over two decades ago, First Lady Hillary Clinton wrote about making communities into the kind that enables our children to become smart, able and resilient.
When she launched her book, "It Takes a Village," the phrase was coined. The book's title is actually attributed to an African proverb used long before Clinton adopted it as the source of her book. In the 21st century, we have come to see the light.
Children develop and succeed only as people around them sustain and support them. I'm talking about family units, extended families, friends, neighborhoods and the surrounding community. Without an extended family and the support system of schools, churches, scout groups, sports teams and neighbors, it's nearly impossible to raise a child alone -- at least not in this day and age when everyone who can work does work.
We in the church have incorporated this perspective to raise our children in the faith. Remember from the Reformation that we adopted the concept of the "priesthood of all believers"? It says we are all ministers in the way we live and care for the community of believers among us. We are connected in the way a priesthood would be.
For example, parents present their children for baptism, promising to raise them in the community of faith. In turn for their promise, the community of faith embraces the baptized child and promises to play a supportive role in their nurture, guidance and instruction. This has been a central feature in what it means to be the community of faith for generations.
So, why would we think it's any different for our own faith journey? All of us continue to develop our faith long after childhood. In fact, most of us spend more time on developing our faith the older we get. We have more time and urgency to do so. The faith we had as a child grows stronger to meet times of testing and trial that come to everyone.
Yet, because we live in a culture that values self-sufficiency and independence, we tend to approach our faith journey independently, as if we're essentially on our own.
We aren't on our own, but we sometimes think we should keep our faith struggles, our questions and doubts, our uncertainties and even our confusion to ourselves. But isn't this the equivalent of throwing children out on the street to fend for themselves once they reach the age of reasoning -- 8 years old or so?
Reality instructs us that faith has always been a community endeavor. From the very beginning, Christians gathered together to share with each other the bewildering experiences they had with the risen Christ.
When the disciples discovered Jesus was alive, they immediately went to the rest of the disciples to tell them what had happened. After the walk to Emmaus, the two followers ran seven miles back to Jerusalem to share the good news. Seven miles!
It must have been exciting to hear the conversations that Jesus had now that the resurrection had taken place. The 11 who listened shared their support, encouragement and strength upon receiving this good news. In return, the two who shared were supported, encouraged and strengthened.
I believe this sharing of support is true in life. For example, if we've had an excellent vacation hiking the Grand Canyon, exploring the Cayman Islands or visiting the quaint town of Camden, Maine, we come back home pretty pumped, waiting to share our experience with someone. We can't wait to share our photos from our iPhone. We want the other person to relive it with us -- to see the sites, drink in the beauty, taste the culture, feel the night life, experience the people, explore the venues just as we did.
A good experience is hard to keep to ourselves, especially if we feel strongly about it.
Well, it's the same with our faith. Once we understand something new about ourselves or the Lord's intended message for the world, it's hard to keep it to ourselves. Our faith is enlarged by the sharing of it. It's not something that flourishes in a vacuum; it flourishes in community. It takes a village for us to raise our faith.