A semi-regular attempt (in other words, as I have time) to explore the interaction between God and the adolescent world, especially the connection between theory and praxis (otherwise known as practical theology). Primary emphasis will be given to the role of the church (and especially the emerging church) in this process.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Water Buffalos and the Church - a study in comparison

This is one of the most amazing videos I've ever seen. It is a battle between a herd of buffalo, a pride of lions, and two crocodiles at a watering hole in South Africa's Kruger National Park. It really shows the herd instinct to protect the young.

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about the vows we as a congregation take when a child is dedicated or baptized at a local church. (Don't worry, there's a tie in to the video.)

Depending on the faith tradition you're a part of, the words, directed at the congregation, generally go like this: "People of God, will you nurture one another in the Christian faith and life, and include [parent's name] and [parent's name], and now [name of the child] in your care? Will you surround them with a community of love and forgiveness? Will you pray for them, extend to them Christian fellowship, and as much as in you lies assist [parent's name] and [parent's name] in raising [name of the child] by nurturing his/her growth toward spiritual maturity?"

The congregation typically responds: "By the grace of God, we will."

Far too often, as the ceremony ends, so does the commitment of many parishioners. They fulfilled their duty by offering the words expected of them, but they have no intention of living out those words, for they require the member to move outside their comfort zone, being willing to risk shame and ridicule at the expense of the child as he/she grows up, and in the end no one wants to be responsible for the spiritual nurture of someone who is not my child.

Yet, I don't think those words are put there just to sound nice. I think they're intended to give us a new picture of what God intended for the community of faith to be--a community that takes seriously its role and responsibility in the nurture of all children. This means many things, but one of the things it means is that we do our best to protect students from harm. Now we can't always do this, and the reality is that some (not all) students just have to experiment in order to learn what not to do.

But what would happen if a community of faith took their role so seriously that they, like the buffalo herd, wouldn't just give up on a child when it found itself in the teeth of sin? What if the community instead organized itself, charged ahead to the scene, and made a way to rescue the child from the clutches of evil?

Think of the enormous impact this would have, not only on the child, but on all children, who see the community as being for them, unwilling that they should fall into sin, but doing their best to provide an avenue of hope and liberation.

Just some things I've been thinking about.


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