BODY:"Fix these words in your hearts and minds. Teach them to your children; talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the Lord swore to give your forefathers."
- Deuteronomy 11:18-21
Kurt Kaiser's hymn, Pass It On, quickly became one of the most popular Christian song of the 1970s:
"It only takes a spark to get a fire going,
And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing.
That's how it is with God's love, once you've experienced it.
You spread his love to everyone; you want to pass it on."
We sang it at youth meetings, around campfires and once at a women's conference when, quietly and unannounced, several women stood at the back of the room and tapped balloons over the heads of the seated delegates. It didn't take long for everyone in the room to catch the "spark," give the balloons a "pass-it-on" tap and keep the symbolic fire going until the song came to a close.
Some time ago, I served as organist at Walton Way Temple in Augusta. Although the Jewish worship tradition is very different from my own, I soon fell in step with the grandeur of the weekly liturgy, which includes the Scripture quoted above. In essence, both by God's command and centuries of Jewish tradition, the act of remembering what God has done for their people is to be "passed on" from parent to child, and generation after generation.
This idea is beautifully illustrated later in the service when the Rabbi invites the children to join him on the bema (platform), not to hear a simplified children's story, but to listen while he reads the day's lesson directly from the sacred Torah.
I might not have juxtaposed a Christian song with a Jewish worship service this week if I hadn't had a recent wake-up call about how we as Christian parents and church members are doing with our "pass-it-on" task. The first alarm came from one of my pastor's sermons:
"Folks, if we as parents and as a church don't teach our children now what we know about our faith, it won't be long before we are extinct."
The second came from a radio message about early 20th-century China:
"Before the Communists took over in China," the speaker said, "all the Christians thought about was the second coming of Christ. They weren't preparing for hard times." By implication, the speaker was addressing Christians in America and around the troubled world today when he asked: "What are you preparing for?"
For most of us, the answers might include changing jobs, buying a house or car, planning for vacation or retirement or just as likely, wondering what we're doing this weekend or having for dinner tonight.
As a church or nation, much of our collective "preparing" is equally materialistic and short-term: completing our plans for Easter or the end of the school year; waiting for the next earnings report or election or winning this war or political dispute.
As I think about what we are "passing on" from these lists, I'd have to include: stress, chaos, ulcers and someone to blame when things don't follow our plan.
In contrast, whether passing along our faith or preparing for the future, besides the repeated advice to remember what God has done for us in the past, there are far more instructions in Scripture to "humble ourselves and pray" (II Chronicles 7:14), "cast our care upon God" (I Peter 5:7), "be anxious for nothing" (Philippians 4:6), and "in all our ways acknowledge God and he will direct our paths" (Proverbs 3:6).
It's a novel idea, I know, but what if passing on what God wants to do for us now as well as later on became one of the most popular ideas of the 21st century? Do you think some of that peace and prosperity the world is clamoring for would finally become ours?
Novel idea or not, it's certainly no worse than the popular, 21st-century ideas we're following now.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.