Written by Talitha Arnold
You must observe these (commandments) diligently, . . . (and others) will say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!" - Deuteronomy 4:6
Can you hear the urgency in Moses' voice? He knows he's not going with his people into their new life beyond the wilderness. He also knows that no matter the landscape, the temptations and trials they experienced in the desert will continue throughout their lives.
So Moses urges them to let those lives—and the lives of their children and their children's children-- be shaped by God's word. As we gear up for the new school year, we would be smart to heed Moses' urgent command. Like those ancient Israelites, we too need to be "wise and discerning people." That means we take seriously our ministries of teaching and faith formation—for all ages.
The African-American theologian Howard Thurman knew the importance of such ministry. In his classic Disciplines of the Spirit, Thurman wrote of growing up in a Christian tradition with yearly "revivals," when "opportunity was provided for the surrender of the individual life to God." But Thurman noted, "The church did not leave (the person) there." With the sponsorship of an older Christian, "experienced in the Way," the person participated in a weekly prayer service and other faith formation times. "Nurture in the Christian life," Thurman affirmed, "was another way of providing a time of intensive, deepening experience which gave the new resolve a chance to establish itself as a permanent outlet for the creative energies of God."
Like the Israelites, we are called to be a "wise and discerning people"--or in Thurman's words, "the permanent outlet for the creative energies of God." The place to begin is with our commitment to education.
Thank you, God, for the call to be "wise and discerning people." And thank you for teachers, youth ministers, mentors, and all "Ministers of Education" who help us heed that call. Amen.