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Old Enough to Know

Recently over at The Community – the Anglican Church of Canada’s online forum for meeting and talk about life in the church – one of the members posted a question:

What are your thoughts on a young person’s spiritual growth as it relates to their age? Is there such a thing as ‘too young’ for confirmation?

In response, I agreed that these were important questions, questions that we’ve begun to address in some way on this blog here and here and here. I went on to say that my biggest concern, the thing that I’m often the most worried about, is the readiness or willingness of any given church community to guide and mentor young people. I’m often more worried about our accountability and role in the baptismal vows than the young person’s sense of preparedness.

I think this came home for me most recently, when I was re-reading the Torah, and looking specifically at the law handed to God’s people through Moses. Early on in the book of Deuteronomy we find this striking passage:

You shall love the Lord your God, therefore, and keep his charge, his decrees, his ordinance and his commandments always. Remember today that it was not your children (who have not known or seen the discipline of the Lord your God) but it is you who must acknowledge his greatness, his mighty hand and outstretched arm.

– Deuteronomy 4:1

This word from God, delivered through Moses addresses the very problem of raising young people in community. It explores the roles of adults and young people alike, and points out something striking.

This word isn’t to the children. It isn’t to those who are being first formed in the faith. It isn’t about age or preparedness or any of those things. Throughout the Torah, we find instructions to parents, to adults, indeed the whole community as to how a young person is to be formed in the faithful community and what they need to know about Yahweh.

Remember. Remember today that it was not for our children. It wasn’t up to them. It isn’t up to them (though some day it may be).

But for now, right now. In this moment, as we wander through this wilderness.

As we wander, together waiting for the chance to approach and settle in God’s promised land – the land of our ancestors, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. What we need to more than anything is to remember.

Remember what we’ve been through. Where was God in all of that?

Remember who you are. Remember to whom you belong. Remember the stories of God’s faithfulness. Remember that it was Yahweh who brought us out of the land of Egypt and every exile along the way.

Once we were no people, but now we have been called as God’s chosen people. Not that we have any opportunity to be self-satisfied. Not that we should boast.

If anything, we’ve been chosen to be a blessing. So let us be that. To our children, certainly. To our children, and to the ends of the earth.

Remember that it is God who is faithful. Remember the ways in which God has been faithful to us, and to our community. Remember the blessings we have received, the trials we have suffered. Above all, remember the task to which we’ve been called.

Now I’m not exactly sure why God is so insistent on mentioning this. I’m not completely certain why this piece of scripture caught my attention earlier this week. And yet, I think it has something to do with our responsibility.

Our common responsibility is to accompany young people, to guide and mentor and cherish and admonish and challenge and correct and to love them.

They may not yet know all of the ways in which God has been faithful. We, like Israel, may struggle to remember too. And that’s precisely why we’re called to remember.

Our young people may not have experienced God’s fidelity in the same ways we do. And so we must remember – for their sake and for ours.

We must remember the stories. We must tell them.

We must live in response to God’s love.

And in so doing, we must invite our young people to join us in responding with humility and boldness to the creator of all that was and is and is to come.

About Andrew Stephens-Rennie

Andrew is an Anglican lay leader who loves pioneering responsive, contextual solutions to the challenge of being church in the 21st Century. He serves as an assistant to the rector for Evangelism and Christian Formation at Christ Church Cathedral Vancouver and is a founding member of the emerging St. Brigids community (www.stbrigid.ca).

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