Fireworks, Heat, and Being Together

On one hand, Americans approach life in an individualistic way. Whatever benefits us is what we will pursue. On the other hand, we will do just about anything to collectively celebrate things that are distinctly American.

Need an example? July 4th celebrations in 100 degree heat. We come together and sweat it out to watch fire burn into a rainbow of colors. To top it off, we add to the heat by firing up the grills and eating hot dogs. I need a cup of water just thinking about it.

Why do we do this? Many will immediately say it’s to do with patriotism. I think it’s something deeper. I think we have a basic human desire to be in community with something bigger than ourselves. We gravitate toward just about anything that makes us feel like there’s more to the life – a greater purpose for us to live.

That is, unless it comes to our faith.

Don’t get me wrong. I still believe we have a deep human need for a community of faith, but we aren’t willing to make any sacrifices to meet that need. The church building is too hot or too cold. The people in the church are too critical or too happy. Whatever the reason, we just aren’t committed to the spiritual family for which Christ died.

Our pursuit of community is an illustration that is burned (pun intended) into the minds of our children. They know all too well what community means. They need it, too. They seek for it within their natural family, but they also long to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. They rely on their parents and other adults to reveal to them the who, what, where, when and how of being connected to a larger community.

How are we answering their questions?

It would be helpful for us to reflect on what we’ve spent time illustrating for them by way of our schedule and pursuits over the last 3 months.

  • Who have you gone out of your way to spend time with? You are telling your children who are the most important with which to spend their time.
  • What activities have been important enough for you to sacrifice in order to take part? You are teaching your children what takes priority in their lives.
  • Where have you spent the most time in the last 3 months? These are the places your children will likely spend the bulk of their time.
  • When have you interacted with God or your family? Don’t be surprised when they grow up making the same choices with their time.
  • How has your life been driven? You have shown your children what really motivates all of your actions.

In Exodus 13, there’s a little verse that says a great deal, though we have probably read it rather quickly, if at all. The LORD told the people to commit to the Feast of Unleavened Bread as a memorial of what He had done for them. The feast itself is filled with ideas for families. Here, though, I want us to focus on Verse 10.

“You must keep this ordinance at the appointed time year after year.”

God had answered the questions of their longing hearts.

  • Who? Everyone who called Him their God would be part of this celebration. In other words, the community of faith.
  • What? A celebration of the goodness of God.
  • Where? At the place where they had set aside for worshiping God together.
  • When? At an appointed, set apart, scheduled time every year…without fail.
  • How? Out of a humble heart in praise of the Father.

Where did I get the how? Consider Verse 8:

“On that day tell your son, ‘I do this because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.”

On what day do we set aside time to do something distinctly focused on Christ in order to tell our children of what God has done in bringing us from death to life?

We could do this with our children every day in our homes, but there is something different about proclaiming it among the spiritual family. It’s as if this cloud of witnesses can echo the same sentiment and allow the truth to resound that much more clearly in the hearts and minds of our children. That can happen, if our commitment to the community of faith were important to us.

Our view of the spiritual family is better caught than taught. If our children see us risking dehydration for the sake of celebrating the birth of our nation, they will prioritize this in their lives. If our children see us skipping out on the celebration of the birth of our Savior, they will pattern their lives in like manner. I’m not saying choose one or the other. I’m just asking us to evaluate our actions according to our so-called priorities.

We cannot impress faith upon our children alone. We need a community to help us. Our children need a glimpse of something bigger. In His grace, God has given us His Church. May we not forsake the assembling of ourselves together…regardless of the temperature.

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