Week of Sept. 11: Share knowledge with the next generation
By VICKY BRANTLEY
Scripture: Proverbs 4: 10-15; 20-17
God with gracious insight, help me to see the best in each generation of your people. Give me the words to share your heart from my own. Amen.
This proverb instructs us to find our true and full selves by keeping God’s heart at the core of our living. Scripture has proven itself from generation to generation as the wisdom and foundation for this center of our faith. Dick Murray, one of the authors of Disciple, recounts a time that he was wounded and alone in a foxhole. No one would come to his aid for at least 12 hours. So he decided to comfort himself with all the Scripture he had memorized as a child. He realized after five minutes, he needed something else to do. What we think is present in our core may not be as accessible when we need it.
In this chapter of Proverbs, the father quotes his own father, the son’s grandfather’s advice, making the point that strong faith comes through long-standing, “tried and true” traditions, handed down and followed through the ages. Comedian Bill Cosby said, “A word to the wise ain’t necessary. It is the stupid ones who need advice.” The actual issue may be how the wisdom is communicated based on what the elder wants to teach and what the younger is willing to hear.
This sounds like an oxymoron (a phrase that has terms that contradict each other: big baby or almost safe). How can time honored, long-standing, historical traditions be dynamic, active and fresh? As Christine Yoder notes in Proverbs, the advice in Proverbs 19 is not stale or stagnant. It is “dynamic.” Look at all the action words in verses 12-21: enter, walk, avoid, turn away, be attentive, incline and escape.
Each generation comes with its own set of challenges and there is always the right to opt for one way or another. However, the wise person relies on the traditional faith as bedrock for making positive choices.
Randy Pausch, a computer science professor, was asked to give the university’s last lecture a tradition in which a teacher could pass on what really mattered most in his life. He couldn’t have imagined the impact. He had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer, but he didn’t speak about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment. It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living. Millions have read the book that emerged from that talk, The Last Lecture, but it was written solely for the author’s three young children to impart wisdom to them he would not be around to give them later.
When you hear someone say, “Kids of today are so disrespectful, lost or far from the church,” try not to appoint blame for who did not pass the wisdom, but speak up and fill the gap. We are one generation from losing the gospel. It is worth intervening with the youth and young adults of your community to invest the elder’s wisdom even if it is not a simple task.
Stumbling in the dark
The advice-giver in Proverbs 4 is not talking about dealing with one specific decision, but about making a life-long commitment to following God’s commandments and God’s will. Mac Brantley’s father was a kind and loving man who taught his children many wise things, more often by example than words. However, he was not above reproaching his eldest son for plowing crooked rows. “Keep your eyes set ahead; don’t look back; don’t move to the right tor left, but remain focused on the straightway.” His son said that despite earnest effort, he could never plow the straight rows that his father did. The same advice is true with the way we life. Life in our world and in our culture, calls out to us to move in directions other than a focused goal of Godliness, and it takes sincere and constant
effort to keep the faith.
Stumbling in the dark, it is easy to stub your toe in a strange room, but if your journey is in a familiar and customary setting, the darkness is not a threat. You know the way. The wisdom teaching is to be vigilant, awake and focused. The next generation will have unique ways of understanding and expressing faith, but our wise task is to ask those who are younger than us what keeps them awake, what are the intentions of their actions and thoughts? How will they be certain of their core faith beliefs? How will they shape the life and relationships they actually desire? To lose sight, grip and purpose is how many wander from day to day, trying to do good and to get by. We all need to do better than that.
Turn your foot from evil
The New International Lesson Annual author refers to Robert Frosts’ famous poem “The Road Not Taken” in which the journeyman finally takes the path “less travelled by, And that has made all the difference.” Tradition would always be the signpost pointing to God’s way of life. Someone has said, “Never be afraid to try. Remember an amateur built the ark. Professionals built the Titanic.”
It is essential in this wisdom teaching, that we all have personal responsibility for our actions and thoughts. If you are doing something wrong, take the necessary steps to walk away. Wisdom does not produce a victim. If we continue to repeat actions that result in brokenness, separation, emptiness and fear, we will continue to find the same result. Take action today toward God’s strength and love, and you will have wisdom to share with others too.
Take Action: Identify one heartfelt lesson that members of the next generation need to know and share it with them. Share your experiences with your class.
“O come and dwell in me, Spirit of power within, and bring the glorious liberty from sorrow, fear and sin.” Hymn # 388 The United Methodist Hymnal