By: Barbara J. Essex
Some of you may remember “Beatlemania”—the British invasion phenomenon that struck the US during the 1960s. The frenzy was over a boy band from Liverpool, England, the Beatles. The Beatles are among the most celebrated and decorated groups in music history. The members of the group were John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. Their contribution to the “soundtrack” of our lives in the 1960-1970s goes without saying.
One of my favorite songs is “Eight Days a Week” written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney and released in 1964. The title is attributed to a chauffeur who liked to say he was working hard—eight days a week. Rumor has it that the group did not like the song and never performed it live.
But I love it—the simple rhythms, and lyrics about love make me smile (watch and listen for yourself). And go ahead, clap along with the musicians!
Hold me, love me, hold me, love me
I ain’t got nothing but love babe, eight days a week.
Love you every day, girl,
Always on my mind
One thing I can say, girl,
Love you all the time
By now, you must be asking, What on earth does a Beatles song have to do with our text from Deuteronomy and faith formation? Despite this crass comparison, there is a connection as we prepare to gather in San Jose next year. What if faith formation was something we intentionally focused on—eight days a week?
The deuteronomic editor(s) certainly encourages total devotion and adoration for God. The Book of Deuteronomy has a deep concern for teaching and learning—challenging us to learn the faith and pass it on to future generations. It is a book of speeches by Moses to Israel. In it, Moses is the master teacher. Commonly known as the “second law,” Deuteronomy is more than a duplication of Mosaic Law cited in other books of the Bible. It is a confession of Israelite religion and spirituality and a call to reignite total worship and allegiance to God—the book is about confession, proclamation, command, response, and transmission of the faith.
The theme for our 2014 gathering in San Jose, ConnectED, encourages us to consider how we love God and how we transmit our love for God to our children. The Shema, Deut. 6:4‒9, is a prayer that lays out the core beliefs of Judaism. It is recited in the morning and in the evening to help persons keep God at the center of their lives and as a reminder that the faith must be passed along to our children, our children’s children and all future generations.
The prayer offers guidelines for how we should care for the souls of our young people as well as for our own souls. The prayer is filled with strong verbs: Hear. Love. Keep. Recite. Talk. Bind. Fix. Write. Each verb compels us to do something.
God discloses the Divine Self to a community—one that is to be governed by God, and God alone. This requires the community to “hear” the words of God and act accordingly. That means paying attention—all the time—eight days a week.
God expects us to show our love by keeping the commandments and to engage in loving acts of kindness toward others. Love is not some sappy sentimentality but rather a choice that embraces loyalty to God and working for
God’s purposes in the world—eight days a week.
God expects us to study and understand God’s words. We have to make an effort to relate God’s words to our particular context and cultural milieu. There is intentionality here. Diligent and consistent study leads us into a deeper understanding of faith and spirituality—eight days a week.
Then comes the hard part—and the fun part. We are to tell what we know to our children. The hard part is that we are in competition with so many things not of the church. Today, Sunday is filled with more and more secular activities related to sports, arts, and entertainment. God and God’s concerns are forced to take a back seat unless we are intentional about imparting spiritual and moral instructions to our children. The one place where we can control what our children learn is the home.
Deuteronomy offers a couple of ways to transmit the faith to our children:
- Recite God’s word to your children. In the context of the Shema, “recite” means to teach—explain all the laws and instructions and why they are important. There is an old saying, “You cannot teach what you do not know.” The challenge to hear and keep God’s word is one to be taken seriously.
- Talk about God’s word. Notice that talking about God’s word is not limited to Sunday mornings at church. No. We are to be talking about God when we are just relaxing at home; when we are out and about—shopping, running errands, commuting to school and soccer games and music lessons; when we get up in the morning and when we go to bed at night—all the time.
In other words, we are to be sharing God’s word and teaching at all times—and we should be living what we preach—all the time, eight days a week. What we do makes a difference. Our children learn more from what we do than what we say. Our challenge is to hear and keep God’s word so that our every action speaks to character and integrity. Anything less is a disservice to our children and to ourselves.
Let me be clear—going to church and participating in Sunday or church school are important. And these practices should be encouraged for children and adults. We can never know enough to say that our spiritual formation is done. There is always more to learn, to know, to remember, to explore. At the same time, let us not overlook the primary classroom for our children—our homes where we teach by word and by deed. To be good teachers, we must first develop our relationship with God and let God rule our lives. And then let our children see what we do, how we act, and how we make decisions.
If Beatlemania was a musical sensation, what would happen spiritually and morally if we loved God so much that 24 hours and 7 days a week were not enough? What if we loved and focused on God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit totally—eight days a week?
Barbara J. Essex is an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ (UCC), author, independent consultant, and life coach. She is the owner of Barbara J. Essex Ministries, LLC. Prior to this position, she was the minister for higher and theological education for the UCC. Barbara is the author of a collection of books including Bread of Life: Lenten Reflections for Individuals and Groups; Bad Girls of the Bible: Exploring Biblical Women of Questionable Virtue; and Women in the Bible: Insights Bible Study for Growing Faith. She is a member of Mt. Zion Congregational UCC in Cleveland, and an associate member of Sycamore UCC in El Cerrito, CA