Have you ever heard of the expression, “A Taste of Heaven?” or “A Piece of Heaven?” While I do not know the exact origin of this, I am quite confident of the worldview from which it sprung. It is only in the Biblical worldview of heaven in which the idea has grounding. Allow me to quote some writers who capture this idea well and are much more eloquent, and learned, than I:
“What we love about this life are the things that resonate with the life we were made for. The things we love are not merely the best this life has to offer—they are previews of the greater life to come.” ~Randy Alcorn
“In the truest sense, Christian pilgrims have the best of both worlds. We have joy whenever this world reminds us of the next, and we take solace whenever it does not.” ~C. S. Lewis
The Biblical narrative of our origins, recorded in Genesis, is clear as it answers all of the ultimate questions of life. God makes it clear why we are here and what we are made for: a loving, harmonious, and holistic relationship (Jews call it shalom)--first and foremost with Him, which then feeds and nourishes (and rightly defines) our view of self, others, and the created world. To put it more simply, we were made for Community- with God, self, others, and creation.
What does this have to do with Oak Grove and our school mission? Absolutely everything. All of our programs and curriculum are designed with these truths in mind and with the desire to help our students catch a glimpse and develop a deeper yearning for that which is True, Good and Beautiful. That is the heart of a classical education, and the mission of every godly teacher and parent.
I challenge you to reflect on glimpses of the true, good, and beautiful around you- specifically in the context of community. I will choose some recent examples that come to my mind from our school context:
Harvest Festival- Last Saturday we celebrated this annual event. My heart was filled with joy in the beautiful weather, the sounds of our children laughing, watching fathers and mothers running with (or cheering on!) their children, and seeing various parents and staff voluntarily serving and giving of themselves so others could enjoy the event. Dear community, these were glimpses of heaven!
Rhetoric Symposium- For those of you who don’t know, our Rhetoric students, Admin, Mr. Nixon and Mrs. Stevens gather weekly on Fridays to share a meal together and interact around a topic or cultural issue. This past week I had the privilege to lead a simulation and facilitate discussion as we delved into the topic of poverty. Previous topics led by Admin, teachers, and guests included debates on climate change, exploring principles of Bible interpretation, contemplation on true friendship, observing and analyzing philosophies and types of maps, and considering the effects of social media, to name a few. Watching students enjoy conversation over meals, then constructively challenge each other’s thinking on issues is a teacher’s dream come true.
Other examples? I think of the young Grammar student who came up to me before Morning Meeting yesterday, looked up in my eyes and said, “Are you going to continue the story about Hudson Taylor? I really like it.” What weariness I was feeling on that Monday morning instantly dissipated! Or how about overhearing another child tell her Mom, “Can I share with you the story I wrote?” Or the joy in my heart when my daughter told me she wanted to make brownies because several in her class wanted to cheer up a classmate who had been in the hospital?
In all of these examples, not only do we see glimpses of heaven—more specifically, we see glimpses of community. An overarching purpose of a school is to be a community of learning. However, only in Christ (and because of Him) can we be that healthy, genuine community where learning and growth can flourish.
In closing, I want to also remind each of you that while there are many glimpses of heaven around, Genesis also makes it clear why these are just glimpses: our rebellious nature triggered and began by our rebellious ancestors Adam and Eve. While we all yearn and can celebrate experiences of healthy community, we also have the potential within each of us to destroy it. Let us look to Christ, beholding Him in His Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, that we might walk as He did, in true community within our homes, at our church, and in our school.
Consider a few quotes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer from his book, Life Together:
“Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this.”
“The exclusion of the weak and insignificant, the seemingly useless people, from a Christian community may actually mean the exclusion of Christ; in the poor brother Christ is knocking at the door.”
“A person who loves community tends to destroy it. But a person who loves people creates community wherever he goes.”