Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
The words above, known as the Shema, represents the center point around which all of the Jewish tradition revolves. This is the high call to our understanding of a single God to which we direct our worship. It is a call that the writer tells us should be close to our hearts, and should be at the center of our teaching.
The Jews praying at the Western Wall understood this. Many take the commandments to keep this teaching on them literally, putting on the phylacteries on the forehead as a reminder of the centrality of this teaching. It is understood that part of the call of faith is to ensure that the children of the community are raised up in this teaching. It is never to be forgotten.
So why is it that we are so relaxed about the central teachings of our faith in Christianity. We seem to know want to overburden anyone with too much knowledge, or practices that seem overly fanatical. Yes, we give lip service to the centrality of Jesus in our lives, but we aren’t especially diligent in reminding ourselves of that reality on a daily basis.
What would it look like for the church to take on the same level of passion and practice as the Orthodox at the Western Wall? Should we not approach our faith with the same passions and convictions as the faithful there . . . or for that matter the Muslims bowing five times daily before Allah? Have we allowed our culture to overwhelm our commitment to God expressed in Jesus Christ?