We seem to have inadvertently started a two-word pattern for our school year themes over the last few years, with “Love Does,” “Life Together,” and “All In.” And this year is no different: We’ve been focusing our attention and efforts around the theme of “Cultivating Shalom” in classrooms and chapels, sporting the new t-shirts and design proudly. Yes, it’s a rather complicated theme and requires some serious effort to explain to our first and second graders, maybe even our older students. But it’s a two-word theme comprehensive of the whole Bible, and with some incredibly important and lofty goals, we feel, and one where we hear the continual and intentional work that is required.
We do realize that this cultivating takes some process and attention. From preparing the soil, to planting, watering, fertilizing, removing weeds and thistles, thorns and rocks–this is the work of cultivation. The beauty of the work is that when done well, the crop will bear fruit. This idea references the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:16-20: “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”
The first question the theme asks of us is “What is the fruit of our lives?” Where have we intentionally and continually put hand-to-plow to bear fruit that is Kingdom advancing? Where am I cultivating and what is the fruit?
The first question the theme asks of us is “What is the fruit of our lives?” Where have we intentionally and continually put hand-to-plow to bear fruit that is Kingdom advancing? How often have I done the work to promote my own spiritual flourishing and success? Where am I cultivating and what is the fruit? That is the first question the theme is asking us to answer.
The second word of the theme is “shalom.” Often times Christians define this Hebrew word simply as “peace,” though we could move into a deeper understanding of it. A better, yet still simple, definition might be “wholeness.” Shalom is taking two parts and bringing them together, taking what was not whole and making it whole. Another way to understand the word shalom is to take a cue from author and professor Cornelius Plantinga in his book Not The Way Its Supposed To Be: A Breviary of Sin. There he gives a definition of shalom when he writes, “The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom.” Shalom is a mending and making whole what was disconnected and broken.
As an institution we want to bear fruit that brings wholeness, flourishing and shalom into our community and world. We want to teach our students to be shalom-bringers into a world that needs shalom so desperately.
What does that mean for us at Holland Christian Schools this year? It means we want to do the hard, intentional, and continual work of cultivating wholeness, webbing and flourishing. We want to be a place that brings about God’s purposes on earth as it is in heaven. As an institution we want to bear fruit that brings wholeness, flourishing and shalom into our community and world. We want to teach our students to be shalom-bringers into a world that needs shalom so desperately. But we need to understand that simply because we as followers of Jesus find ourselves in any given place, it doesn’t mean that shalom just shows up. It is going to take the kind of effort we see going on in the muck farmland and blueberry fields surrounding our community.
We ask you to partner with us in doing this hard work. As always, we want to root ourselves in Scripture. We want to find ourselves in the grand love story of God as revealed in His Word, and as He has called us to partner with Him. We will also be referencing concrete language and examples from the HC Community Book Club book, Andy Crouch’s, Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing, as it will help us do the work we have been called to do.
This year, let’s not be the people who are watching others do the work. Let’s not complain about the “weeding” or “hoeing” that we have been called to accomplish yet again. Instead, let’s be the kind of people who live the words of Jesus found in Luke 10: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Let’s be those workers, a people who are Cultivating Shalom starting here in Holland, Michigan, but extending out into all God’s world around us.