Location: SREPC, note - group photo taken under one of the Scout's Eagle project - a Pergola.
Occasion: Boy Scout Court of Honor, Eagle Rank
Deuteronomy 11:18–19 (NKJV)
18 “Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 19 You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
There was quite a celebration last evening at our church building as four young men, grown up way too quickly I imagine for their parents, were advanced to the rank of Eagle Scout by their troop.
It was a heart-warming event by every standard. Not least in this regard, was the obvious friendship that these four had for each other. Rather than opting for individual ceremonies, as was their right, the ones who qualified first waited until their buddies finished also so that they could finish together what they had started together several years ago. These young men had grown up together in the Scouts. There is much to commend in that: for the shared experiences built a foundation giving meaning and depth to their friendship which will help them gauge what other relationships in the future should be.u
What was also very encouraging was the respect and gratitude that these young men showed for their Scout Masters and "mentors" in their journey along the "trail to Eagle." There is much to commend here also. Investing in young men's lives requires time, effort and dedication. These men, some fathers of the new Eagles but others not, have "hung in there" because they not only enjoy the Scouting effort but because they understand what it can contribute to the development of character and integrity in the boys with whom they come into relation. They have understood, whether explicitly or not, that it is in the continuing relationship of role-models and guides that character is developed. This is absolutely what Moses was getting at in the verses above.
Character is formed in experience... it is not formed in a class-room, though instruction is necessary to properly understand experience. But that which remains... that which endures... that which holds up under pressure... is that which is planted, watered, fertilized, weeded and nurtured in on-going relational context of guided experience. These young men can and did look back on hundreds of nights spent in the company of interested men who cared enough about them to encourage, exhort and admonish (when necessary) them, all while doing exciting "stuff": white water rafting, hiking, shivering in the rain and baking in the sun, looking out over valleys out which they had climbed, gaining useful skills and learning to contribute to the welfare of others.
What these things come down to is the effort of building "culture", promoting and perpetuating values that constitute grounds for community formation and social progress. Though these things are not always conducted in an explicitly Christian mileau within Scouting, yet their roots and their objectives are not only consistent with Christianity but directly influenced by it.
The witness of Scouting in general and these scouts in particular, remind me of something Karl Barth once said. He was speaking about the value and contribution people make in their ordinary on-going lives. He said, "One Saturday evening, I attended a variety show which in every act was perfect of its kind, and then directly after, on Sunday morning, I heard a miserable sermon, and I could not resist the impression that the divinely willed cause of man was better served at the place of very worldly amusement than at that of worship." There is much truth in Barth's indictment. All too often we Christians find that the things that are being done best in the furthering of God's design intentions for mankind, are being pursued outside of an explicit Christian witness rather than in it.
So, all in all, I am encouraged by these young men and the older ones who are so committed to the Scouting program. The Scouts are under a lot of pressure these days and I am happy that our Church is able to provide some facilities for them to "do their thing." (We are not the troop's sponsor but we do have ties with it.) As part of our service to the wider community and immediately within our God-commanded mandate to do good works, supporting the Scouts and finding opportunity for pre-evangelism within it, is a very profitable exercise.
May God continue to bless them and bring great fruit, in His time and in His way, from among them.