WEEK 91 — September 28, 2016

MIDWEEK MEDITATIONS:
GRANDPARENTS

 

week 91

 

Grandmother Lois

 

To Timothy, my dear son: . . . I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.
2 Timothy 1:2a, 5

I once heard a well-known newspaper columnist and television personality, who was also a Roman Catholic clergyman, relate an incident from the later years of Agnes Bojaxhiu.

You don’t recognize the name?

Agnes Bojaxhiu was the little Albanian nun who became known to the world as Mother Teresa, devoting her life in ministry to the poorest of the poor from the city streets of Kolkata.

That clergyman told me about attending a gathering in which Mother Teresa had been asked to give her blessing to a group of young Catholic women who had just completed their nurses’ training. As each girl came forward and knelt, the little old woman with the wizened face would count out the five fingers on the girl’s hand, saying, “Christ – through – you – for – others.” Then she would place the girl’s two hands together in an attitude of prayer.

That’s a good motto for anybody. It’s especially a good motto for grandmothers, or for women old enough to be grandmothers.

According to the Apostle Paul (see the verses quoted above), Grandmother Lois was the first member of her family to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. It was then apparently a case of “Christ through Lois for others,” as both Eunice her daughter and Timothy her grandson also became strong believers.

My own grandmother used to be the president of a women’s group called the T. E. L. Class. These older ladies would meet each Sunday morning for Bible study. “Christ through us for others” could well have been their motto, because they were commemorating Timothy, Eunice, and Lois in the name of their class. I know that Mamaw indeed shared what she knew of Christ with her little grandson.

Acts 16:1-2 tells us that Timothy came from a mixed ethnic background. When Paul called Timothy “my dear son,” he was speaking figuratively, for Timothy’s father was not Paul or anyone else among the Chosen People.

Do you suppose Lois was unhappy when her daughter Eunice married a Greek rather than a Jew? The following Bible-based poetic meditation assumes that she was. In later years Eunice’s beloved boy (who as far as we know was Lois’s only grandchild) joined Paul’s traveling apostolic team. These poetic lines assume that Grandmother Lois must have experienced that same bittersweet feeling which is shared  today among parents and grandparents of foreign missionaries.

A daughter can break your heart.
How sweet my little Eunice lay
when she and I were first apart!
Her tiny fingers found the way
to curl themselves around my thumb.
I dreamed of all the years to come.

A daughter can break your heart.
I never dreamed my only one
would leave her mother’s faith, depart
from Israel to wed a son
of Greece. For me life held no joy.
And then . . . God gave to us a boy.

A grandson can break your heart.
Our little Timothy could say
the very words of God by heart:
“Remember, keep the Sabbath day.”
“I am your God.” “Be still and know.”
“Whom shall I send, and who will go?”

A grandson can break your heart.
He left with Paul a year ago.
I always knew someday we’d part;
I never dreamed we’d miss him so.
God gave his Son, and new life flowers.
Eunice and I, we’ve given ours.

O Father God, bless and comfort all parents and grandparents who willingly release their dear ones to go out into all the world at the calling of Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Perry Thomas

WEEK 90 — September 21, 2016

MIDWEEK MEDITATIONS:
GRANDPARENTS

 

week 90

 

Simon’s Wife’s Mother

 

As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
Mark 1:29-31

“Simon’s mother-in-law”!

How many bad jokes have you heard about mothers-in-law?

Actually I prefer the wording of the old King James Version, which refers to the woman in question as “Simon’s wife’s mother.” Even as a child I can remember that this homely little detail impressed me every time I heard or read again the story of that busy sabbath day in Capernaum.

Maybe my early childish impressions were strengthened because I had two grandmothers, and one of them lived with us (or to be more exact, we lived with her). Somehow I never thought of either one of them as being the mother-in-law of one or the other of my parents: They were just Mamaw and Grannie. Since both of my grandfathers had died before I was born, I felt especially blest in getting to know both of my grandmothers.

When my parents were first married, they lived with my father’s mother. Only a few months before I was born, they moved out to a place of their own. Then the sudden tragic death of my mother’s father made it seem necessary that they move again to live with my mother’s grief-stricken mother.

Thus for most of their married lives, my parents lived with one or the other of their mothers-in-law. Both of these grandmothers were dearly loved; both of them were devout followers of Christ; both of them tried to be helpful, tried to make the best of things during their declining years. And yet – I saw first-hand how hard it can be to live in the same house with a mother-in-law.

Did Simon ever resent his mother-in-law’s presence? Was she more of a help in the household, or more of a burden? Apparently there were a lot of people at Simon’s house, for the verses quoted above indicate that his brother Andrew also lived with him.

The following Scriptural meditation assumes that Simon’s wife’s mother was basically a helpful person to have around the house, especially considering the backbreaking work and odd hours that were facts of life for commercial fishermen on Lake Galilee.

My wife and I have had the privilege of viewing the ruins of a synagogue in Capernaum — apparently not the same one where Jesus healed a demon-possessed man one sabbath day, but very likely built over the ruins of an older house of worship. Excavators have also uncovered nearby the ruins of a fisherman’s house and a fisherman’s boat. Could these have been Simon Peter’s? The Bible seems to suggest that Jesus and James and John had only a short walk from the synagogue to get to Simon’s house.

Even though Simon’s mother-in-law may have tried to be as helpful as possible, yet when she fell sick, the care of her must have become an added burden on younger members of the household. This fact, as well as their familial love, must have been the reason why they told Jesus about the sick grandmother. And Jesus promptly healed her.

That evening, after sunset had marked the end of the sacred day of rest and worship, multitudes came to Simon Peter’s doorstep for the healing touch of the Master. Can’t we imagine that the grandmother, her strength miraculously restored, was bustling around the house, keeping the wheels turning during an unusually busy time? Can’t we imagine that she continued to help her busy daughter during those months and years when Simon, now renamed Peter, was out on the road with Jesus and the rest of the Twelve?

As you read the following Bible-based poetic meditation, remember – and pray for – all of the grandmothers and mothers-in-law whom you know.

A widow in Galilee
has little to call her own.
But Simon has been like a son to me:
I’ve never felt lost or alone.

My daughter is Simon’s wife.
That means she’s often awake
all hours of the night, for such is their life:
They harvest the fish of the lake.

So when she is tired, I try
to keep the children away.
I sweep and I cook; I croon lullaby,
to help her get through the long day.

The sabbath’s our day of rest.
We go to the synagogue.
But one week a fever burned in my breast;
I sweated and moaned in a fog.

And then I felt a strong clasp –
firm fingers enfolding my hand.
My fever and pain all fled from that grasp
as though by God’s own command.

I’m up! I serve as before!
Our Simon has a new name!
I’ve learned that when Jesus comes in the door,
a household is never the same.

O loving God, in Your mercy bless all grandparents and parents-in-law — those who are helpful and those who need help. Amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Perry Thomas

WEEK 89 — September 14, 2016

MIDWEEK MEDITATIONS:
GRANDPARENTS

 

week 89

 

Old Folks at the Temple

 

There was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. . . . It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. . . . There was also a prophetess, Anna . . . . She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.
Luke 2:25a, 26-27a, 36a, 37b

A favorite hymn at Christmas time is James Montgomery’s “Angels from the Realms of Glory.” Yet many carol-singers have no clear knowledge about the two people to whom these words refer:

“Saints before the altar bending,
watching long in hope and fear,
suddenly the Lord, descending,
in his temple shall appear.”

Do you remember Simeon and Anna, those two “Old Folks at the Temple”?

Actually we know very little about Simeon and Anna. The only place they are mentioned in Scripture is in the second chapter of Luke’s Gospel. We generally assume that Simeon was an old man (ancient tradition says he was 113!), but the Bible does not plainly tell us so. It does, however, say that he was only waiting for one more thing to happen before he died.

On the other hand, we know for sure that Anna the Prophetess was an old woman. In the original Greek language, Luke 2:36-37 can be understood two ways: Either Anna was 84 years old, or else she had gotten married, had lived with her husband for seven years, and then had lived on as a widow for another 84 years. In the latter case, how old would she have been? Surely well over a hundred!

Why did these two old folks haunt the courts of the temple in Jerusalem? Because they were waiting for a great event to happen — an event that had been promised to God’s People in the striking prophetic words from the King James Version so beautifully set to music in Handel’s Messiah:

“The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner’s fire” (Malachi 4:1-2).

When this stirring prophetic promise was at last fulfilled, we might have hoped that many people would have been on hand to witness it. Yet such was not the case. There were only two: One old man and one old woman.

At least one of those two old folks in the temple had been given a further divine promise: “that he should not see death” (Luke 2:26, King James Version) before he had seen Malachi’s prophecy fulfilled. But how was this promise to be fulfilled?

Judging from Malachi’s stirring words, Simeon and Anna might well have expected the coming of the Lord’s Christ into his temple to be something quite different from what they actually witnessed. Yet they were both so closely in tune with the Spirit of God that they recognized the great event when it happened.

Simeon was even moved by the Spirit to speak some prophetic words of his own. A portion of what he said that day has been sung by Christians through the centuries, sometimes in Latin as the Nunc Dimittis.

Reread Simeon’s rhythmic prophecy in Luke 2:28-35. Then read the following Bible-based poetic meditation:

                            SIMEON:

I thought he’d come in bright array,
a mighty king with all his train.
Instead, He came a Babe that day –
his parents poor, his raiment plain.
And yet . . . I knew him right away.
I sensed my lifelong watch was done,
when one young family came to pray
and dedicate a firstborn Son.

                          ANNA:

I thought he’d speak in trumpet tones,
announce the great and dreadful Day.
Instead, he murmured baby moans
while on his mother’s lap he lay.
And yet . . . I recognized his face.
I stood – as always – near the door,
when three came to the Holy Place
with doves, the offering of the poor.

                         SIMEON:

I thought he’d wield a mighty sword,
God’s herald in the Holy Place.
Instead, he brought God’s love outpoured,
salvation for our sinful race.
And yet . . . I knew he was the One.
I knew then what my waiting meant.
Lord, let me go! My race is run.
I’ve seen Your Christ; I die content.

O Spirit of God, how blest are all of us who, like old Simeon, do not see death before we see – in our spirits, not with our earthly eyes – the Lord’s Christ! Amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Perry Thomas

WEEK 88 — September 7, 2016

MIDWEEK MEDITATIONS:
GRANDPARENTS

 

week 88

 

Joash Makes a Dark Discovery

 

The king then took his place on the royal throne, and all the people of the land rejoiced. And the city was quiet, because Athaliah had been slain with the sword at the palace. Joash was seven years old when he began to reign. 2 Kings 11:19-21

Have you ever made a dark discovery about someone? especially someone in your family or among your friends?

The first pastor I can ever remember was a white-maned backwoods prophet with a saintly demeanor. I loved him; I called him “Papa Sumner.” When my oldest sister got married, Brother Sumner performed the ceremony. When I finished high school, Brother Sumner wrote me a letter which I kept and cherished. Not long after that, old Brother Sumner went to be with the Lord, full of years and honors.

It must have been two or three decades later when I met a grandson of Brother Sumner’s. He told me of his youthful days, when his grandfather had been a great user of tobacco — but had tried to keep his habit hidden from others.

Using tobacco is far from being the worst sin a person might be accused of. Nor did that grandson’s story make me completely lose the love and respect I still feel toward “Papa Sumner.” Yet I must confess that this homely revelation has lessened him a little in my memory. Like the rest of us, he was not quite as saintly as I might have thought.

The Bible doesn’t tell us how or when young Joash made his dark discovery. He knew a wicked queen was ruling Judah. He knew that he must be kept in hiding, lest he be killed just as all of his princely brothers had been killed. Those who cared for him in his place of concealment at the Temple complex were his aunt, who was a sister of the late king, and her husband, who was a priest.

At the tender age of seven, Joash was brought out of hiding and crowned as the rightful king. Not long after that, he must have known that the palace guard had killed the wicked queen at “the place where the horses enter the palace grounds” (2 Kings 11:16).

Did he see her blood spattered on that entryway?

Did he understand the full significance of this gory event?

This is the question posed by the Bible-based poetic meditation that follows: When did young Joash learn that this murderous, usurping queen — this female monster who was finally slaughtered by the same royal soldiers whom she had once commanded to slaughter innocent children — had been in fact his own grandmother?

Dark, dark, it was always dark
in the place where I grew up.
My aunt and uncle kept me safe;
they filled my bowl and cup.
Dark, dark, it was always dark,
for I must always hide.
“Hush, the wicked witch-queen hears!”
they warned me when I cried.

Light, light, all was dazzling light
on the day they brought me out.
The soldiers stood on every side;
the people raised a shout.
Light, light, all was dazzling light
on the day when I was crowned.
“Behold your king!” my uncle cried.
The one that’s lost is found!”

Blood, blood, there was so much blood
where the wicked witch-queen bled.
The soldiers slashed her with their swords;
the stones were splashed with red.
Blood, blood, there was so much blood.
She was wicked — yes, I know.
I never knew she was kin to me;
they never told me so.

O Father, help me in humility to confess that not all of my family and friends have always been worthy role models to be followed. Cause me to confess the same shortcoming in myself, as I seek Your gracious forgiveness. Amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Perry Thomas