Tuesday, June 21, 2011

This Aging Generation of Giants

At church Sunday morning we had some time left over at the end of the service, so our pastor opened the floor for people to share what God had done in their lives this past week. *cricket, cricket* One man finally stood and shared a story about making a difference in peoples' lives. *cricket, cricket* Another man, my guess is somewhere in his 80s, stood up toward the back of the church. Like an Old Testament prophet, he pointed his finger at the congregation and, in no uncertain terms but in a completely honorable way, called us out. The sermon had been on the rapture and this gentleman declared that while he can't know for certain, only God can, that he very much doubted that the church would be empty should the rapture occur in that moment. He told us to humble ourselves at the altar (something our pastor had emphasized during the last worship song...and no one came forward), to get right with God, because someday it will be too late.

He didn't yell, he didn't thump a Bible, he wasn't passing judgment. In fact, the only reason he was pointing is because he was just so passionate about the salvation offered through Jesus Christ. And quite honestly, if we were all a little more passionate about that our worlds might change. Each one of us has our own little world peopled with friends, co-workers, neighbors, relatives, people we like, people who aggravate us, people in lines ahead and behind us, people who wait on us, people we wait on...and if we were truly passionate about salvation, those little worlds would start to change.

I think the old timers knew that. They lived and served out of their passion for Christ and that's why people like me sit here and write this blog. As this gentleman spoke, I sat up on stage behind my keyboard and my eyes started filling with tears. I was thanking God for giving our church a man brave enough and bold enough and passionate about God enough to speak the truth. And I went over the mental photographs in my mind of other old-timers that are bold enough to serve, to speak, to pray.

My grandmother's church used to be filled with these kinds of people. Perhaps that is an exaggeration but childhood memories are vague and the characters are often larger than life. But it seemed to me then that there were spiritual giants in that church. Not Rick Warren, Max Lucado, or Joel Olsteen giants. Humble, quiet giants. Giants that teach Sunday school every week, change diapers every week, teach little ones new songs about Jesus every week. Giants that make snacks for Vacation Bible School and fill in at a moment's notice. Giants that get down on their knees every single week, if not every single day, and pray for revival to begin and to begin there. Giants that send cards, make phone calls, and drop-in on the lonely and hurting. Giants that read their Bibles every morning and every evening, even when their aging eyes have to strain to see the words. Giants that feel about hymns the way I do about praise choruses. Giants that have done service unto the Lord that only He knows about.

My grandparents are such giants. My grandmother served outwardly--teaching Sunday school, always keeping a couple lessons in her back pocket that she could teach at a moment's notice, she formed choirs for children, teens, and ladies, she participated in the Ladies' Missionary Society, she made snacks and volunteered for Vacation Bible School, she could even fill in playing the piano on a Sunday morning. My grandfather served more privately. He reminds me of John Walton. Working hard, putting God and family first, giving generously both to the Lord and to those in need. Hard work, generosity, faithfulness. As far as I know he never once served in front of the congregation, but he was and is a servant of the Lord all the same. They've prayed together nearly every night since their marriage on September 27, 1939. They shared each other's burdens, and brought them together to the Lord.

Those of us that are blessed and honored enough to have known some of these spiritual giants should be taking notes. That generation based their lives on the Bible. My grandmother has entire chapters of the Bible memorized, and now that she struggles to be able to read her Bible, she misses it. There's an empty void in her day that used to be filled with scripture reading. She tries, and some days its easier than others, but her poor old eyes don't let her see the Words she's always leaned on. I fear that our generation, and especially the next, are Bible illiterate. We insist that it's too hard, we don't have the right translation, we don't have the time. Explain to me how women who had to pump their own water, make fires to cook, bake bread, churn butter, sew & mend their clothes, do all the washing (dishes, clothes, housework) by hand, had time to read their Bibles? Let alone serve in their church community.

Honestly, I think it's shameful that we hide behind our work or class schedules, our 'me time', our phones and computers and insist that we're too busy. What will happen when this aged generation dies? Who will lead? Who will speak truth? Who will know the truth? As that generation fades away, one by one, we need to pick up their legacy. They, after all, inherited it from the generation before them. Our faith, our traditions, our passion, our servitude has been passed on from one generation to the next for centuries. Let us not be the ones to throw it away out of ignorance, selfishness, or pride. It is hard sometimes to make it a priority--it was for them, too--and the Bible can be hard to read. But those are lousy excuses for not keeping the faith, and if this aging generation had just given up when they were busy or when it was hard...where would you be? I shudder to think where I would be without their humble serving and faithful guidance.

I write this as much for myself as anyone who might chance to read it. That is always the case with this blog. I must take time to lecture myself a bit, to dish out a bit of my own advice to take. I must train myself, with the Spirit's guidance and help, to be faithful to pray, to read my Bible and to serve the Lord. These are both the commandments of God and the legacy being left behind.

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