November 1, 2012
Theme of afternoon: "How Can I Help?"
I appreciate the people here. We have a history which includes the fact that many of you have been significant in my spiritual growth. I appreciate the fact that you helped me mature as a Christian and you helped me recognize God's call in my life.
I also appreciate that you have been and are spiritual leaders in the church and I appreciate what you have done and are doing in service to God. I know that you care about the church and you care about God's work in the world.
So here I come as a fellow whom you have nurtured and guided and I am supposed to give leadership to you. I am glad to do it because I believe that God has given me some thoughts about what He wants to do in our church. One of the key thoughts is a shift in thinking from "Come and see" to "Go and tell."
I know that this is a radical change. God has also called us to be in the world, but not of the world. We have tried hard to learn what it means to be "not of the world" and in the process we have often isolated ourselves from the world. When I was young I attended scouts at the Anglican Church at the end of our street for one or two meetings. I recall that it was rather uncomfortable for my parents to have me involved there and so I stopped going. We have wrestled with the same thing. When our kids grew up they were in the public school and we wrestled with how they would be involved. Sports was mostly OK, but I remember one time when Jonathan wanted to go to a school dance and we had quite a discussion about that. His older siblings had not had such a chance. So we have developed a sense of isolation from the world in our effort to be "not of the world."
Yet I have often wondered how we can be effective ambassadors for Christ if we isolate ourselves. Although we know our neighbors, I wonder how many of us have friendships, not just acquaintances among people who are not believers. When we see that Jesus was a friend of tax collectors and sinners, I think we have something to learn about this. We need to learn to be with, befriend and bless people who don't know Jesus. I believe that this is an important lesson we need to learn as individuals, but also as a church. The new board, called Community Action Board, will be working on how we as a church can be in the world and become involved in the world so as to have opportunity to share Jesus with the people of the world.
The question which is being asked today at Super Seniors is, "How can I help?" All of us can make friends with people who don't know Jesus and discover ways of helping them get to know Jesus. However, I have a different suggestion about how you can help that I believe allows you to serve with all the strengths and abilities which you already have.
A group from our church recently did an Alpha course at Headingly Correctional Institution. At the end of the course, they invited some of the inmates to come to our church when they get out. We have had quite a number of immigrants coming to church over the last number of years. This past year, our church has begun a relationship with a government funded program which operates out of a building across the street. The organization is called "New Directions" and works with mentally handicapped adults. They worked in the garden this summer and beginning next week they will be coming here once a week to do a little cleaning in the church. What if some of them begin coming to church? This past Sunday, two people came to church at Leroy Adam's invitation. What is happening is that people from very different backgrounds are coming to church. How do we relate to them?
This summer at Drive Through Prayer, a young woman dropped by who needed prayer. They prayed with her and in the context of the conversation she asked the question, "What is this church like?" Peggy answered, "It is like coming home to Grandma and Grandpa's." I thought, what a great way of describing our church and what a great way to recognize an important ministry opportunity precisely for the people who are in this room. What we have the resources to do is to have a ministry of being grandparents.
One of the reasons I think that it is a great ministry opportunity for many of you is because you are already doing it. Martha Reimer was telling me about some people who call her "grandma" even though she is not biologically related to them.
The ministry of being grandparents is very important. Titus 2:3-5 speaks about such a ministry when it says in part, "…tell the older women…to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the younger women…" I remember one year at Simonhouse Bible Camp when we had some grandparents at the camp. I was assistant director and I was about 30. The director was no more than 10 years older and most of the staff were in their 20's or younger. One couple, I think they were in their 60's, were at camp to work in the kitchen and do maintenance. However, their ministry extended much further than that and they were important in the care, presence, friendship and service which they carried out as grandparents for the campers and even for the staff. I have also heard that particularly among first nations people grandparents are very important because many of them have been raised by their grandparents.
So I want to raise this idea to our conscious level so that we can affirm, "This is what we do in this church." I want to encourage us to realize the value of this type of ministry and be deliberate about it. So I would like to challenge you to think about how you could be involved in the ministry of being a grand-parent to someone who is not your biological grand-child. I don't think this is a ministry that we can organize or plan for. I think that largely it has to happen as God calls and as opportunities arise. I believe that as you look for opportunities and declare your willingness to be used by God in this way, great things will happen.
So, what does it mean to be a Grandma or Grandpa as a ministry opportunity? In many ways it is not much different than being a grandparent to your own grandchildren, except that it involves a choice to do the things that you would do naturally as a grandparent.
Grandparents have a unique opportunity to offer their grandchildren unconditional love. Parents are usually so focused on raising their children and they have the daily and great responsibility to train and discipline their children. Grandparents can have a much more relaxed, yet equally important influence on grandchildren. Because they are not directly responsible, they are able to be much more accepting of the grand-children and accepting of them no matter what they do.
At one time Carla's mom used to say that Jonathan reminded her of her husband, Mr. Rischer. One day Jonathan decided to die his hair green. It was a lovely green, the same color as a Mallard duck. When Carla asked her mom if he still reminded her of her dad, she didn't hesitate. She accepted him, green hair and all. As grandparents you can practice non-judgmental love.
At the same time, grandparents also have an opportunity to speak honestly into their grandchildren's lives. The grandchildren know that they are loved and often accept a word of wisdom or correction from their grandparents in a way that no one else can do.
Unconditional love is an important Biblical value. We see it modeled by Jesus. Matthew 9:10, 11, "And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”"
It is also encouraged in such places as Romans 12:15, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep."
So how would this look as a ministry with people who are not your biological grandchildren? As grandparents to such people in our church it would give you an opportunity to genuinely accept people who are different. Practically you can do this by engaging them in loving conversation and letting them see the love you have for Jesus. Yet, one thing that some grandparents have to watch is that they do not smother their grandchildren. Loving them is helpful, smothering them drives them away. The same is true in this kind of ministry. As we engage with and love those who come, we need to be careful not to smother them.
I know that some of you are involved in this kind of ministry by being a mentor to someone who is a fairly new Christian.
So as grandparents, you have the opportunity to love those who come to our church without pre-judgment or conditions.
Grandparents are also famous for generosity. I know of grandparents who make it a habit that whenever their grandchildren leave, they have an opportunity to take something from the treat bag. Because you love your grandchildren and because you are at a stage of life where every penny is not accounted for to make ends meet, it becomes possible to take the grandchildren on outings, to have them over for a sleepover, to give them gifts and to practice generosity towards them and to do it joyfully.
Generosity is an important Biblical value. Matthew 25:34 – 40 speaks about generosity in broad terms when it says, "Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’"
Romans 12:13 also affirms generosity when it says, "Contribute to the needs of the saints…"
What would that look like in a grandparenting relationship with someone in the church who is not your biological grandchild?
I have been present when some of you have taken some of the newer, young people from our church out for lunch. That is one example of how this ministry looks in practical terms.
There are many ways in which gifts can given and I don't mean only financial gifts, but also gifts of time and words of blessing. What if one of these "grandchildren" was graduating. What would it do for them if some of you "grandparents" attended their graduation?
Of course, in this ministry, we need to be wise and make sure that we are not being taken advantage of in a way that would harm them. But generosity is a great way in which we can minister to new people in the church.
We have had our grandchildren over for sleepovers as have many of you. Sometimes we go to their place to look after them. This week, I installed a coat rack at their level in our house so they can hang up their own coats when they come to visit us. There are special things that we do just at grandma and grandpa's place. At the many funerals I have attended where grandchildren speak of their grandparents, I have often heard about the special things, like special food that grandma made, or special games that were played with grandpa. All of these things illustrate the gift of hospitality which is so natural to grandparents.
This also is a Biblical value which we are called to live. Romans 12:13 says, "Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers." Hebrews 13:2 challenges us, "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it." and 1 Peter 4:9 encourages us, "Be hospitable to one another without complaining."
Hospitality gives us great opportunities to welcome people into our lives. The beginning of that is, of course, noticing them when we see them. Some people come to church and just find their friends. Other people look for opportunities to find those who are new or who look like they need a friend.
True hospitality goes beyond just noticing and welcoming people in the congregation. One danger even in a welcoming church is that the welcome does not extend beyond Sunday morning. We need to determine to extend it. I know that some of you have much younger people, who are fairly new in the congregation in your small group. Years ago we were at a family gathering at Carla's sisters place. I was bothered at first by the fact that random people who were neighbors of theirs were also there. It made me think though how important the ministry of hospitality is and now we have done the same thing.
I mentioned before some of the words which have been spoken at the funeral of grandparents by their grandchildren. One comment I have also heard often is lament at the loss of a prayer warrior.
I know a number of grandparents who have a large number of grandchildren. Yet a part of every day is time spent in prayer for each one of them.
You know very well that this also is a Biblical value. Ephesians 6:18 says, "Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints."
Ephesians 1:16 – 19 contains a specific prayer when it says, "I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power."
The connection to ministry is obvious. I want to encourage you to pray for people who come to our church. One thing I do is use the church address book as a prayer guide and pray through the book one page at a time. Of course if we pray for them, we also need to make sure that we get to know them well enough to know their needs. As we pray for them regularly it is also encouraging once in a while to let them know that we are doing so.
This is happening in our church and I want to encourage those who have picked up on this idea and are doing it.
Yet, as I said, I want to challenge us to affirm that this is a ministry which we have great resources to accomplish. New people are often coming to church. I want to encourage you to commit in your heart to be a grandparent. To be non-judgmental in love and acceptance, to be generous, to offer hospitality and to be a prayer warrior.
Get to know people, yet don't force it. Let God lead the relationship, let it develop, see what develops, be open to what may develop.
Thank you for being people who care and may God bless your grandparenting.