An Unlikely Teacher, an Encourager, and the Power of a Praying Grandmother

celebrating_seniors_logoToday I preached my inaugural sermon at Trulls Road Free Methodist Church at their annual Seniors’ Luncheon.  I am so grateful for all the seniors who have impacted and shaped my life.  I hope that this message will be a blessing to you! 

Good afternoon.  It is indeed a real honour and privilege to join you today for your seniors’ luncheon.  Today, I would like to share a few stories of how seniors have impacted my own personal and spiritual life.  I hope these stories will serve as an encouragement for everyone here.

Our culture is completely preoccupied with staying young forever.  Just flip through any magazine or television advertisement and you will be promised that a certain cream, lotion, or oil will restore your youth.  These same commercials suggest that one’s college or career days are the best times of one’s life.  However, what these advertisements fail to realize is that there are many things seniors can do which my age group cannot.  Some of these areas include: being able to teach and mentor the next generation through life experience, encouraging young people by testifying to God’s faithfulness over your lifetime of service to Him, and through the power of praying for your grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Let’s look at all of these areas a little closer.

Firstly, I appreciate how you provide mentorship and teach us through your life experience.
When I began thinking of what to share with you today, my mind immediately thought of 2 Timothy 1:5 where the Apostle Paul commends his young mentee, Timothy, to hold on to the faith that was passed down to him.  In this short verse, Paul mentions two instrumental women in Timothy’s life – his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois.  Timothy’s early life was probably shaped by competing worldviews and religious leanings because his mother was a Jew and his father a Greek.  And yet, because of his grandmother’s teaching, he became a positive role model to many in his church.

My grandmother, Anna Ferber, was also a sparkplug of the faith.  My grandma went through many terrible ordeals during her life.  She lived through the horrors of World War II and had to flee her native Hungary in order to move to Canada.  She also faced personal difficulties of various kinds, but these never hindered her faith and trust in God.  She was a very humble person who quietly served others, so it wasn’t until after her death that I truly understood what an inspiration she was.  Only later did we discover notes in her apartment posing questions like “Lord, have I remembered to thank You today?”  In her last months, her only request was for the Psalms to be read out loud to her frequently, when she was too weak to read them herself.  She was truly a faithful servant of God.

Secondly, seniors bless my generation by encouraging us through testifying of God’s goodness over their lifetime.

Questions and concerns are a young person’s food.  They often consume our thoughts.  This is where seniors provide a needed and welcome respite from the storms of life.  When seniors share their own experience, they often provide reassurance that we can also get through some of the most difficult hurtles life throws at us.

My grandmother got married very young and immediately started her family.  When she was still in Hungary, some German soldiers came to her house unannounced and demanded a search. Imagine how terrifying this would have been for a young Jewish woman, barely 20 years old with 2 small children. Yet, my grandmother was a very clever woman.  Instead of panicking, she warmly invited the soldiers inside and shared a pot of her homemade soup.  The soldiers had not eaten well in days and gladly accepted the offer.  My grandmother then led them out the backdoor, and the soldiers never shared the information with their superiors.  In this story, my grandmother was a modern day Esther who courageously risked her life for the sake of her family and future generations.

During the war, my Great Uncle was also detained in a prisoner of war camp.  Yet instead of complaining and questioning God, he used that experience to witness to other inmates.  Some even came to know God in a personal way. Today, he does not harbour any bitterness about these conditions, but only gratitude.

These last two stories are fairly dramatic, however, you can also encourage people in much smaller ways.  In my old church, there was a retired pastor named J.P. who was in his early 90s.   J.P. always went out of his way to praise and compliment the youth.  When I was a teen, I used to run the church sound system.  I was the first woman to do this and I believe the last.  Every Sunday, J.P. came to get his assisted hearing device and he would greet me by saying “it’s so nice to finally see a woman behind the desk.  It’s about time.”  This left a lasting impression on me so when he passed away, I cried about it for a few days.

Lastly, I really appreciate when your generation prays for mine.  It is unfortunate that sometimes prayer can be relegated to the sidelines, often as an afterthought.  Sometimes well-meaning people downplay its importance by stating “if you can’t do anything else, you can still pray for us.”
The truth is, prayer is the greatest ministry of all.  It doesn’t matter how wonderful a ministry is, if it is not constantly brought before the Throne Room of Grace it will collapse.  Just like the Psalms tell us “unless the Lord build a house, you labour in vain who make it.”

During my second week at Trulls, I joined a few seniors for lunch after church.  One of the members shared how she was previously involved in children’s ministry, but now she has retired from it.  However, she mentioned that she still prays for the ministry itself, the kids, and for me.  I was so touched by her words.  The prayers of a person who has displayed a lifetime of faithfulness to God are a valued treasure.

Please be encouraged.  Even if ill-health or physical limitations prevent you from actively serving like you once did, your prayers are the greatest asset to the ministry.  Like James writes, “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”  Or in my own words “don’t mess with a praying Grandma!”

I’d like to end with one last verse from Scripture.  Psalm 92:14 reads, “You will still yield fruit in old age.  You will be full of sap and very green.”

I began my message by sharing how our culture often devalues old age.  And I shared some personal stories about how seniors positively impact my life.  I talked about the three greatest blessings your generation gives to mine: mentoring us through your own life experience, testifying to God’s faithfulness and goodness over a lifetime of serving Him, and praying for us deeply.
All of these areas are ways that you still bear fruit.  Sometimes it might be easy to look back with nostalgia on your ministry involvements as a 20 or 30 year old.  But I urge you not to forget the amazing ways that God is using you in your 70s, 80s, and 90s.

And that’s why, like the Psalmist says, at any age, but especially in old age, we bear fruit, we grow, and we flourish.

Thank you for your time this morning and may God continue to bless you and look favourably upon you.

 

 

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