the church – day 11 …
One generation to the next …
Psalm 116:12-19 –
What shall I return to God for all God’s bounty to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of God,
I will pay my vows to God in the presence of all God’s people.
Precious in the sight of God is the death of his faithful ones.
O God, I am your servant;
I am your servant – the child of your womanservant.
You have loosed my bonds.
I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of God.
I will pay my vows to God in the presence of all God’s people,
in the courts of the house of God, in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Psalm 116:14 has long been a part of my morning prayers to God as I give thanks to God for the faith of my mother and her mother before her and her mother before her and on and on as the faith of my womenservant ancestors has been handed down to me. My prayer then has caused me to research these womenservants to God and to be able to name them out loud as I give thanks to God for each one:
Holy God, I am your womanservant, the daughter of your womanservant Lib, the daughter of your womanservant Ethel, the daughter of your womenservants Mary Malissa and then Minnie; Mary Malissa the daughter of your womanservant Sarah Malissa, the daughter of your womanservant Hester, the daughter of your womanservant Hannah, the daughter of your womanservant Mary, the daughter of your womanservant Eleanor, born around 1706. For these women, upon whose shoulders I stand, I give you all thanks and praise for the lives they led and their faith in you, Almighty God and for handing down through the generations their faith so that it has come to me. May, I, too, “go and do likewise,” as Jesus said, and be the womanservant you call me to be, handing down my faith to my children and to their children. May it be so, I pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
Psalm 145:1-7 also speaks of handing down our faith generation after generation:
I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will bless you, and praise your name for ever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall laud your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed, and I will declare your greatness.
They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness, and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
The responsibility falls upon each adult – one generation after the other – to laud the works of the Lord, our God and declare God’s mighty acts to our children and to their children.
Near to the Apostle Paul’s death, he writes again to his beloved disciple Timothy giving thanks to God for Timothy’s faith, which was handed down to him through his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice:
2 Timothy 1:3-9a) – I am grateful to God – whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did – when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. For this reason, I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with them in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to God’s own purpose and grace.
Paul’s calling to his disciple Timothy is the same calling that we all have as we claim for ourselves our identity as children of God and followers of Jesus Christ – that is, to give thanks to God for the blessing of our faith, handed down to us by our ancestors, and then to do all we can to hand down our own faith to our children and our children’s children.
I encourage you, then, to name out loud those who have handed down their faith to you, to reflect on what it means to you to be blessed with faith through the grace of God, and to respond in gratitude to God by sharing your faith with your own children and grandchildren. We talk often of evangelism beyond our own homes, and while sharing the gospel message with everyone we meet is indeed an aspect of our calling as children of God and followers of Christ Jesus, so too are we called to “go and do likewise,” sharing our faith with those in our own families.
Let us pray …
Holy God, we come before you with gratitude in our hearts for our faith, blessed to us by you through your grace. We thank you for the saints who’ve gone before us who lived out their faith and taught their faith to us through both their actions and words. In obedient and grateful response, we pray your holy presence with us as we strive to do the same – to live out our faith with all we say and do so that our children and their children will have the same foundational faith we’ve been blessed with, and will know your love abundantly. Bless us today with your words and wisdom as we strive to pass down to the next generations your unconditional love, grace, acceptance, forgiveness, and mercy. In Christ’s holy name we pray together, saying Amen.
Rev. Susan Carter Wiggins