By Pastor Pete Grassow
Intro: Today we come to this service with a number of things on our minds:
• Yesterday was 9/ 11 - and many people are sad.
• We continue to be challenged by the Corona Virus - and more people are dying now than last year this time.
• And it is National Grandparents Day.
I want to honor all of these emotions - will speak about Grandparents, and then lead us in prayer for those who have died
I remember the moment that I discovered I was a grandfather - My daughter phoned - and spoke to my wife: "You are going to be a grandfather" I thought it smart to say "So I will be married to a granny"; to which she replied "such a young woman going to bed with a Grandfather feels kind of wrong". Because it is Grandparent's Day, I have chosen a passage about a grandparent: it is a beautiful story of love, and compassion - a story that I hope will challenge us:
Naomi is a Jewish widow, who comes from Bethlehem. She had moved with her husband and two sons from Israel across the Dead Sea to the land of Moab - which is an ancient kingdom whose territory today is located in the modern state of Jordan. And then tragedy struck: her husband died. Her sons married local women and lived with their mom for the next ten years. And more tragedy both her sons died. So she decided to move back to Bethlehem. Naomi released her daughters-in-law from their obligation to care for their mother-in-law: she told them to find new husbands within their own culture. One daughter went back to her family - but the other chose to go with her mother-in-law. Her name was Ruth.
Ruth 1:16 But Ruth said, "Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.....
Ruth 1:22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.
Here Ruth meets a local Jewish man called Boaz . He was a relative of her deceased father-in-law, and custom dictated that he should take her in and care for her: in fact there is provision in Jewish law that suggests that he should marry Ruth. It is called Levirate marriage - and says that if your brother dies then you must marry his widow - (do I see you thinking about how this would turn out today?) Let me read a bit from Scripture:
Ruth 4:13 So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son.
Ruth 4:14 Then the women said to Naomi, ''Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel!
Ruth 4:15 He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him."
Ruth 4:16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse.
Ruth 4:17 And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, ' son has been born to Naomi." They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.
Today I want to speak briefly to all who have Grandparents and then to all who are Grandparents.
First of All: The story of Ruth challenges us in the way we view older people: anyone who can be a Granny or Grandpa to you. Let us not become trapped in this idea of biological grandparents - I come from a culture where we call every older person Granny or Grandpa as a sign or respect.
Ruth chose to look after her mother-in-law. Tough ask: some mother's-in-law are hard work! I am blessed with my wife's mom (turns 97 this week & Jenny is with her).
Today invites us to be respectful of those who are older.
I saw a tragic clip-on social media of a school board meeting in Tennessee where a grandson was speaking about his grandmother dying of Covid - and the people around him were mocking him. Let us show our children how to care for older people. We are better than those who mock the dead: when people have died - show respect.
• we will remember those who died on 9/ 11: we show respect for them and their families: it is what Christ-followers do.
• We will show respect for all who have died of Covid: and for their families.
But back to Grandparents: Let me speak now to those of us who are Grandparents. We can fill a grandparent's role without having any children of our own/or without having our grandkids near to us. It can be that you keep an eye on the kids in the neighborhood. It can be that you have kids next door to you. I think of a Grandfather who greets every kid who arrives in church as if they were his own...
I want to invite us to reflect on the impact we make as Grandparents in society. Here is a story of a Grandmother: Naomi - she has a grandson - born of her son's wife . This boy's name is Obed - and this boy has a mother who is a Moabite: There is a troublesome text in the Bible that tells Jewish people to avoid the Moabites : Deuteronomv 23:3-6 says, "No Ammonite or Moabite or any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, not even in the tenth generation. Do not seek a treaty of friendship with them as long as you live."
And here is Naomi with a Moabite as a Grandson! Yes his father is Jewish - so young Obed is half Jewish - except that some will point out that the Jewish faith is passed down through the mother: who is not Jewish. Ruth does say that she will take on the faith of her mother-in-law: but she is known in Scripture as "Ruth the Moabite". In essence this boy is a questionable half -breed.
And at this point - while the gossip is swirling through the village: Obed's grandmother steps in and settles the debate:
Ruth 4:16 Then Naomi took the child aryd laid him on her lap and became his nurse
Naomi places this new child in her lap: there is no safer place than in the arms of a granny: "I will love you". And then even more startling: "I will nurture you" She nurses this child. This is a very intimate action - "I will let you share my strength. I will make myself vulnerable for you".
Naomi becomes an example for every grandparent here - the fact is that children need our protection...and it does not matter who they are! The story of Naomi says to us all
- they do not have to be your blood for you to love and protect them. There is a lovely moment in this story: the whole community steps in and names this boy: he is called "Obed" which means "Servant of God" - literally he is one of us...he will serve the Lord amongst us.
And he did - he becomes a grandfather to King David - and thus one of the ancestors of Jesus.
Challenge all of us to step up and be grandparents to every child that crosses our path.
We simply do not know what lies in their future...and how they might become useful to God.
Let me close with a story:
Two young boys were spending the night at their grandparents' house the week before Christmas. At bedtime, the two boys knelt beside their beds to say their prayers.
The younger boy began praying at the top of his voice. "I PRAY FOR A NEW BICYCLE!"
the older brother leaned over and nudged his younger brother and said, "Why are you shouting your prayers? God isn't deaf."
"No, but Grandma is!" the little brother replied
I challenge us not to be deaf to the voices of our grandchildren: show them love, and kindness and compassion. Take the time to listen to them and to encourage them.