6th Sun. of Easter (Mother’s Day)
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
2 Timothy 1:5-7 Sermon
May 13, 2012
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Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal and With One Voice):
TLH 360 "O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing"
TLH 192 "Awake My Heart With Gladness"
------------ "Thank God For Christian Mothers"
WOV 741 "Thy Holy Wings, O Saviour"
TEXT: “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.”
It was Mothers’ Day some years ago, and I remember a conversation I had with a couple of church members after services. They were there with their mother and father who were also church members. Their mom was there with her lovely corsage, and they were talking about having a barbecue cook-out at their house for lunch. Their whole Mothers’ Day festivities were all planned out, which was all designed to give the wives and mothers in the family a day away from cooking and meal preparation and clean up.
That day, I added another dimension to their day’s plans. I asked the question, “Are you going to call your grandma today?” I knew that their grandma lived a long distance away, and she wouldn’t be a part of their festivities.
The answer came back, “No, we really hadn’t thought about calling her. We sent her a card though.”
Then I said, “It would be great if each of you took the time and individually called her (there are 5 grown children in the family). Just take a few minutes, pick up the phone, and make her day. I know she’d love to hear from you, and it would mean so much to her.”
I made sure that I told all five of the grandchildren this idea; I even told their mother what I had suggested. They all agreed that it would be a good idea, and that it would be something she’d really appreciate.
I was invited to the meal that day, and it all turned out perfectly. The men in the family took care of all the meal preparations; and yes, they actually cleaned up afterwards. They started their Mothers’ Day meal tradition this way years ago, since the restaurants are usually so packed. And a great tradition it is too. I thought it was a fabulous way to celebrate Mothers’ Day; it all happened the way it was planned, and everybody had a good time.
I did remind them all once again about calling their grandma, however I don’t know how many (if any) actually called her. The day was pretty busy, and like I said before, grandma wasn’t there. If she had lived closer, I’m sure she would have been there too. But she wasn’t. And I have the feeling that it was one of those “out of sight, out of mind” sort of things. Calling grandma hadn’t been part of their Mothers’ Day tradition, and I don’t know if my idea and encouragement was enough to begin it.
I believe that grandmas are often overlooked by their grandchildren on Mothers’ Day. I don’t think it’s really intentional either; it’s one of those things that just happens.
In 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a proclamation that the first Sunday after Labor Day would be designated as Grandparents’ Day, and that’s all well and good. A day to honor grandparents is a very noble thing. And I’m sure that the thought of such a thing would have touched a very sentimental nerve in the heart of our ex President.
But I believe that grandmothers deserve some special attention on Mothers’ Day as well. After all, they are mothers several times over, depending on the levels of grandchildren and great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. So I think that today the topic of “Faithful Grandmothers” is very appropriate.
In my life, I have had two grandmothers, like most people have. Some have been blessed with more than two, when deaths and remarriages have added additional people to the family tree.
I was certainly blessed by having the two I did have. They were poles apart and about as uniquely different as two people could be, and I mean that in a positive sense. Each of them occupied a place in my life every bit as unique as they were.
In my dad’s family, there were five siblings. This translated into 13 grandchildren, plus a step grandchild. She was an immigrant, the only one of eleven children to come to the United States. Even though she was strict at times and she always spoke her mind, she had a heart as big as a pumpkin, and she loved being with people and helping people out whenever and wherever she could. She wasn’t one to read to or play with her grandchildren, and it would have been out of character if she had. She used to knit us various things, and there was always something smelling good wafting from the kitchen.
In my mother’s family, the numbers were smaller. There were two siblings, which translated into four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. My grandmother was born in Pennsylvania into a large family as well. She was very soft-spoken, and I know she kept a lot of things to herself. She liked to read stories and play with her grandchildren and tuck us into bed.
I loved both of my grandmothers about as equally as anybody could; and as I look at myself and consider how the gene pool accumulated in me, I can definitely see both of their characteristics in myself. Both grandmothers were very influential in my life. And since both grandmothers were good cooks, I can only suppose that their influence has some correlation to my size.
As we look at our text for today, the Apostle Paul is writing to a young man by the name of Timothy. Timothy is a young man preparing for the work of the ministry. He is a very gifted individual with a strong faith and a good aptitude for doing the work of a pastor.
At the very beginning of his second letter to Timothy, God the Holy Spirit caused him to record some important words. Verse 5 reads, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”
Whatever Timothy would become, whatever kind of great spokesman of God he would be, whatever type of master theologian he would develop into, Paul tells him to remember the faith of both his mother and his grandmother. The faith of both great women was the faith that was passed along to him. The Holy Spirit worked through these women in Timothy’s upbringing, so that he would know the one true God in his life.
Timothy’s childhood probably wasn’t an easy one. His father was a Greek, and an unbeliever. Most likely, Timothy’s father was openly antagonistic toward the Jews; what we would call a basic anti-Semitic attitude. His influence in Timothy’s life isn’t even mentioned in the Bible.
His father would have forbidden any of the Jewish rituals to be carried out. Timothy wasn’t circumcised on the eighth day after birth, as was prescribed by the Jewish ceremonial law. Timothy was seen by society as being a Greek rather than a Jew.
He would have been forbidden to attend worship according to the Jewish custom, and he probably never saw the inside of the temple. He was unable to receive instruction from the rabbis, or be brought up in the faith in the conventional ways.
And so, against some pretty high odds, Timothy is indeed instructed. This happened through the two most influential women in his life: his mother Eunice, and his grandmother Lois. Lois probably lived with Timothy’s family in their home. In those days, it was very common for an aging parent to live with one of their children.
Not much is known about either woman. This one verse in 2nd Timothy is the only place they are mentioned in the Bible. In studying this text, I checked various commentaries. I even did a Google search on the Internet for Lois. There’s a lot out there about Lois Lane and Superman, but virtually nothing about the greatest Lois of all, Timothy’s grandmother.
Lois had to be one incredible woman. She saw to it that her daughter Eunice had been brought up in the faith. And when Timothy was born, he had the resource of these two faithful women to instruct him.
I believe that God caused this account to be recorded for several reasons. First of all, instruction in the faith has its roots in the home. The faith of a parent is reflected in the child. Proverbs chapter 22 verse 5 states: “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
And secondly, a child will mirror how the parents put that faith into practice. If going to church is never a top priority, when other things are allowed to crowd out and replace God in their lives, when the faith isn’t lived out in the lives of those in the home, then you can almost bet that God won’t be top priority in the life of the child.
Just a little further on from our text for today, in 2nd Timothy chapter 3 verses 14-15 we read another important reminder Paul gives to Timothy: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it [i.e. his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice], and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
During his life, Timothy would have seen both sides of things. Through his father, an unbelieving Greek, he would have seen the world, which had been tainted by sin. He would have witnessed various evil influences, and what the life of an unbeliever was like. He also knew that sin had infected and influenced his own life as well.
But Timothy had two very faithful women through whom the Holy Spirit worked. They instructed Timothy in the Holy Scriptures, through which he learned about his Saviour Jesus Christ. Even though his father was hardened in the ways of the world and had no use for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Timothy knew that Jesus was the answer to life’s questions and problems. He knew that as a sinful human being, he could come to his Saviour in faith and know that he would find love, forgiveness, and acceptance.
Timothy certainly wasn’t a perfect child. Notwithstanding Jesus, there hasn’t been a perfect child to have been born since mankind’s fall into sin. But the Scriptures, which taught him about Jesus, had made him wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. And this he knew from infancy, from the time he was a baby in arms, from his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. From them he learned about God’s love and acceptance. This was a message he would share with the world in his ministry.
Timothy knew both sides of the coin. Proverbs chapter 14 verse 12 explains the ways of the unbelieving world: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” This is what he saw in the unbelieving life of his father, and I would imagine that it grieved him deeply.
But the way taught him by his mother and grandmother was the way of faith, which made him wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. This was the gift of God the Holy Spirit working through the faithful teaching of his Word.
Everybody is under the influence of sin, whether it be mother, grandmother, father, or child. Nobody has ever fulfilled that role perfectly. Everybody needs to know their Jesus Christ, and receive him through faith as their Saviour and Lord. This is the valuable gift Timothy received from the Holy Spirit working through efforts of grandmother Lois and mother Eunice. This is the same gift that God wants each of us to have as well, through faith alone.
Both of my grandmothers are no longer on this earth. My father’s mother died in 1978. She had a heart attack one Sunday in church. After the sermon was over and everybody stood up to sing "Create In Me," she stood up, and then collapsed on the floor. She never recovered. A little over a month later, she died peacefully in her sleep.
My mother’s mother died in 1983. She spent several years in the nursing home suffering from the affects of advanced Alzheimer’s disease. It had been progressing for years, and at the end she couldn’t speak or recognize anyone. This was hard for us, and I know this was especially difficult for my grandfather.
I loved both of my grandmothers, and both of them influenced my life in different and unique ways. I certainly gained much from them, and I am a better person because of their brief presence in my life.
Today, Paul reminds Timothy to remember not just his own mother, but also his grandmother. God used those two women to be a blessing to him.
That same reminder applies to us as well. On this mother’s day, let’s not just remember and honor our own mothers, but our grandmothers as well. Their influence has touched us directly in many cases, but also indirectly through our parents.
And as mothers and grandmothers, may you also be reminded that what you say, what you do, and how you live your faith is a definite influence to your children and grand children.
I’d like to close this morning with a poem by Nicholas Gordon that I saw inscribed on a throw pillow:
Grandmothers are mothers who are grand
Restoring the sense that our most precious things
Are those that do not change much over time.
No love of childhood is more sublime,
Demanding little, giving on demand,
More inclined than most to give the wings
On which we fly off to enchanted lands.
Though grandmothers must serve as second mothers,
Helping out with young and restless hearts,
Each has all the patience wisdom brings,
Remembering our passions more than others,
Soothing us with old and well-honed arts.