I was asked to speak to our Senior Adult group this past Thursday. Rather than telling a bunch of aging jokes I decided to take a more serious tack. I don't know why really. Maybe it's because this is a nostalgic year for me. I had my 40th class reunion in May. God called me to ministry 40 years ago this past June. And 40 years ago this fall, I left home for college and the rest of my life. Anyway, I decided to talk to our group of Senior Adults about some of the ways God has used seniors in my ministry.
My thoughts immediately raced to the Ruth Class at First Baptist Church, Branson, Missouri back in the mid-70s. The Ruth Class was a senior adult women’s Sunday School class in the church. I don’t know why, but that class took an interest in me from the moment I declared God had called me to ministry. I didn’t grow up in the church (I had been Presbyterian). None of them knew me very well at all. But they sort of adopted me. One of the ladies gave me my first commentary: Matthew Henry’s One-Volume Commentary on the Whole Bible. I still have it and cherish it—not so much for the commentary but for the sentiment it holds for me. That gift was a message that said, “You are going to love and preach the Bible. This will help you do it better.”
Oh, and another thing about that class: when I went off to the University of Arkansas in August of 1974, that class of ladies (most of whom were on a small fixed income) took up a little love offering for me every month. And that offering said, “We believe in you. We believe God is going to use your life. And we want to be part of that.” Those ladies also told me that they believed I would write books someday. Well, I’ve never written a book. But I told them that if and when I ever did, I’d dedicate it to those ladies for their faith and confidence in God’s work in my life. Funny thing is that one of our church secretaries, Tammy Dean, is helping me get my Dr. Seussical Christmas poem I did last year turned into a book. Sadly, I don’t think it will allow for a dedication page, but if it did I can tell you what I’d write on that page: “To the 1970s Ruth Sunday School Class of First Baptist Church, Branson, Missouri. They may have been old, but they were strong enough to lift me up and launch me into my ministry.”
I imagine they’re long dead now. Most of them lived long enough to see their faith in me become a least a little sight. I suspect they had far higher expectations for me than I have achieved—I never became the next Billy Graham or the great author some predicted I would become—but I pray that when they consider the balance of my work, they would not be too disappointed. I’m going to look them up when I get to heaven, and I hope we can have a little reunion. “Well,” I’ll say, as I look down and move a little dirt around with my foot, “I never wrote great books and nobody but you ever mistook me for Billy Graham. I’m sorry if I let you down.” And I suspect their leader, Peg Holbrook, would look down her glasses at me, furrow her brow, and say, “Young man (I will probably be perpetually young to that class), did you do what you believed God led you to do?” And I’ll look her in the eye and say, “I’m sure I could have done more, but I think I did most of what God led me to do.” And then she’ll smile and say, “Then that’s good enough for us. Our investment in you was worth every prayer and every penny.” Peg wasn’t a hugger, but some of the rest of them were, so I suspect they’ll be a few hugs, and with every hug a “Thank you, ladies” and a “Thank you, God.”
The Ruth Class—a gift of God wrapped in wrinkles, clip-on earrings, coiffed hair, worn out Bibles, print dresses, and maybe a little too much rouge and perfume—given to me to start me on the way to ministry.
Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God (Phil. 1:3).