“Let love of the brethren continue.” (Hebrews 13:1).
That was the topic of this morning’s adult Sunday school class. I am not on the circuit of regular teachers for this group of mature seniors, but I have been attending their class for nearly three years. I dearly love them, both collectively as a group and as individuals. Their words drip with wisdom, and their love breathes as genuine. They’ve lived long enough to find their compass—to anchor their hearts within a centered peace and an abiding faith that are not easily shaken.
So when I was asked to offer my voice as their leader, I welcomed the opportunity. Problem was…the invitation was issued a few months back, and in the busy of my past two weeks (i.e. vacation in Gatlinburg), I neglected its remembrance. Mid-week of my mountain retreat, I remembered and was tempted to bail. After all, I had left my curriculum guide at home and was weary with my lazy.
God gently reminded me that no curriculum was necessary. The truth of his Word, alone, was enough to carry me through. Thus, I contacted one of the class members to retrieve the scripture.
A to-do list of sorts. Some final thoughts to punctuate the previous twelve chapters detailing the supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus Christ.
Loving one another.
Remembering those in prison.
Keeping sexual purity at a premium.
Keeping a love for money at a minimum.
Finding contentment in the “have”, realizing that the “have”—Jesus Christ—is all we’ll ever need.
Receiving the truth of that “have” as changeless—yesterday, today and forever.
Imitating the faith of the saints.
Guarding the Gospel as the truth.
Bearing the reproach of Christ.
Offering the praise of sacrifice.
Doing good and sharing that goodness with others.
Indeed. Some final, heavy thoughts, packed into sixteen verses of scripture duly categorized by modern-day translators as some…
And for all of the ways I could have taken the lesson this morning, sticking with the theme of this one phrase was the right way to go. Even though these words of organization are not included in the original manuscript, they are rich in their application, especially as it pertains to the contents of Hebrews 13.
I asked the class to consider their concluding exhortations. Exhortation, as found in Hebrews 13:22, is the Greek word paraklesis. It is a word meaning “encouragement, entreaty, consolation, admonition, importation, refreshment, and persuasive discourse.”[i] Thus, I challenged my pupils (whose wisdom and maturity surpass me by at least three decades) to pause and to consider what they might like to say as a concluding word of encouragement to those whom they love and to a world who desperately needs the exhortation of such Godly influence.
It is a tough question to ask, especially to souls who are aging and who, undoubtedly, live with some memories and pains and regrets that have shadowed them into these golden years of living. But tough is not always wrong, and this morning, tough was very right and became the tender soil of God’s plowing. I witnessed my students’ tears of understanding as we marshaled our way through sixteen verses of “forget-me-nots.”
They laced the discussion with their laughter, with their memories, with their truth and with God’s. And as quickly as the ten o’clock hour arrived, it left, and I was stunned by the provision of God’s grace and presence who arrived on the scene to partake in our discussion.
It is his promise to us, straight out of Hebrews 13:5-6.
“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’”
Indeed, if there is one exhortation that breathes from the hearts of the Friendship Sunday School class, it is this simple truth. For all of the years traversed upon this earthly sod, there is God who has journeyed it with them. Fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty, and almost ninety year’s worth of walking it through with the LORD, Covenant God. Helper and Sustainer of life.
Man has already done his doing over their lives–years worth of doing that have left some scars. But the fear, well it is mostly gone now, for they have learned the secret of being of content. In little and in much. In sorrow and in joy. In sickness and in health. In the present and in the tomorrow yet to come, for with each day comes Jesus. And they have all reached the conclusion that Jesus is, in fact, worth their living.
This is why they were there this morning, present and accounted for in a “doing” that they’ve been doing for a long season. This is why I was there this morning and will continue to attend the senior-adult Sunday school class at my church. The class members live and breathe a concluding exhortation worthy of my pause…worthy of my embrace. They warrant my time and my preparation, for they are my brethren, and my love for them and their love for me…continues.
Deeper. Stronger. And more fully with every conversation that we share. We are a Hebrews 13:1, loving kind of people. We’re working on the other verses, but this love thing?
We are living it, and it is my great joy and privilege to be living it alongside them. And so I pray…
Make me like them, Lord. Let my life breathe a concluding exhortation that includes love as its anchor. Keep me close to the wisdom of these saints, even closer to your truth, so that we may grow as one body in the unity and grace given to each one of us through your cross. Give me ears to listen, a heart to receive, and a hand to serve these precious friends of mine. Give them, each one, the strength to find their voice and the praise to find their lips so that their final chorus sings with a faith that will melody throughout the generations to come. Thank you for the privilege of their companionship along the road. They have been your grace to me, and I am the better for having them in my life. Amen.
Copyright © June 2008 – Elaine Olsen. All rights reserved.
God has been stirring my thoughts for another mini-study to begin in the near future. Stay tuned for further details. Shalom.