(Written on Easter Sunday)
Grandmothers are special people. I spent the early part of my childhood growing up with and being nurtured by my grandmother. One of the legacies she has left me is her strong faith. In fact my first experience of God was through her. I remember her dedication to her faith and the Anglican Church. She was on the choir, a member of the mother’s union and faithfully attended church every Sunday. Jesus was the answer to every problem. There was a worship or gospel song for every situation. On Sundays we could only play or listen to worship music on the radio. We went to Sunday school without fail except when ill and we had to read our bible and pray before bed-time. Our faith was not a mere add-on but a way of life.
Recently one of my cousins reminded me of what she used to look forward to at church i.e. my grandmother treating us with slices of buttered Jamaican hard-dough bread and icy mints as treats to keep us still in church – not that we made much noise as we were well-behaved children.
Yet my grandmother struggled with her faith especially the Anglican tradition – its system of bureaucracy. So much so that she decided for a while to attend the local Baptist church. She never gave up on her Anglican tradition though and returned after . Today you can find the graves of my grandparents in our local Anglican church. One of our family traditions is to visit my grandparent’s graves at St James Anglican church whenever I visited Jamaica.
I am wondering if I have probably inherited not only my grandmother’s faith but her struggles with the Anglican Church. Easter Sunday was my first visit to church after 3 weeks following some previous disappointments. A friend advised me that I needed to step back into an Anglican church to fully deal with my anger and to be healed.
As I sat there watching the various things being put in place prior to the commencement of the service, I wondered if God really worry about whether we have candles, what the priest wear, if the cross is set in the right place, all these trimmings that we concentrate on before worship. A spiritual director once said to me, the Christian life is easy, it is us who make it complicated.
Do we invest our energy into all these preparation for a Sunday service and amidst all this we missing out on true worship? Are we so caught up in the doing that we miss time to be fully in God’s presence? Do we miss the people around us who may be struggling, who are in need of a friendly smile or welcome?
As we went through the service sheet, proclaiming our faith, saying the Gloria, renewing our baptismal vows; amidst my skepticism and questioning I began to value even more the tradition handed down to me by my grandmother.
Paul said to Timothy, I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. (2 Timothy 1:5)
And faith is not only about tradition. I always smile when people announce that they are a pastor’s kid (PK) or their parents are vicars or missionaries as if to suggest that qualifies their Christian faith or guarantees them a place in heaven. It’s about being loyal to the teachings of the gospel in word and deed. Paul did not only encourage Timothy to rely on his inherited faith but in chapter 2 of 2 Timothy he urge him ..”study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth, to avoid things that will lead to ungodliness but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace.”
Paul went on to tell Timothy “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)
‘Anyone’ means friend, family, fellow Christians even leaders. These groups of people can become stumbling blocks unlike Paul who remind and encourage this young leader to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in him through the laying on of his hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1: 6 -7)
And so I am also learning to guard the deposit first entrusted to me by my grandmother as well as the encouragement from great spiritual directors and godly friends, to fan into flame my faith, never letting anyone despise or discourage me from it. The church may be deeply steeped in their traditions. We may like our crosses empty, a caucasian shepherd and our congregation consisting of certain kinds of people but it is the shield of faith that is sure to guard us against the arrows of the evil one (Eph. 6:16) . And when all else including the church fails, God never fails!
Romans 8:31-39 remind us that nothing can separate us from His love. Nothing! Neither trouble nor calamity, nor persecution, nor hunger, nor destitution, nor danger, nor being threatened with death.
And so I will carry on persevering in the faith handed down to me by my grandmother and which came out of an Anglican tradition; being confident of this, that he who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)