Written by Mary Rearick Paul
From her column Dwelling with God
I recently had the privilege of taking a trip to Scotland. In addition to our sightseeing, it was important for me to land in a few places that were significant to my maternal grandparents. As I walked the streets of Glasgow, I pondered some of the stories about them that had been passed down to me and my extended family. They met through their engagement in street missions and their friendship deepened while they attended the Sunday evening services held at the Parkhead Church of the Nazarene. Their study of scripture and theology was honed by teachings and the practices of the church. We were able to stop at a couple of churches where my grandfather ultimately served as pastor and where my grandmother excelled at Bible teaching.
While they both passed away before I had a chance to know them, the example of their faith and trust in God has been passed down to the generations that followed. And so, this begs the question “What essentials of my Christian faith and spiritual practice do I wish to pass on to those who follow me?” and “How best do I do that in an age where weekly church attendance and traditions are so different from those of my own upbringing?”
My grandfather came to know Christ when he and some friends decided to visit a Sunday night service at a small Free Methodist Church, not due to a spiritual hunger, but to mock the “holy rollers” they expected to see and ridicule. Once there, however, he saw a group of young women he recognized from the mill where he worked. The plan to make fun of the service was quickly abandoned because of my grandfather’s deep respect for who these women were, how they lived their lives, and how they treated others at the mill.
I am not arguing for a return to what was once a full weekly schedule of church events and gatherings. The world has changed, and the complexities of people’s schedules do not have room for that kind of engagement. And yet, this shift makes it all the more important for us to assess the message our lives communicate. In a deeper sense, we must review whether our claims of being disciples of Jesus Christ are truly the center focus of our words and actions.
If my grandfather could spend an afternoon with me today, I can make a safe guess as to what would and wouldn’t be considered essential to pass on to me. I don’t think his thoughts about pierced earrings, TV watching on Sundays, or his political convictions from the 1950s would form the basis of what his heart would be burning to share with me. It would be his love for Christ, his trust in God’s provision, and how his life was deeply formed by the study of scriptures.
My hope and prayer are that the words of my mouth and the witness of my life would attest to:
- God’s great love and the hope that is found in God’s commitment to be with us, for us, in us and between us (all of us).
- The good news of the incarnation, of Christ’s sacrificial love, of the breadth and depth of forgiveness available in the name of Jesus.
- The great hope that is ours through the power of the Holy Spirit to transform, renew, cleanse, and empower.
- The spiritual practices that form and re-form the people of God: prayer, meditation on God’s word, gathering for worship, sharing in communion, sabbath rest.
- The call as a disciple of Christ to love God with all their heart, mind, body, and soul; love their neighbors as themselves, doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God.
My renewed commitment is to ask with brutal honesty: Are these practices and beliefs evident in my walking, conversing, spending, and social media postings? Does anyone find my life with Christ meaningful, deep, or winsome?
My prayer is to be found faithful like my grandparents and the young women who worked in the mill. A song sung by Steve Green from the 80s is still a constant prayer of mine: “May all who come behind us find us faithful.”
Rev. Mary Rearick Paul, D.Min., is vice president of spiritual development at Point Loma Nazarene University.
 Matthew 22:37-39, Micah 6:8
 Jon Mohr, © Copyright 1987 Birdwing Music.