Thursday, October 22, 2009
The Preacher’s Corner
Grandma Reid always remembered the Sabbath
In the picture that accompanies this column, the lady rolling the dice is Grandma Reid, the only great-grandmother I ever had. Grandma Reid was not really my great-grandmother; she was my cousin Bill’s. But because I was the only child of older parents and their grandparents had passed away long before I was born, Grandma Reid functioned for me in a great-grandparently role. As you can see from the picture, she always had room for one more child, and I adored her.
Grandma Reid was a fun kind of person. Appropriately separated by age and dignity, we would never have thought of misbehaving in her presence, but she also delighted to enter our play, and as I recall she was a serious competitor in Monopoly games. She seemed to call forth the good qualities in the people who surrounded her. The world was a better place for her presence in it.
Like many elderly ladies of that era, Grandma Reid had no home of her own. In my childhood, she had sold her home and divided her time among her daughters, paying each of them long “visits” at stated intervals of the year. It must have been hard to give up one’s domicile and depend on the kindness of adult children, but such thoughts never entered the minds of us children who looked forward to her seasonal arrivals.
Grandma Reid — her real name was Lizzie Murdock (Mrs. Frank H.) Reid — was born in Orrville, Ohio — the place where Smuckers jam is made. I think of her every time I see their commercial! How she got to Mississippi is a part of the story I never heard.
She was a noted Bible teacher in the Presbyterian Church. When she would come to my town (Cleveland) she would always give a seminar for the Women of the Church. I have a photo of her standing outside the Presbyterian Church in Tallaluh, La., which she loved. That little church owes a great deal to her labors, though there are probably few today who remember those times so many years ago.
One of Grandma Reid’s great gifts was a little book she wrote in 1951 and entitled “Story of the Bible,” which she wrote and had published so each of her grandchildren could have a copy. It is the summary of a lifetime of study and teaching.
I am looking at our family’s copy as I write. With all my years in college and seminary studies of religion, I still cannot point to a better brief summary of the Bible and its teaching than the little book Grandma Reid gave me when I was just a little boy. At the time, I could hardly understand it, and valued it just because she presented it to me. But through the years I have read it over and over with ever-deeper appreciation. If I had the means, I would give a copy to each child in my congregation, in the hope that they would take its truths to heart.
Here is a sample of what Grandma Reid said. (Remember, she wrote more than half a century ago, so our present sensitivities to gender-inclusive terminology had not yet become an issue): “Remember the Sabbath; it is the most important; it must not be forgotten; it must be observed every seventh day.
“Someone has said, ‘It implies there was something in God upon which the Sabbath was founded. He was refreshed by the Sabbath. There is a “need” deep in our nature. Indeed it runs through all creation. So soon as matter in any form is passed into the service of man, this law appears. Machinery, the animal kingdom, and the human all need time to rest.
“Yes, Sabbath rest and change are a necessity. Wherever it is denied, man retrogrades. The Sabbath saves from routine and so gives health and mental vigor. Six days were given for the development and care of the physical and mental, and one for the nurture of the spiritual. Man is spiritual, as well as physical and intellectual, only the spiritual is the supreme part of man.
“The day is to be kept holy. To many it is a rest or recreation without giving the spiritual a chance.
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