February 7, 2021

                                                                                 Rev. John Watts

                                                                                 Nampa First UMC

 

THE GOOD OLD DAYS

Colossians 3:18 – 4:1

 

Once upon a time, a baby boy was born.  His parents were young, just 22 and 23, but they were ready. They already had established a loving, secure home.  They cared deeply for each other and were thrilled to be parents.  They knew their child was a gift from God.  They had him baptized in their church as soon as they possibly could.

In the years that followed, these young parents took their baptismal vows seriously.  They made sure their son grew up in a Christian home.  They took him to church every Sunday and they made daily devotions a part of their family life.  He was not a perfect kid, of course, but he was a good kid.  Even as he entered adolescence, he managed to remember who he was and what God expected of him.

After high school, he was hired at the local supermarket. He would have liked to go to college, but the money just wasn’t there.  He was a hard worker.  He was soon promoted to a managerial position.  With this raise in pay, he was able to leave home and rent his own apartment.  He was 21 years old.

One day a pretty young woman walked into the store.  He noticed her instantly but acted like he didn’t.  When she came to his checkout stand, they smiled nervously and spoke briefly.  Then she left with her groceries.  He was secretly dazzled.

The next week she was back in the store.  After some painful small talk, he blurted out an invitation to have dinner with him.  She smiled and accepted.  On this first date he learned that she too had been raised in a strong Christian home and attended a church near his.  Their faith was one of many things they had in common.  They enjoyed being together.  They could talk for hours about nothing.  It was a storybook romance.

A year later they got married.  On their wedding night they were virgins.  They each had made this promise to God and to themselves years earlier.

The years rolled by.  They had five children – four girls and one boy.  They loved these kids more than they loved themselves.  They raised them as they had been raised, on solid Christian principles.  Their kids weren’t perfect.  The oldest of their daughters went through a difficult time of rebellion, but they prayed for her every day and eventually she came back into the fold.

There were other crises and struggles.  The father had a serious battle with cancer.  The mother suffered from glaucoma.  But their faith kept them steady when the storms of life rolled in.  Even on their darkest night, they were comforted by their hope in life beyond this life.  They felt so very blessed.

It seemed like only yesterday that they spoke their first awkward words in that grocery store.  But time marches on.  Their hair now was gray and their faces wrinkled.  They enjoyed these golden years very much.  They now had ten grandchildren who loved being with Grandma and Grandpa.  They celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.  They were more in love than ever.

But it is appointed unto man (and woman) once to die.  When the end came for him, the family was gathered around his bed.  It was hard to accept but it also felt right.  He had lived a great life.  He had remained true to his values.  And the family he cherished was with him.  They knew that death is a transition to a better place.  With his final words, his addressed each child and grandchild by name and reminded each one of his love.  They he muttered something about angels, and quietly slipped away.

Life went on.  The oldest of his granddaughters fell in love with a high school sweetheart and plans were underway for a big church wedding.  Her husband-to-be had a good job.  He worked at the supermarket.

It’s not a true story, but it could be.  It’s a story of life as it could be, maybe should be, but seldom is any more.

So my title today is “The Good Old Days.”  That title may conjure up memories of television shows.  Like “Ozzie and Harriet” and “Leave in the Beaver.”  Maybe “My Three Sons” and “The Waltons.”  If only we could turn back the clock.

In May of 1955 Good Housekeeping magazine published an article called, “How to be a Good Wife.”  I’ll bet my mom read it.  She was pregnant at the time.  With me.  You will hear this and you will think it is made up.  It is not.  This is what was written and also what was generally accepted 66 years ago:

Have dinner ready.  Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal on time.  This is a way of letting [your husband] know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs.  Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal is part of the warm welcome needed. 

Prepare yourself.  Take fifteen minutes to rest so that you will be refreshed when he arrives.  Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair, and be fresh looking.  He has been with a lot of work-weary people.  Be a little gay and more interesting.  His boring day may need a lift.

Clear away the clutter.  Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives, gathering up schoolbooks, toys, paper, etc.  Then run a dust cloth over the tables.  Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too.

Prepare the children.  Take a few minutes to wash the children’s hands and faces (if they are little), comb their hair, and if necessary change their clothes.  They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part.

Minimize the noise.  At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer, dishwasher, or vacuum.  Try to encourage the children to be quiet.  Greet him with a warm smile and be glad to see him.

Some don’ts:  Don’t greet him with problems or complaints.  Don’t complain if he is late for dinner.  Count this minor compared to what he might have gone through that day.  Make him comfortable.  Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or suggest that he lie down in the bedroom.  Have a cool or warm drink ready for him. Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes.  Speak in a low, soft, soothing, and pleasant voice.  Allow him to relax and unwind.

Listen to him.  You may have a dozen things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time.  Let him talk first. 

Make the evening his.  Never complain if he does not take you out to dinner or to other pleasant entertainment.  Instead try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his need to unwind and relax. 

The goal:  Try to make your home a place of peace and order where your husband can relax in body and spirit.

I thought Super Bowl Sunday might be a good time to share this wisdom from the past.  And by the way, my wife is much more liberated than the woman described in this article, but still her Super Bowl snack table, all for me, is second to none.

A boy was asked, “How do people decide who they are going to marry?”  He said, “You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff.  Like if you like sports, she should like it that you like sports and she should keep the chips and dip coming.”  I could not agree more.

It gets real confusing when we start romanticizing the past.  The good old days were not as good as we remember them to be.  We have selective memories.  There are many things we have lost and are the worst for it and there also are many things that we have lost and good riddance.  Stephanie Coontz was written books about marriage and the family.  She wrote, “Family life for married mothers in the 50’s consisted of the three B’s:  booze, bridge, and boredom.”

There is no time in history we could travel back to in a time capsule and find family life just the way God wants it to be.

And yet there are some hard facts about family life today that need to be faced.  Every year in this country a million children watch as their parents get a divorce.  Another million are born out of wedlock.  That’s 40% of all babies born.

Timothy Carney has written a book called Alienated America.  He has a chapter on marriage that begins with this:

The most profound social change in America over the past two generations has been the retreat from marriage.  The household with a married mom and dad living with their children – the norm two generations ago – becomes less and less common each decade.  In many parts of the country, the child raised by both biological parents is a rarity.

Barbara Dafoe Whitehead tells us that the suffering children endure when their parents don’t stay together is far greater than we once thought.  Children in single-parent families are six times as likely as children in two-parent families to be poor; three times as likely to have emotional and behavioral problems; more likely to be expelled from school; more likely to use drugs; more likely to be in trouble with the law.

We are also learning that the suffering children experience is not easily outgrown.  Neglected children very often grow into adults who have a hard time with relationships and with work.  And if you have a hard time with relationships and with work, you are going to have a hard time.

So finally I come to the Bible passage we read today.  You wondered what I was going to say about it, didn’t you?  This is one that did not make the lectionary.  It is one that is recommended that preachers avoid if at all possible.  “Wives, be subject to your husbands.”  And even worse, “Slaves, obey your masters.”  If you were here today, you would probably be walking out about now.  But since you aren’t here, maybe I can get away with saying a few things about these controversial verses.

First, regarding husbands and wives.  It’s not a one-way street. It does say, “Wives, be subject to your husbands.”  It also says, “Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.”  In a similar passage in Ephesians, it says, “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (5:25).  Christ loved the church so much he gave his life for her.  That’s how much husbands are to love their wives.

Yes, this part of scripture was written during a time when the man was in charge.  Not unlike the 1950’s and that article from Good Housekeeping.  But it is remarkable, given that cultural context, that we are told here that the obligation wives owe husbands and husbands owe wives is mutual.  It’s not all one way.

Then we come to the slavery verse.  Yes, there was slavery in Bible times.  And yes, there are passages of scripture, this is not the only one, that indicate that slavery back then was accepted.

Slavery is wrong.  Always has been.  Always will be.  Slavery is an ugly blight on the history of the United States.  Racism is a terrible sin that is not confined to our past.  It is very much part of our present.  Dealing with it is one of the great challenges of our day.  So please don’t hear what I’m about to say as any kind of excuse or justification.

Thomas Sowell, who happens to be African American, wrote the book, Race and Culture.  He noted that slavery in Bible times was very different from what we think of as slavery.  Slaves back then very often were working off debts they were unable to repay.  It was almost a form of employment.  You were fed and clothed and housed.  It was far from ideal, but it was better than starving.  And slavery back then had nothing to do with your race.

In America, slavery had everything to do with your race.  It came with the assumption that people with black skin are inferior and that people with white skin are superior.  You don’t believe that.  I don’t believe that.  But the legacy of that belief lives on.  Just when we start congratulating ourselves on how far we have come, we are reminded of how far we have yet to go.

Paul did say, “Slaves, obey your masters.”  It’s in the Bible.  We read it today.  He also said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).  It’s the second verse, not the first, that guides us today.

Once upon a time a baby boy was born.  January 18, 1995.  His name was Leonard Fournette.  That was also the name of his dad and his granddad.  So he was Leonard Fournette III.

He grew up in the infamous Seventh Ward of New Orleans. It was a rough neighborhood. There were a lot of bad influences.  One thing Leonard had going for him that a lot of kids didn’t was that his parents were married to each other.  And they stayed married.  There were many moves.  There were many struggles.  But their kids came first.

At one point Leonard’s dad got mixed up with the wrong crowd.  He was shot twice in the stomach and nearly killed in a drive-by shooting.  He was in the hospital overnight, but the next day, on crutches, he showed up at his son’s football game.  Leonard was 9 years old, and big, and fast.

When he was 10, Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans.  His grandfather was killed.  His family found dry ground on a freeway overpass.  That’s where they lived for five days and four nights.

Leonard remembers those days.  Living on the bridge.  Seeing dead people in the water.  Just going to stores trying to survive, stealing food.  It kind of makes you stronger than what you really were.

Leonard kept playing football.  And he kept getting better.  When he was 12, parents circulated a petition to get him banned from the league.  He was too big.  He was too good.  When he graduated from high school, every college program wanted him.  Louisiana State got him.  He played three years of college ball before he decided he was ready to turn pro.  He was the fourth pick in the 2017 NFL draft, six picks ahead of a quarterback out of Texas Tech named Patrick Mahomes.

Perhaps you know that 21 years ago, back in 2000, the 199th pick in the NFL draft was a quarterback from the University of Michigan named Tom Brady.

This afternoon Tom Brady, Leonard Fournette, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be taking on Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl.  It should be a good game.  I will be watching.  And if I’m lucky, Helen will keep the chips and the dip coming.

 

God, some of us care about the football game this afternoon.  Some of us couldn’t care less.  We are grateful that you care about us.  We’ve been thinking about the way things used to be.  We’ve been realizing that some things were better and some things were not as good in the past.  The good old days were not necessarily as good as we might think they were.  You want us to live in the present.  You want us to love each other in our families.  You want us to love those especially whose family life is not good.  You want us to include those who so often get excluded, crossing every line that separates and divides, remembering that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for we are all one in you, in your love, and in your Son, Jesus Christ.  Amen.