The Wednesday night and Thursday morning Bible Studies have spent this past fall studying Elijah. We have this beautiful Elijah stain glass window here in the sanctuary, so we wanted to learn more about this ancient prophet. The last chapter of our study was called Legacy. Elijah, through his faithfulness to God, through his work proclaiming people to return to God, he left a legacy to future generations, including us, here in this place. The legacy of Elijah connects to the role and purpose of John the Baptist, but his legacy is also passed along through people naming their children Elijah, and it just so happened that we had a pastor named Elijah Stoddard and that this particular window was dedicated to him, so in a sense, it is a double legacy. A legacy of Elijah the prophet and a legacy of the ministry of Elijah Stoddard. A physical reminder to us of those who came before us to share their faith through ministry.
Our church building is filled with legacies. We could take a tour and learn about those that came before us through the gifts that have been left in their names. Today, I specifically chose Miss Grob as someone that has left us a legacy. I reached out to Sue Anderson to see if she knew Miss Grob or had any history on her and this is what Sue has to share:
Miss Clara Grob was a first grade teacher in Roxbury. She was my first grade teacher in the Franklin school on Meeker St. in Succasunna. She lived on N. Hillside Avenue in Succasunna in a brick home that backyard was along our Cemetery fence. She had lots of bird feeders in her backyard. She would talk about the many birds in her classes. She would give books about birds to her students for example for Christmas. I still have mine. I remember finding it and bringing it to church to show Miss Grob. She was shocked that I still had it like 25 years later.
She was very tall and slender, but hunched over later in life. She wore a hat and dress and walked to church from her home. She always sat in the front on the left in front of the pulpit. She left a pillow to sit on, on her pew. .She had no children or relatives. Her students were her children. She was very generous and left her home to our church. She was a wonderful teacher.
I chose Miss Grob to share today, because more and more, her name is becoming just a name on a fund. A fund that has been our endowment fund, a fund that has been our life raft to help us through difficult years of continuing our ministry despite limited financial resources. When she left her house, she had no idea how her gift would further enhance the work of God’s people, here in this place. Gifts can have a ripple effect, they might be intended for one thing, such as housing an associate pastor, but through prayer and discernment and trusting in God, they can be transformed into other resources for God’s ministry.
Our scriptures are filled with stories of people of faith leaving a legacy to the next generation and these legacy gifts come in all different shapes and sizes. In the story of Hannah, she is barren and she wants a child more than anything else in life. So, as she prays in the temple, she asks God to give her a child, and in response, she will give the child back to God. Her legacy, her way of giving to God for God’s goodness in her life, is to return what she has received, her child. I love the story of Samuel. Samuel, while living in the temple with the priest Eli is called by God to be the first in the line of prophets. Hannah’s gift, her dedicating her son to be a part of the priestly class, specifically a Nazarene, is transformed by God and Samuel’s legacy is even more than his mother’s expectations, he becomes a prophet.
And then we have the story of the woman with the costly nard or perfume. Those gathered together are shocked and surprised when she takes this ointment and pours it out upon Jesus. What could she be thinking? This perfume should have been sold so they could use the money to help the poor. I know I have had those very same thoughts when I wrestle with stewardship decisions. When I was in Kenya, the church I was visiting on Sunday was raising money for a church bus. My thoughts were, you are raising how much money for a bus when there are street children right outside your doors. Couldn’t that money be used to make a difference in the life of these children? We can always make judgements on how we think money should be used rather than how it is being used. So Jesus responds: “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. 7 For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. 9 Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.” Jesus transforms her action into a legacy. Others cannot understand her actions, but Jesus does. Jesus understands that this is what the woman has and out of complete love and compassion and dedication to him, she literally pours out what she has upon him. And as others scold her, Jesus says that she should be remembered always.
How do we pour out our lives for God? How do we dedicate the next generation to knowing our faith? How are we leaving a legacy for the future? And are we willing to leave a legacy that just might look different in the future than what we are expecting? We have legacy gifts left for specific ministries, which is wonderful, but we also need legacy gifts left to be used how the Holy Spirit is calling us to become. In this season of Thanksgiving and Stewardship, how might you prayerfully give to the work and ministry of this church for today and tomorrow, but how might you also give for the future? Miss Grob loved to teach, she loved children, she loved birds, and she must of deeply loved this church and her God. She could have given her estate to Audubon for the protection of birds for the future, she could have given her estate to the school for the continuation of education, but she chose the church. The church must have meant something very personal for her, it must have impacted her life very deeply, and my hope is that we can be that ministry to those gathered here today and for those that will gather in this place fifty years from now. Whether you knew Miss Grob or not, here legacy is making a difference in your life today, as her gift continues to ripple out into this ministry. Amen.