Grandpa Ed was my Mother’s father, and he lived to be 103. He was quite “with it” up until the very end! And as exceptional as that is, it is not the most remarkable thing I remember about him. Grandpa was an American Baptist Minister; he held several pastorates early on, and then spent the majority of his career planting churches across the United States. He had retired from serving by the time I was born... but Pastors never really retire! He would and could talk at length on a wide range of topics.
Grandpa decided that for his 100th birthday he would preach at his church. My Mom was pretty nervous, because Grandpa would not share what his intended topic would be. The Bible is a big book and there were any number of obvious topics like Love, Forgiveness, or Redemption. But none of those made the cut.
On the occasion of his 100th birthday, in 2001, Grandpa chose to preach from “the little book of Ruth” as he called it. The “modern problem” he addressed was that of racism - you read that right, RACISM. For you see Ruth describes the lineage of King David, including the fact that his great-grandmother was a Moabite, and David was not a pure blood Jew. He went on to provide more context from that time, including the types of persecution to which mixed race people were subject. My hundred-year-old Grandfather described this as “a terrible, terrible thing…It is not right that a follower of God should be one who so lives his life and discriminates against his fellows.”
King David’s great-grandfather selected his wife and “found her acceptable on the basis of character and personality. And that in the end is the basis on which we should judge all people, whatever their race or color or creed.” Right on Grandpa! He finished his sermon with the scripture about the Good Samaritan and the following charge: “Go you and do likewise. Maintain an attitude in which you are always willing to help and in which you consider the worth of an individual on the basis of his character and spirit, and not upon the basis of race or any other type of regulation. So, we come ourselves to recognize that we ourselves must judge others not on the basis of their differences, but on the basis of their quality and their needs and their willingness to be human like ourselves.”
And then he sat down and took a little nap!