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Thursday, February 9, 2023

Red and Elsie
Red and Elsie, along with Brooksyne

"Old Disciples"

Message summary: Do you know some old disciples? I hope so! Let them know you appreciate them and invite their input in your life. Are you an “old disciple?” God’s not finished using you on this side, not till He takes you to your eternal home. And even then the life you lived continues to inspire others toward faithfulness until their earthly journey is over. That should make us all want to stay faithful!

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“I was young and now I am old” (Psalm 37:25). “There went with us also certain of the disciples of Caesarea, and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge” (Acts 21:16). “I then, as Paul–an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus” (Philemon 1:9b).

Throughout our Christian journey we have been enriched by the variety of people God has brought into our lives.  We have met a lot of people of all ages, with different backgrounds, from various locales and each has a story, although some may have more interesting stories than others. Today we recall Red, a man who is now with the Lord. We met him and his wife Elsie while serving an interim role about 15 years ago at a church in the Harrisburg area.

During the Second World War he served in the Navy in the Pacific while still a teenager. His aircraft carrier (the Hornet CV8) was sunk by kamikaze pilots, and he, along with three other men, clung to floating debris for seventeen days prior to being rescued.

He was a bus driver after returning from the service and drove for 55 years without a single accident. In his late twenties he accepted the Lord as His Savior. He later experienced heartache when his first wife died leaving him with a teenage son to raise. Sometime later he met Elsie, a Christian woman, while he was driving her tour bus. After a time of courtship he and Elsie married and at the time we met them they had been husband and wife for over thirty years and were older.

All through the history of the church there have been those who stay faithful through the course of life and thus become like Mnason in our second text, who is described as an “old disciple”. Its sobering to recognize how quickly life passes, but it is also a great reminder to become pillars of the faith, which is especially evident in our service to the local church.

Mnason barely made it into the Scriptural record. His name only appears once in the Bible, here in the daily text. I’m intrigued by the phrase “old disciple”. Luke felt it fitting to call our attention to his age. (He would have a hard time as a journalist in America with such an “insensitive” description!  We like to use more gentle terms such as senior citizen, elderly, older.)

But the KJV is blunt and accurately describes him. (The Greek word for “old” is archaios from which we get the English “archaic.”) Mnason's name means “remembering” and the older you are the more you have to remember while at the same time finding it harder to remember! He hosted Paul during his final trip to Jerusalem in 60 A.D. We have no idea of his spiritual background, but he was from Cyprus where Paul had earlier done missionary work and perhaps they had me then.

We need to honor and value “old disciples”. Each generation has them and our lives are richer because of them. They have a great deal to “remember” as they’ve experienced so many of life’s trials and God’s providential care. They teach us as we observe the challenges they encounter and their response to them. Speaking of life’s trials Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4 (NLT), "We serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be obvious in our dying bodies".

As human beings we recognize that we all live in “jars of clay” that physically weaken over the years, but our spirit grows stronger as it is being renewed by the resurrected power of Christ. I have a feeling that Paul and his associates benefited from the time they stayed with Mnason as he was “remembering” with Paul the times God had done great works in his life.  After all, oral tradition is a great way to teach and inspire others in their work of spreading the Gospel.

What about you today? Do you know any old disciples? I hope so! Let them know you appreciate them and invite their input in your life.

Are you an “old disciple?” God’s not finished using you on this side, not till He takes you to your eternal home. And even then the life you lived continues to inspire others toward faithfulness until their earthly journey is over. That should make us all want to stay faithful and even desire the title of "old disciple" (which we will all have if we stay alive)!

Be encouraged today, (Hebrews 3:13)

Stephen and Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, the light and power of Your glory now shines within our jars of clay, that is, in our weak and aging bodies. You plan it this way so that all can see that any glorious power seen in us is not our own but from You. In the midst of our ups and downs, we pray that our bodies constantly share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in us. That is why we never give up. Though our mortal bodies may be perishing, our spirits can be renewed daily. Though we suffer unending discomfort and troubles the time is short when compared to the time of eternity, and on the up-side they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever! As we grow old we seek to be stalwarts of the faith in our homes, churches and communities. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

(Prayer adapted from 2 Corinthians 4:7,10,16,17)

We have met and continue to meet a lot of "old disciples" and want to recall several today:

Brooksyne's friend
While visiting Tulsa this past October I met with people I hadn't spoken to since I was a young child including this dear woman, Mary Ragsdale, a former neighbor to my parents and our pastor's wife when I was quite small. Mary is 99 years old and I surprised her with a visit. When I told her my name she paused a few moments and then responded, "You're Brooklyn's daughter!" She was right and we were both delighted to reacquaint ourselves! Mary went on to talk about my folks, we shared about our mutual love for the Lord, and ended our visit with prayer. She turned 100 in November.

Tracy and Beulah Sutherland
We met Tracy and Beulah Sutherland in the first small country church we pastored north of Springfield, MO right after we got married. They were such a blessing to us. Beulah played the piano and Tracy the violin. They were in their 90's at the time. Photo is with a very young Brooksyne during the "big hair" days!

Veda Shibilo with Ester 6/17/16
Veda Shibilo was my secretary while pastoring in Taunton, MA (93-2000). She was a tremendous gift to the congregation having attending since she was a child. She was also Ester's Sunday School teacher and Ester adored her. This was taken about four years before her homegoing in 2020.

Jim and Dorothy Schmidt
We met Jim and Dottie Schmidt at a conference in Boston in 2000. Jim worked for Send, a mission agency, for a number of years. Dottie was very active in Christian Women's ministries. They are from Ocean City, New Jersey but moved to Lancaster County six years ago to Calvary Homes, so we are in touch with them regularly.

Peg and Bunny O'Hare
We met Bunny and Peg O'Hare at the same conference when Bunny was a chaplain to truck drivers and worked at a chapel in that area. They also moved to Lancaster County shortly after we did and we remain close friends and co-workers in the chaplaincy ministry. They both stay active in ministry.
Ron and Bonnie Hoover 12/19/19
We met Ron and Bonnie Hoover over 15 years ago at a local Convene meeting for business leaders. Ron started a Convene group after his retirement from the business world and they both continue to have a mentoring ministry impacting many and that includes us.

Haddon Robinson at Central Market 1/18/13
Haddon Robinson and his wife lived here in the Lancaster area during his retirement years. We have appreciated his ministry for many years through RBC Ministries. Many of you have read his materials or heard him on the Radio Bible Class. I first met him at a course at Gordon-Conwell some thirty years ago. He was an overcomer having dealt with Parkinson's Disease the last several years. Here is an example of his teaching (video). Recommended for all preachers! He was in his eighties when he preached this message. (Photo above was taken when we saw him at the Lancaster Central Market several years before his death in 2017.)

We met Ross and June Morrison at our current church. They are the parents of our friend, Tim, whom we have known for many years. Tim is a great encourager and his dad is as well. Ross will turn 100 this March!

Weber couple photo 7/3/22
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