By BARBARANNE KELLY|CONTRIBUTOR
My husband and I have moved our family and household several times—from Germany to Pennsylvania to Florida, back to Pennsylvania, and now to Texas— with the number of our possessions growing or whittling according to the situation. We not only carry about our own belongings, but family heirlooms passed down from previous generations. Facing an imminently empty nest, the thought of which of our treasures we will bequeath to which of our children when we downsize further arises occasionally (usually while de-cluttering a closet or attempting to finally clean the garage).
And yet, while there were certain items which I grew up hoping (expecting!) to inherit from my parents and grandparents, I am certain that our own children do not entertain such hopes. Being either minimalists, untethered to a “permanent” address, or of different tastes than we, I understand that Great-grandmother’s china may not appeal to them.
And, I get it. I too balked at certain heirlooms which were assumed upon me. The questions of “Whose was this?” and “Why do we need it?” arose again and again. Housekeeping is a challenge to me, and adding items which need to be dusted and stored—especially considering the number of times we have moved—still doesn’t appeal to me.
We are not unique in this. A recent article posted on the website of the Boston Globe spoke to the dilemma many are now facing.
For 30 years, Pat Fryzel stored her children’s memorabilia, and her grandmother’s, too. But when she and her husband downsized, from a large Winchester home to a two-bedroom Boston town house, there was no room for the American Girl dolls or Nana’s cake plates. So Fryzel asked her grown kids to collect what they wanted.
She was not met with much enthusiasm. “They said, ‘Take a picture and text it to us,’” recalled Fryzel, 64, a retired nurse practitioner.
For generations, adult children have agreed to take their aging parents’ possessions — whether they wanted them or not. But now, the anti-clutter movement has met the anti-brown-furniture movement, and the combination is sending dining room sets, sterling silver flatware, and knick-knacks straight to thrift stores or the curb.
And feelings are getting hurt, as adult children who are eager to minimize their own belongings — and who may live in small spaces, and entertain less formally than their parents did — are increasingly saying “no thanks” to the family heirlooms.
In our book study this week we looked at a different sort of heirloom which the Lord himself has decreed be passed down from one generation to the next.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
“Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.”
God is handing down to us a great treasure: the knowledge of himself through his word and in the person of his Son, and all that he has done for us by grace, because of his great love for us. He has taught us how to live in a manner that pleases him and blesses others, “so that [we] should set [our] hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.” This is made possible only through what he has done for us. This treasure-trove he has given to us in writing, in the Holy Scriptures, but he has also decreed that it be taught from one generation to the next through discipleship in the context of relationships. Discipleship is not merely passing down information, but it is a life-on-life means by which the Lord is building his church.
“Discipleship that takes place within God’s ordained authority structures and that includes equipping women for ministries of community and compassion will invigorate women and the church.
To disconnect Titus 2:3-5 from an understanding of biblical discipleship will reduce this amazing concept to anemic relationships and legalistic behaviorism. We must not take such a minimalist approach to such a magnificent mission. This text is one part of Paul’s strategy for the discipleship, or Christian education, of a congregation. He challenges Titus, and the church of all ages, to guard the truth by equipping the people to show and tell the next generation.”
The Lord of Glory, Creator of the universe, has given us this treasure, and he has given us the means to share it, to transfer it from one generation to the next. This is an heirloom which needs no dusting, no storage space, no shuffling from closet to garage to attic. His truth is stored up in our hearts and minds and as we pass it on, it doesn’t diminish by division, but grows by multiplication. As this truth is shared among a congregation the church is strengthened.
Passing the Treasure On
Sharing the hope and the truth of God’s acts in history isn’t only about looking back. Sharing our hope equips us to look forward.
“Telling the next generation about the past gives hope for the future because it assures them that God is a covenant-keeper.”
To hand these truths and hope by means of discipleship from generation to generation—and, in the context of women’s ministry, from woman to woman—as we minister in Christ’s body, his church, is to participate in his eternal purpose as his wisdom is shown forth in all its manifold glory to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. All is going according to his plan, and he has given us a role in that plan. As Jesus told his assembled disciples before he ascended into heaven:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
We often read the Great Commission through the narrow lens of evangelism, and that is indeed part of it. But it is so much more than that. The life of the church is described here in a nutshell, from the authority by which we are commissioned (his) to the hope by which we are strengthened for our task (his presence, always!).
And so, we ask, “Whose was this?” This is God’s gift, his heirloom to us, transmitted to us down the generations, via that “great cloud of witnesses.” And, “Why do we need it?” We need it so that we may “run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Sisters, let us hold out our hands and our hearts to receive this treasure from one another with joy, always “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,” and when we grasp hold of it, let us turn and share it with those who are coming along behind us.
 Beth Teitell, June 04, 2017, Baby boomers are downsizing — and the kids won’t take the family heirlooms, https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/06/04/baby-boomers-are-downsizing-and-kids-won-take-family-heirlooms/iP0yVeN49gLF55nq47M7gK/story.html
 Deuteronomy 6:4-7
 Psalm 78:1-7
 J. Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt, Women’s Ministry in the Local Church, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006), 117
 Ibid., 118
 Ephesians 3:10-11
 Matthew 28:18-20
 Hebrews 12:1-2