Mary Kassian: I loved thunderstorms when I was a little girl, though we only got a few of them each summer in western Canada where I grew up. But whenever I heard the skies begin to clap and rumble, I’d quickly go and grab a blanket and head outside.
There was a narrow strip of dry concrete just outside the front door where the overhang of the roof kept it dry and kept the rain from falling. There I nestled into the corner and tucked myself in and settled down to watch the show.
Sometimes I’d stay in that cocoon for hours, fascinated by the jagged light flashes that would split open the sky. After each flash, I’d count, “One, one thousand; two, one thousand; three, one thousand,” until the inevitable rumble interrupted my tally.
My mom would usually poke her head out of the door to check on me, and she’d give me a big mug of steaming hot chocolate. And, if I was lucky, there’d be a big, puffy marshmallow floating in the froth.
The spectacle of lightning absolutely amazed me. To me, it was better than any New Year’s Eve fireworks display. I was wowed!
I recall one big lightning storm that fired down hail stones the size of golf balls, and some of them, the size of hard balls. I thought it was hilarious. I went out to my dad’s garage and threw on a raincoat, threw on his hard hat, and took a metal garbage can lid as a shield, and I sprinted around the yard collecting specimens. (laughter.) I insisted that we store the large ones in the freezer for months so I could show them off to my friends and brag about all my exploits.
In retrospect, my attitude was rather callow. Have you ever heard that word? Callow? It means immature or inexperienced. A callow is a young bird that’s just hatched and is bald. It hasn’t grown any feathers yet. I was naïve. I didn’t grasp the immense power of lightning, and I didn’t appreciate that it could be dangerous, even deadly.
Years later, while camping in the mountains, I found that out. I was caught in a horrific thunderstorm. The lightning and thunder were violent and incessant. There was no counting between the flashes and the boom—ear-splitting booms. Water streamed into my tent. The wind threatened to rip it from its pegs. I scrambled to collect all my water-logged gear and evacuate.
As I crawled out of the collapsing canvas, a massive bolt of lightning struck a tree nearby sending fire and sparks erupting. The bark was exploding and branches were catapulting to the ground.
That was the first time in my life I was scared of lightning—first time that lightning frightened me. It was so big and mighty. I was so small and powerless.
After that night, I wasn’t a little callow bird anymore. I had grown some feathers. My attitude toward thunderstorms had matured from one of mere admiration to include fear, awe, and deep respect.
I think that Christians in this culture often have a callow attitude towards the Lord. We love Him, but we don’t fear Him. We’re entertained, but we don’t stand in awe. We call Him friend, but we don’t respect Him as Lord.
Fear, awe, and respect are all synonyms for the virtue I want to discuss this session—reverence.
Older women, likewise, are to be reverent in behavior (Titus 2:3).
Now, the dictionary defines reverence as a feeling or an attitude of deep respect. Older women are to be deeply respectful.
If I were to ask you, “What’s the most important virtue for women?”
You might say, “Well, to be kind.” Or some of you might say, “To be loving.”
I doubt that many of you would say, “To be deeply respectful.”
The Greek word Paul uses in verse 3 is really interesting. This is the only place it occurs in the whole New Testament. It’s a compound word, so it’s made up of two other words. The first part means "sacred," and it’s derived from the word for temple. The second part means "fitting or proper or appropriate."
So literally, then, reverence means temple appropriate or sacred appropriate.
Priests who served in the temple needed to remember that they were performing sacred tasks in the presence of a holy God. They had to follow the rules. They had to exercise proper respect for the Holy Place, the Ark of the Covenant, the Mercy Seat, the Bread of the Presence, the sacrifices, the offerings. And priests who were careless or profane risked judgment or even death. As temple servants, they needed to conduct themselves in reverent fear.
They needed to take God seriously, keeping Him in mind as they went about their daily tasks. And many of those tasks were mundane—trimming candles, mixing spices for incense, cutting up meat, lighting fires, cleaning up ashes. And yet God wanted them to maintain a reverent, deeply respectful, temple appropriate attitude.
And even if the chore were as mundane as sweeping up some bread crumbs, the assigned priest needed to recognize that He was standing in God’s holy presence, and that his work was a sacred service for the Lord.
Sacrificial system of the temple was no longer necessary after Jesus offered His life as the sacrifice for our sins. We no longer need to go to the temple of God. Rather, we are the temple of God. If you are a follower of Jesus, you are the temple of God, and God’s Spirit dwells in you. Isn’t that amazing?!
We are to live like we are in a temple because we are the temple, and that means that every moment is sacred, and every task is sacred. Whether we’re balancing a spreadsheet, shopping with friends, cleaning the toilet, or looking after trying to deal with a flat tire, the Lord wants us to remember that we’re engaged in sacred service. He wants us to exhibit temple appropriate behavior all of the time, not just when we’re in church or with Christian friends.
There is no line that divides up your life between the secular and the sacred. Everything you do and think and say is done in the presence of the living God. The movies you choose, the sites you peruse, the pleasures you seek, the company you keep, the stones you throw, the attitudes you show, everything you think and say and do is done in the presence of the living God.
Are you a deeply respectful woman? Is your behavior temple appropriate? Do you go about your day with a profound awareness that every moment is a sacred moment and every task the Lord has given you to do is a sacred duty?
Oh how we need a revival of reverence.
There is a reason Paul sites reverence in conjunction with maturity. It’s not that younger women don’t need to be reverent. They do. It’s just that reverence sometimes takes a while to develop.
Reverence is a mark of maturity. And this is just as true in our spiritual development as it is in a child’s social development.
Have you ever noticed how much energy and effort and repetition it takes to teach a toddler to be respectful and not disrespectful? (laughter.) Those of you who have toddlers are going, “Oh, yeah!”
My sons have toddlers, one a two-year old, one a three-year old, and they’re constantly coaching this two-year old and three-year old girls to be respectful. “You must be respectful. Do not speak to me with a step-sister voice. Speak to me with a princess voice.” (laughter.)
My son stepped in and sternly scooped up his daughter when she blatantly disrespected her mama at the dinner table. She didn’t get any cake at the birthday party that day.
A child who’s grown up in a home where respect is modeled and consistently taught has a much better chance of becoming a well-mannered, productive adult than a child who has not.
And the same principle rings true in the spiritual realm. A young woman who is in relationships where respect for the Lord is modeled and taught has a much better chance of maturing into a reverent, older woman who will in turn be equipped to pass that on to the next generation.
I think back over the years to all the older, deeply respectful women who showed me what it means to live 24/7 in the presence of the Holy.
I think of Diane who mentored me through high school and part way into college. She taught me that my studies mattered to God, that the hours I spent with my papers and books were just as holy and important as the hours spent leading a campus Bible study.
I think of Lorna, my professional colleague, who remembered God in each moment, and it was so evident in the kindness and respect and care with which she treated patients at the rehab hospital where we worked. The moment Lorna entered a room, that room became a sacred space.
I think of my own mom—six kids. And then when I had three sons of my own, three energetic boys, one with special needs, and I was overwhelmed by the sleep-deprived grind of changing diapers and sopping up spills and stepping on Legos and breaking up fights, and just trying to survive the day. She reminded me often that my vocation as a mother was a holy one.
I think of Ann who excused herself from our very important meeting to go to the window and wave goodbye to her husband, which had been her habit for more than forty years, as he left for work.
I think of Chris who’s passion for training women’s ministry leaders is infectious.
And Kay, who’s over eighty years old, whose enthusiasm for teaching women how to study the Word of God has not faded.
And Susan—I want to be like her when I grow up.
I could go on—Norba Robinson, Pearl Purdy, June Kerr, Iris Beal—all of them deeply respectful, godly women who adorn the beauty of the gospel and profoundly influenced my life.
Some of these women have gone home to be with Jesus, as I will someday. I hope I’ve done them proud. And I hope I’ve done my part to pay it forward—woman to woman, generation to generation, life to life.
This past summer I did something I hadn’t done for years. When I heard those skies begin to clap and rumble, I grabbed a blanket, boiled a cup of tea, and went outside on my front porch to sit under the overhang to enjoy the show. And it was spectacular!
I watched in awe, overcome with the thought that the Almighty God, Creator of heaven and of earth, who thunders from the heavens and lights up the sky with His power, abides in me and is with me. It was a sacred moment, as is this moment, and is every other moment of our lives.
May we be deeply respectful women who fear Him, who tremble at His Word, who bow in awe of Him, and who revere Him in everything that we say and everything that we do. Ladies, let’s start a revival of reverence.
Holy God, You are the Awesome God, O, Most High, and we’re overwhelmed that we are able to come into Your presence and address You as Father.
Father, I pray that You will give us just a deep and profound sense of who You are that we may fear Your name, that when we speak a word that is unkind, we may know that it is in the presence of the living God, and may we repent of it.
That when we’re tempted to be quick or rash or impulsive, that we remember we’re in the presence of the living God.
Every moment, every day, 24/7, we may be godly women who are growing up and growing more and more reverent day by day. We pray this in the precious name of Jesus, amen.