Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2017
Texts: 1 Peter 1:1, 2; John 3:16; Ezekiel 33:11; 1 Peter 1:3-21; Leviticus 11:44, 45; 1 Peter 1:22-25
The first surprise for brothers Seth, Ian, and Todd Lerner came when their panhandler cousin, Howard Frank, drowned in a Brooklyn canal. The second came when they laid eyes on the inheritance he left them. A recent report on the reality show “Strange Inheritance” revealed nearly 2 million photographs of movie stars dating back to the 1950s, jammed into storage units in Coney Island. Lucille Ball, Charo, John Wayne, Elizabeth Montgomery, Elvis Presley, Farrah Fawcett—you name it, Frank had it. Some estimate that the collection is worth $10 million.
As a teenager, Frank wrote Hollywood studios for pictures from his favorite TV shows: Leave It To Beaver, I Love Lucy, Batman, and The Lone Ranger. Soon he was buying photos at New York swap meets and flea markets where he befriended talent agent Fred Westbrook. “Howie was, one might say, an idiot savant,” says Westbrook. “He was a walking encyclopedia on the history of television.”
Frank made so much money selling the photos that his father let him drop out of school to do it full-time. They named the business “Personality Photos” and ran it out of their house. “The pictures were everywhere. On the bed, under the bed, turn the oven off, put ‘em in the oven,” recalls Westbrook. “But boy, what a treasure trove. Howie could walk into major publications and say, ‘Hey, I have all these archives,’ cause nobody had what he had,” says Westbrook. By 1990 he was raking in over $200,000 per year.
Then suddenly the Internet wiped out Personality Photos. Frank lived off his savings for several years, but ultimately landed on the streets. “He always looked disheveled,” says Ian. “He wore the same clothes over and over again. He did not bathe. He was afraid of water.”1
It’s probably better to be the recipient of an inheritance, rather than the benefactor since the giver has to die! Even the recipient, however, will one day be the giver. This week’s lesson looks at an inheritance that never goes away.
Peter begins his letter by addressing it to believers scattered across the realm—strangers, pilgrims in foreign lands. Sunday’s lesson calls them exiles, and exiles are generally people who have lost everything. Imagine their surprise to learn they have received “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4 NIV). Not only do they have an imperishable inheritance, Peter reveals that they are not strangers forgotten by God. He calls them God’s elect. Only God’s children inherit God’s riches.
The Lerner brothers say they will honor Frank’s wish for a headstone inscribed with a quote from his all-time favorite show: “Ride on, Lone Ranger. Ride on forever." We could inscribe ours from 1 Peter 1:9, “Claiming my eternal inheritance by faith, the salvation of my soul.”
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