Isaiah 43:1-7, Matthew 6:31-33
I remember the first time it happened to me. I was visiting a club with some friends (for the record, I was the designated driver,) I was the first in line and struggling to get my license out of my wallet. The young man looked at me and said, “Don’t worry ma’am, you don’t need to take your license out.” In essence what he was telling me is that it was quite clear I was well over 21 years of age. When was it for you? Was it the first time someone referred to you as ‘sir’ or ma’am?’ Was it the first time you were not included in an invitation because they just assumed you wouldn’t enjoy something geared for young people? Was it the day you decided you were no longer going to count your grey hairs?
We are touching on a topic that will strike all of us sooner or later. It seems to go along with the topic from a couple of weeks ago about busyness and the fear of not having enough to do to fill our days, because if we are not filling our calendars we are in danger of becoming obsolete. We want to serve God, but it seems we are becoming limited in what we can do or of what others feel we are capable. How can we grow old gracefully while still feeling useful and purposeful for the kingdom of God? How can we fight the loneliness that seeps into our souls?
There is a tendency we have to put limits on people because of their age. Scripture points this out as well. The apostle Paul was encouraging young Timothy to not allow others to despise or ignore him because of his young age. Many immediately discounted David because he was the youngest of the family of brothers. Abraham and Sarah were well beyond the typical age to have children when God worked a miracle on their behalf. Noah was no spring chicken when he was called by God to build an ark. It seems people are much quicker to put limits on what we can do at each age. God often has a completely different vision and vantage point.
Please understand that I do recognize that over time we develop physical limitations to what we can and cannot do. According to my doctor, my roller coaster riding days are over. However I believe we can serve God throughout the whole of our lives. We can feel the peace of purpose at any and every age. Our bungee jumping days may be behind us but that doesn’t mean we can’t be on the bridge holding the camera and snapping the pictures!
You may be wondering what any of this has to do with being a follower of Jesus. We are pretty quick, along with the rest of the world, to discount people based on what we see – grey hair, laugh lines, slower gaits. On the other side of the coin are those of us who are of the grey-haired variety and perhaps we feel as if it’s time for others to step up and do the work of the church. While some may fear being put on the sidelines, others are all too quick to take on the role of observer. We are already claiming the scripture written by Paul about fighting the good fight and winning the race, long before we are looking to depart this world.
I simply do not see any scripture that talks about serving God for a short time. I don’t see anything that says we can do the busy thing during our child-rearing years then turn the reigns over to someone else and never get involved in anything again. Now don’t misunderstand me, I realize all too quickly how I too have had to let go of a few areas of ministry that are physically beyond my capability. I accept the fact that I now have to invest in large-print Bibles! But that doesn’t mean I give up reading or experiencing scripture. At some point I may lose my sight completely, but God will still need to speak to me through scripture. Adapting to the changes around us and within us is a healthy way to strive to experience God at all phases of our lives. We have the reassurance that God remains with us now and always. Isaiah 43:2 says “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.” Perhaps some of the waters and rivers are the changes we experience as we age – but God is not finished with us. We are still loved and cherished by the Creator of the world.
Think back to when you were a teenager – for some of you that wasn’t so long ago; for others, it’s been a while! Remember how you kept looking forward to the day when you would turn 13, then 18, then 21? We couldn’t wait to get older! I believe we spend the first quarter of our lives trying to look older, and the rest of our lives trying to look younger! Life was an adventure back then! There was more to do and see and experience just as soon as we could drive, or date, or be considered an adult. Perhaps we have lost some of our wonder. Maybe we are more afraid of what lies ahead for us then we were during our fearless days. We dread slowing down or having to pass up certain things because we don’t want to be put out to pasture all too soon.
Jesus tells us that we do not need to fear for anything. Jesus reminds us to seek first the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness and all these things will be added to us. When we as a church remember that we are here to serve God and one another, perhaps we can feel the presence of God no matter what our age or condition. Whether we are heartbroken, lonely, discouraged, physically hurting – we are reminded that God has called us by name and we are precious children of God.
There is a story of a woman who had outlived her entire family and was suffering from severe arthritis. She was so bad that to even get out of bed in the morning was a serious challenge. She had loved doing handiwork but could no longer do even the simplest projects. Her vision was going so even reading was difficult. She needed around-the-clock care and was feeling so discouraged because she felt she had nothing left to offer.
Her pastor came to visit and share communion with her. She began to share her frustrations and her concerns. While the pastor prayed with her, he invited her to pray as well. During his visit, he had shared with her the concerns of others in the congregation. One family was recovering from the loss of an unborn child. Another woman was facing major surgery. A man was currently in the hospital suffering from multiple broken bones caused by a work accident. During this time of prayer, the pastor realized this woman’s gift – the gift of prayer. She prayed passionately and fervently for others. Instead of dwelling on her own situation and frustration, she sent prayers to God for the care of others. She was able to realize her strength – her faith in God was restored as she prayed for others.
We may not be able to spend our entire lives doing the same types of ministry we do now, but that does not mean there isn’t something God is calling us to do. We are at our very best when we can reveal the love of God to others in the midst of our own uncertainty. Perhaps our eyes are dimming, or our strength is not as good as it used to be, or our stamina may not be up to par when we compare it to when we were in our twenties, but God is telling us to set aside our cares, realize our passion and love for God that extends beyond human standards, and do all things for the glory of almighty God.
So what can you do for God at this phase of your life in this church in this community? Maybe you can’t handle a weekend retreat with the youth, but maybe you can prepare some snacks for them or lift them in prayer or jot a note of encouragement. Maybe the Spring Fling is too much for you, but perhaps you can help stuff eggs with candy keeping it away from those of us who suffer from a sugar addiction. Perhaps you can’t work outside during our next spring clean-up day, but maybe you can help us organize the Sunday school closet or kitchen pantry so we are better prepared to reach out to our friends and neighbors through VBS and church suppers. Maybe you can’t help us prepare the Lighthouse Shelter dinner but you can come help serve and meet some of our neighbors struggling with homelessness, listen to their stories, and offer words of hope.
We are the church and our neighbors need us. God holds our past, present and future so we do not need to fear what others fear. The peace of God which passes all understanding will guide your hearts and minds as we proclaim the love of God in every way we can. Amen.