My church peers and I have lived for more than seven decades. We've attended every Bible study ever written and have probably taught almost as many as we've attended. We've served on every committee. We've made the Bible come alive to legions of children and young people in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. We've sung in all the choirs through Sunday worship services, Christmas cantatas, Easter cantatas, and God & Country days. We've played the piano and organ for generations of weddings and funerals and have offered our services teaching members' children how to read 4 notes at a time in the hymnal and use the pedals. We've chaperoned youth retreats, bonfires, wiener roasts, hayrides, and volunteer mission trips. We've brought 9" by 13" casseroles, cakes, congealed salads, and fried chicken to countless covered dish suppers. We've rededicated ourselves at every revival, and we've tithed even when the numbers didn't appear to add up. We have the wisdom that comes along with living, observing, learning from mistakes, and sitting at the feet of elders who led by example. We know things. We can do things. We want to help our churches grow. We want to help younger members avoid pitfalls and costly errors in judgment. We want to be the biggest cheerleaders and encouragers for the young whipper-snappers who are taking positions of leadership. (Yes, I just used the word "whipper-snappers.") We've reached the point where we can make deeply meaningful contributions to the Body of Christ.
Yet, we are often overlooked and ignored.
I served on a Music Minister Search Committee a number of years ago and remember asking the candidate we were interviewing about his approach and philosophy for music ministry in the church. His answer has stayed with me ever since: "Even if a person only plays the harmonica, I want him/her to know we can find a place to use that talent in the music of the church."
Now THAT is a music minister with an inclusive, bring-your-gifts-and-let-us-use-them attitude.
Yes, we have our preferences. Yes, we have our opinions. But, we're much more likely to be open to other preferences and opinions if ours are a part of the mix.
I've told you before that I enjoy the writings of Sean Dietrich. This post he wrote recently really struck a chord with me. It's called "Old Hymns," and you can read it by clicking here. It's partly about the value of old hymns, but it's even more about the lady he remembered who played them. Oh, how I hope to be remembered in a similar way.
1 Timothy 4:12 says -- "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity."
Is it possible that the verse could also apply to people who are seven decades old and more? Don't you think it's biblical that we not look down on a person because he/she is old -- in chronological terms, of course?
Here are some verses that appear to indicate such a truth:
Job 12:12 -- "Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?"
Job 32:7 -- "I thought, ‘Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom.’"
Psalm 92:12-14 -- "The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green,"
Psalm 71:18 -- "Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come."
Ask us questions. Ask our opinions. Ask for our wisdom gained from years of experience.
Allow us to use our gifts right alongside the drums and guitars. Put us on committees (along with younger people) making important decisions regarding the future of the church. Don't give us busy work or meaningless jobs just "so we'll feel useful." That is such a waste of great resources.
Here is the front of the birthday card I received from my firstborn daughter Laura. Inside it reads: "Anyone who says you're old is a big dumb liar who's dumb." :) She knew I'd love it.
And remember my friend Talitha I wrote about last week? Here's a photo of her holding her 9th grandchild just a few days after her 71st birthday. Does she look old to you?? If so, you need glasses badly. (Talitha, I didn't ask your permission to use this photo, but I hope it's okay. It's really a great one).
One day our minds and bodies will fail us. Our sight will dim, our hearing will require aids, and our hands will become gnarled. But that day is NOT today.