In many Asian cultures older people are highly esteemed and revered, a fact that is periodically touted from some evening news show so that we in America will feel guilty for the disrespect we show our own seniors. In deed, I have felt the deserved twinge of guilt on behalf of our country.
However, in the Christian church where we march to the beat of a different Drummer, we ought to set the bar for treatment of our elderly a bit higher, higher even than that of the Asian cultures. And indeed I believe we do.
Yesterday I had the honor of speaking to the Association of Baptist Ministries with the Aging at their annual meeting in Phoenix. These folks all work with senior adults in various forms – as church leaders, as staff for homes for the aging, at educational institutions, in community agencies, etc. These are the folks on the front line of our effort to show respect and honor to our seniors. Not only that, but they strive to encourage them, equip them for lasting ministries, serve them, make life a little easier and more enjoyable for them, and even challenge them to new heights spiritually.
Speaking before this group got me to thinking about how, in recent years, the churches I’ve been a part of truly have made an effort to honor and minister to senior adults. And in return, these senior adults have continued to bless their churches and communities with service, wisdom, love, and generosity. My own parents, smack dab in the middle of their senior adult years whether they like to admit it or not, have not slowed their service to their church or decreased their generosity to it by one iota. In fact, they are probably more involved than in the past when they were busy with careers and raising a family.
So this week, in honor of our senior adults, is “hats off to seniors week!” That is, it is here on this blog. You won’t find befitting cards at your Hallmark store or anything. But each day you’ll find a post on this blog that highlights a senior adult, provides a few reflections on their lives and ministries, or something seniory.
Before I addressed the conference this weekend, we heard a brief devotional from Steve Bass, my state’s Baptist missionary and a dear friend of my husband’s. I was so impressed by Steve’s words that I knew immediately I wanted to share them with you. Maybe impressed isn’t the right word choice. I was convicted, challenged and pointed in a new direction – backwards.
One of Steve’s main points in his mini-devotional was simply this:
Not all great ideas are new ones. Some of the very best ideas come from the past.
He referred to a book by Mark Shaw called 10 Great Ideas From Church History and simply inferred that perhaps the church, in our commendable effort to move forward, has forgotten to look backward occasionally and review that which was indeed good and worth doing again.
And of course, the main thing we all need to look back and embrace is the cross, as Shaw states in the opening pages of his book. In our efforts to be innovative, forward thinking, progressive and on the cutting edge, we might should realize that “the narrow channel of long-term progress for the church lies in a new engagement with the message of the cross.” If we throw out the old rugged cross in our attempt to make everything more polished and sophisticated, we have thrown out our very purpose for being and, perhaps just as importantly, the very thing that we have to offer the world that differs from every other religion. Heaven forbid.
Moving forward is always the goal and we should certainly follow the apostle Paul’s advice and forget “what is past” – past sins, past failures, past insecurities, and past misunderstandings. But we shouldn’t forget the old, old story or the old victories, the old stories of those who’ve gone before us, or the old celebrations of answered prayers.
Sometimes we just need to remember with sweet reminiscence, nothing more. The old has passed and simply will not work again, but we can remember with fondness and a chuckle or two. Other times we need to go back and revisit the old ways and see if they might not work again. We need to try that old shoe on and wear it if it fits and looks retroactively stylish. Still other times, as with the gospel message itself, we need to cling to the old with a stubborn grip.
So what of the old do you need to revisit today? Maybe it’s the way your parents raised you. Maybe they had something there after all and no new parenting guru could possibly top their simple style. Maybe its the way your parents stuck with their marriage vows even when the going got tough. Perhaps you’ve realized that the new mantra of “if it’s lost it’s zing, toss it” is no good and certainly not biblical and now you’re willing to work at your marriage the old-fashioned way.
Maybe you need to revisit the old way of studying your Bible – scripture by scripture, meditating on it, memorizing it, and obeying it, for pete’s sake! Maybe you need to go back to the envelop method for handling your finances – stashing a set amount of cash (that’s long, green pieces of fabric like paper, in case you forgot) in various envelops for gas, groceries, house supplies, eating out, etc. And then using only that cash to pay for life.
We’ve not gone as far back as our early marriage days to revive the envelop method (though it did work), but we have gone back to using only cash. Takes a little getting used to when you go backwards in order to move forward, but that old shoe is starting to feel more and more comfortable.
Maybe it’s time to go back to the old way of being a family – family night dinners around a table, board games instead of computerized ones, chores instead of a housekeeper, decent bedtimes, and family devotionals.
Any thoughts here? What do you think it might be worth looking back at in order to truly move forward?