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November 21st, 2008 at 2:52 pm

They Still Bear Fruit in Old Age

Last night during our weekly Bible Study on the Psalms and Parables, we decided to do something related to Thanksgiving since we would not be meeting the following Thursday (Thanksgiving Day). So we decided to spend time looking at Psalm 100, given that it is a “Psalm for Giving Thanks.”

We had a good study and good conversation. Even though I am lead the study, I always leave feeling I probably learned more than anybody else, as folks share their insights.

There are always bunny trails in these sorts of Bible studies, and one of the members mentioned having read part of Psalm 92 that day, and being blessed by it. The text in question is Psalm 92:12-15.

12. The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.

13. They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God.

14. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green,

15. declare that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

The part that had blessed the person who shared this was verse 14, the bit about bearing fruit unto old age. We acknowledged that we are not promised long lives, nor good health, but if are granted them, we have a reason to believe that we will be able to bear fruit even well into old age. 

And this got us into thinking about some very elderly people who had worshipped with us and brought so much blessing to us, a woman named Winnie and a woman named Nellie. Winnie has gone to be with Christ, and Nellie is in a rest home in Texas.

This got us into thinking about what a blessing it had been for the folks who had taken the most time to care for and look after these wonderful ladies, which got us into thinking about how God provides the weak, poor, and infirmed as a gift to the rest of us to train us to serve them and know the deep joy of such service. Many examples came to mind.

Then we got to talking about how the church of Jesus Christ is meant to be for male and female, old and young, barbarian and Scythian, etc. 

And this got us thinking and talking about how the American Evangelical Church had pretty much written off the elderly as it plans its slick demographic and purpose driven church growth and church planting models. How is it that the elderly have come to be so disrespected, and consigned a place in the old people’s worship service where they can listen to their hymns without the twenty and thirty-somethings being put off by such terrible things as hymns?

We decided that it was Madison Avenue type business models which were driving the church machinery more than the Bible was, and it made us feel, well, very regretful and a little sad. Why can’t the old and young worship together? Are we not teaching the hip post modern twenty somethings that they have a right as it were to have their twenty something club, with their cool music, their cool techno gadgetry, and their in house Starbucks, their cool overflow rooms with the main action piped in, where they watch as they sip their frappacinos and talk about whatever they talk about. I mean, are we teaching by example something opposite to what we are teaching in words? Or have we so radically adjusted the message and the medium of the Gospel to appeal to the  targeted  demogrphic  that we have left with but a shadow of the truth.

Older Christians, and I don’t mean early retirement age but truly elderly men and women, have so much to offer. They have much fruit to bear yet, even unto the oldest age – fruit of wisdom and insight and love. They even offer the fruit of lettign us love and care for them as they become weak and less able to get around. Why do we make it so hard to include them? It seems a fundamental violation of the fifth commandment, and a violation of the nature of the Church. 

And we realized together as fresh and purposeful  how much we in our little fellowship want to be a place for two year olds and hundred year old believers to gather together in mutual joy and thanksgiving, to build up and encourage and edify the other, and each bring their own special kind of fruit to the whole.

This past Sunday, just before a second “homily” on the passage about good trees and bad trees in Luke 6, one of our children raised her hand and asked an incredibly insightful question. That question and the answer was probably the best thing that I had a part of that morning. 

We should not consign the young and the old to the periphery, but enfold them into the whole like a large extended family, but a spiritual family where each person bears the name of Jesus Christ and not merely some specific skin color, age, gender, ethnicity etc., – just the name of Jesus the Christ. This is a family that can keep growing and growing, and where we know we are enveloped by our Lord’s ”hesed,” His lovingkindness or covenant faithfulness, a steadfast love that extends from generation to generation to His covenant people, people young and old alike, hip and unhip alike, pre-modern, modern, and post-modern alike. 

That’s what we believe.

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