THE FRONT ROW . . . . . is for grandparents at the baptism of their grandchildren, and for the worship services in which the childrens' choir sings, and for the Christmas program. As time goes on, the grandparents rejoice for Confirmation days and graduation, and many other milestones in the lives of the next generation. And eventually, the older one gets, it is possible the front row will be a preferred place for worship, in order to better hear the service.
Whether or not you are a grandparent, at some point it is very likely you will enjoy milestones of life that ultimately bring each of us to join the ranks of 'senior citizens' or 'the elderly.' The role of seniors in the church is much more than sitting in the front row, and we are challenged to continue to involve all ages and stages of life in the fabric of our faith family.
There are social and clinical psychology, medicine, theology, and spirituality publications that describe predictable characteristics of physical, emotional, and spiritual maturity. They speak in generalities, and not all characteristics apply to all of us in the population group over the age of 65. Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd has an admirable number of members over the age of 65, many over age 90, and a few near or beyond age 100. To combine their strengths is awe-inspiring, and to categorize them with generalities is an unfair picture of the breadth and depth of faith, growth, life, and experience of this group.
Yes, my friends, sit in the front row whenever you wish to! Be a part of our community of faith, our family; we need your wisdom of experience to guide us into a rich future. Erik Erikson, an American psychologist of the 20th century, described the stage of life beyond age 65 as “old age” with the challenges of integrity and despair, with the virtue of wisdom in the broad view and context of many years of life experiences.
Integrity reflects the acceptance of one's long life, seeing with clarity that there are strengths and flaws. The wisdom that parallels integrity is that which looks on those flaws with grace and forgiveness and self-understanding. One sometimes can see a tragedy of life become a source of personsal growth. Wisdom often brings us to growth, strength, and hope. As we mature in wisdom and integrity of age, we naturally want to impart this knowledge and awareness to those younger people among us --- and how they resist! Let's look with understanding and forgiveness since we were no different --- life's lessons and insight come to us when it's the right time of our lives to hear and incorporate such insights.
There are physical and emotional changes and challenges that often accompany older ages. There is decrease in the senses of vision, hearing, taste, touch, smell. There often is a slowed pace of movement and mobility. While some functions of the mind become less sharp, other brain functions become sharpened, such as the ability to reminisce and to make sound judgments based on remembered life experience.These common changes ought not be devastating, but rather a diminishment in what we once were --- while maintaining the vibrancy we once had, to some degree, and increasing our insight as we ponder the best way to use the time and energy remaining to us. Sometimes we find that we need forgiveness and a new direction.
Consider Alfred Nobel, yes, of the Nobel prizes. As a Swedish chemist, Nobel amassed a fortune inventing dynamite and explosives ideal for weapons of war. When his brother died, the newspaper accidentally printed Alfred's obituary! As he read it, it became clear that was not the way Alfred Nobel wanted to be remembered. He changed his life's direction, and established the Nobel Prizes for greatest achievement annually in arts and sciences, literature and efforts to promote world peace.
How can the faith community embrace those strengths and insights of our older members and tap their well of wisdom to help us plan for the future?
Have you heard parents of teenagers complain that their children have “attitude?” Well, I'm here to challenge the elders to also give us some 'attitude.' There is a saying going around that says “Don't mess with old people!” The years of experience give them a sense of history that younger people lack; and our elders survived wars and drought, the Depression, and other calamities all without our help!
We are so grateful for the participation of elders in our congregational life. You are NOT a bother! Sit in the front pew, park your walker, cane, wheelchair off to the side and join in worship. If you can no longer read the small print, ask an usher for a large-print bulletin. If you have trouble hearing, please know that your insistence on improved sound system has prompted efforts for better sound in the past, and in plans for the future. If you no longer drive, we have bus service; we know it doesn't meet all needs, and we continue to seek ways to assist with this, and other service concerns going forward.
Have you enjoyed the intragenerational worship experiences, prayer exercises, Bible studies, combined choir offerings, performing arts opportunities? Golden Shepherds meets monthly, always with wonderful fellowship and excellent programs --- plus, outstanding food! Did you know that we are known by most funeral directors in the area as the Lutheran Church of the Good Lunch? Thanks goes to our Christian Service Circle!
There is a Monday Morning men's group, a monthly Bible study at 7500 York. We have friendly visitors to check in with homebound members. The pastoral staff and parish nurse visit the homebound, the hospitalized, those who are ill --- and we appreciate it so much when you, or a family member or friend phones the church when you have had a change in your health status. On Wellness Sunday, once/month, the parish nurse offers to monitor blood pressure, provide resources for a variety of health concerns and answer questions about health issues.
We treasure the richness of life and faith experiences that elders bring to our faith family. We encourage those senior members of our community to share their gifts, wisdom and knowledge with others of us, as we all continue to walk with the Lord. “Blest be the ties that bind our hearts in Christian love. . .”