Psalm 71:18 – Even when I am old and grey, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come. (NIV)
When I was in high school, I had a paper route, which included visiting a nursing home for the elderly. I went around the wards selling the local evening newspaper, and even stood outside the large cafeteria, waiting for the residents to finish their dinner. As they walked past, some of them would buy a paper, while others would look at the headlines and talk about what was going wrong with the country. It was one of those life-teaching moments for me, and as I watched some of them struggle and stumble as they headed back to their rooms, I realized I was looking at my own future.
As a student minister, I spent six months helping in a geriatric ward, dealing with older people who were suffering from dementia. It was heart-breaking at times to see people, who had been hearty and healthy for many years, sitting passively in wheelchairs, unable to communicate or to fully understand what was happening around them. And once again, as I looked at them, I realized I was looking at the future.
We all age at the same rate every day, and we never know what is just around the corner. The writer of today's psalm understood this, but instead of wallowing in self-pity or sadness, the psalmist wants to continue working for God and serving His people. He sees his old age as an opportunity to pass on all that he has learned from God, not to his peers, but to the next generation. His ministry is not to keep himself alive, but to keep faith alive, by telling Bible stories, handing down sacred traditions, and sharing his beliefs with the younger ones in his community.
Some people say that our churches are getting old and full of gray-haired people, but that's a good thing. Why? Because it means that we have people in our midst who have stories of faith to tell, experiences of God to share, and precious ministries to pass on. These people are priceless, and when they do their part well, when they grandmother and grandfather the children of our congregations with words of encouragement, loving support, and blessings of faith, they are contributing to the life of the church to the fourth and fifth generations yet to come, when our congregation's own children become the grandparents of faith themselves. Being old and gray is a sacred ministry that all our churches need.
Prayer: Loving God, You are the Ancient of Days and the keeper of time. For generations, our people have upheld You, worshipped You, and sought You. In each generation, You give us the ability and opportunity to pass on our knowledge of Your mighty deeds, Your healing words, and Your everlasting grace. Help us to share all that we know of You, so that we may inspire the youngest among us to love, worship, and adore You for all of their lives. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.