On the cusp of Dementia Awareness Month (September) and Victorian Seniors Celebration (October), services to celebrate ageing were held on 30 September in all MUC’s worship locations.
At both Fellowship@10 and Woodhouse Grove people were encouraged to exhibit the freedom to dress as they pleased in the spirit of Jenny Joseph’s poem‘Warning’ Over morning tea we shared cupcakes decorated with forget-me-knots lovingly prepared by Jenny.
At Fellowship@10am Chris was worship leader. On the communion table were several symbols of what ageing means to some of us.
Included here are some excerps from the sermon, entitled ‘They shall run and not be weary’. Look on the website for it all.
Chris begins her Sermon with the following
“Today we have deliberately chosen to hold a worship service which celebrates ageing, keeping in mind that September is Dementia Awareness Month and October is Senior’s Month.
Perhaps it is appropriate to have spent the last few weeks talking about Wisdom – which is supposed to come with age!
If you have a Uniting Church calendar, you will have turned over the page for September to see this picture.
I only recently heard about this stunning art work and had the privilege of seeing it in the small Uniting Church in Goorambat. This is ‘Sophia’, the result of a collaboration between the congregation and a street artist, Adnate. As you can see it occupies the whole front wall of this small church.
Sophia is the Greek word for wisdom. The New Testament uses it when speaking, for instance, of the wisdom of God. In the Old Testament, wisdom is often celebrated and most famously in Proverbs wisdom is personified in female form. Wisdom in Proverbs is not a divine being, but rather a personification of one of Yahweh’s attributes.
Do we tend to associate wisdom with age?
- Does wisdom increase with age?
Researchers find that wisdom and happiness increase as people grow older
- Does age bring wisdom?
Age really does bring wisdom, making the brains of older people as agile as their younger counterparts, research claims. Scientists discovered that years of life experience makes older brains as effective when it comes to decision-making as much younger minds.
- Does wisdom only come with age?
Wisdom may come with age, but there’s no guarantee. We tend to think all senior citizens must be wise — it’s one of the few positive old-age stereotypes. But, sad to say, it’s not true. In fact, the notion that all we have to do is wait in order to become wise couldn’t be further from reality.
Oscar Wilde famously said
“…with age comes wisdom, but sometimes age comes alone.”
It may be that, rather than celebrating the acquiring of wisdom, we are more concerned about what we are losing
Malcolm Muggeridge once said
“…one of the many pleasures of old age is giving things up.”
But someone else is bound to respond by saying that it depends on what one is made to give up, as a result of old age.
Perhaps (as his is the oldest quote I found) we should give Plato the last word
“…outer vision weakens with age, inner vision (wisdom) grows.”
………….and later in the Sermon from Chris…..
“I chose two readings this morning which I think speak to a celebration of age/aging/ages.
The reading from Isaiah is one of my favourites from my favourite book of the Bible.
The people from Judah and Jerusalem have been in exile in Babylon for a very long time – almost half a century. (In today’s world it is not the Jewish people, but the Palestinians who have been in exile –people who fled or were driven out of their homeland when the modern state of Israel was created in 1948. The old people have been in exile for 70 years, the younger ones have known no other life than exile. And we only have to look around the world to see people forced to flee from their homeland and become exiles.)
For the Judeans in exile in Babylon, now with the Persian Empire on the rise, the demise of the Babylonians is drawing near. There is hope for the people who have been held captive.These are people who have grown weary and exhausted by their captivity. They are not inclined to trust a God who allowed this to happen to them. They are reluctant to allow themselves to hope.
And into this scene comes the prophet Isaiah, who uses various arguments to encourage his people. He wants them to accept and believe in the sovereignty of Yahweh, and his ability to save his people.
He starts with a series of four rhetorical questions. Such rhetorical questions in Hebrew also make an emphatic statement.
Surely you have known!
Surely you have heard!
This is not new information provided by the prophet. But like a good prophet, Isaiah draws the people back to the very foundation of their identity. How is it possible that the exiles could be delivered from Babylon? The prophet tells them that the truth is impossible to deny. It has been told from the beginning.
Surely it has been told to you!
Have you not understood the foundations of the earth!
The implication is that if you understand the foundations of the earth, how can you believe in the possibility of any other god at work in our world.
…to whom will you compare me? Who is my equal? (v. 25)
Isaiah proclaims “This God, and this God alone stands above the world, creating a place for those who are like grasshoppers to live”.
To which the people lament,
“…my way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God.”
These are weary and dispirited people who feel abandoned by their God – their circumstances do little to deny such thoughts. The poet does not try to deny such weariness, but instead suggests that such weariness does not deny God.
And this final section is one of my all-time favourites,
“…those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings of eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
Christopher Hayes suggests that these final verses are a special message for those for whom the long journey home from exile would be the hardest – the elderly. They were the only Judeans who could remember Judah by the end of the exile. The writer contrasts those who rely on the Lord – those who will run and not be weary…walk and not faint – with boys and men in their youthful prime who will faint and fall exhausted. This message would not have been much help to young men, but it was perhaps not aimed primarily at them. The memories of the elderly were not merely nostalgia. They would have been useful to those returning from captivity. Life in Mesopotamia would have been different and so, remembering how and when things had been done in Judah would have been important.
We hear this message reiterated again and again in the Bible witness. God hears the cries of his people and empowers them – in exhaustion, in oppression, and in other moments of greatest need.
………….And to end the Sermon Chris asks us….
So how do you feel about being referred to as elderly prophets?
It is incumbent on us to look forward.
In 2 Corinthians 4:16, Paul writes:
…therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
Let us celebrate that we are older, but fiercely faithful.”
As part of the service we were also reminded of the Poem ‘Warning’ that we heard read as part of the service. Some of you may have seen the Poem in the Magazine a couple of months ago ( repeated opposite).
The ‘Warning’ poem by English poet Jenny Joseph (born May 7, 1932 in Birmingham) speaks to each of us, male or female, in an ode to nonconformity. In a humorous, tongue-in-cheek and fun way, Jenny Joseph conveys a serious message for all, to never take ourselves too seriously or lose the twinkle in our eyes.
Age, after all, truly is only a number.
“Warning” was penned in 1961 when Jenny Joseph was twenty-nine. Although having published many works in her lifetime and having received numerous awards, Jenny Joseph is best known for this defining poem. The second line became the inspiration for the founding of the ‘Red Hat Society’, the self-described playgroup for women where there is “Fun and Friendship After Fifty.”
Seniors Ministry Coordinator