Friday, July 20, 2012

A Heart of Wisdom

Our elders are growing in numbers. In the United States and other developed countries, the population is aging. In the 2010 U.S. Census, the number of people age 65 and over was 40.3 million persons (13.0 %) and grew at a faster rate (15.1 %) than the population under age 45. In 2010, the median age increased to a new high of 37.2 years, from 35.3 years in 2000, with the proportion of the population at the older ages increasing similarly. The population is growing at a faster rate in the older ages than in the younger ages.

In southwestern Snohomish County, the average age has increased from 36.1 in 2000 to 38.6 in 2011, with a projected increase to 39.8 in 2016.

Aging and caring for the aged is a growing concern for all Americans. For the churches the problem is not simply ministry to aging persons – it is ministry of and with our elders.

The future of the church is not just with the young - indeed as the population of America gains in elders we will be given the gift of many years of wisdom, experience, and care.

And so we seek insight into the spiritual issues and gifts connected with aging and later life – the later stages of the human life cycle. We want to help each other find the blessing – to come to a truthful understanding of what we are receiving – as we experience aging.

Among the joys of life in a multi-generational congregation is the mutual enjoyment of people of different ages and backgrounds. One of the things that we all enjoy is the presence of children and young adults in the congregation. Another is the presence of our elders.

What is the difference between just getting old and being an elder?
I asked a mentor of mine.

His prompt reply: An elder sees a vocation.

Among the challenges of life is finding a calling for the changing circumstances we face over the years. Even in the gentlest of retirements or other life shifts, there is a faith shift to accompany it.

A new understanding of God may come with a change in one's place in life. Something new may be calling us; something old may be affirmed.

One thing we know: God is our companion and guide on the way, on the journey of life, through pain and plenty, sorrow and joy.

So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
(Psalm 90:12)

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