Christianity 201

September 4, 2010

Bible Emphasizes Renewal Over “New”

(NIV) Psalm 92:12 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;

13 planted in the house of the LORD,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.

14 They will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green…

What’s your church’s attitude to the seniors in the congregation?   What about you, yourself?   Do you see these people as ready to be “put out to pasture” or do you see them as people for whom, potentially, the greatest days are yet to come?

I’m not sure what your opinion is of Mars Hill (Grand Rapids, MI) pastor Rob Bell, but today we listened to a most unusual sermon from a pastor for whom “unusual” is de rigeur. I started to write about it here; and then moved the blog post over to Thinking Out Loud; but then found myself staring at the draft version of it here and thinking, ‘This is an important message that we’ve got to get through our heads, because some day it will be us who are getting invited to the 60+ group at the church.’

Actually, as Bell’s preaching goes, this one was somewhat conservative.   The message had as its aim the affirmation of the aging process itself and the affirmation of the aged.   He claims that the motivation for this was that it was the day before his 40th birthday; hardly senior status by any measure.

He began with stories of people whose major life accomplishments began at what some would call the later stages of life.    The stories highlighted people who were, with each example, progressively older.   (Sadly, the slides that go with this sermon weren’t posted online.)

The message functions well on a number of levels.   Besides affirming respect for the wisdom and experience of age, it’s also an encouragement to those who are older to reconsider the traditional definition of retirement.

But most important, it’s a challenge to all of us to rethink the concept that “new is best.”   He gets into the difference between “new” and “renewal;” and says that our culture tends to emphasize the former, while the Bible speaks clearly of the latter.

(NIV) II Cor 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

Bell ends the message with a question that was asked of him — Bell being a guy who knows what it’s like to be the new hot trend — as to how a person can avoid “peaking” after sudden popularity.

You can find the 50+ minute sermon here.  Click on the message for 8/22 — appropriately titled:  The Village Elder.