The Parishes of Crail and St Ayle

Reflections from Rev. Peter Neilson 

Sunday - 13 June 2021

Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Good morning, friends in Crail and St Ayle,

With John and Neillian up North for a few days to clear their former house on Skye, I have the pleasure of offering you this week’s reflections.  We are all aware that our churches are getting older – WE are getting older! Ageing is a one street. There is no reverse gear!

I found encouragement in the words of the recommended psalm for this week – “They still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.” (Psalm 92:14)  I don’t know how fresh you are feeling today, but I hope these words might be a refreshing antidote to our cultural negativity about ageing.

It is a season of life in which John O’Donohue invites us to discover “the beauty of the inner harvest.”

 

Whatever the season, God is present, if we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear – if not the legs to run and jump!

 

Grace and peace to you all.

Peter (Neilson)

Gathering into God’s Presence

Grant me, even me, my dearest Lord,

To know you, and love you, and rejoice in you.

Let the love of you grow every day

More and more in me

That my joy may be full in you. (St Augustine of Hippo)

 

Listening for God’s Word

Psalm 92  A psalm. A song.  For the Sabbath day.

 

1 It is good to praise the Lord
   and make music to your name, O Most High,
2 proclaiming your love in the morning
   and your faithfulness at night,
3 to the music of the ten-stringed lyre
   and the melody of the harp.

4 For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord;
   I sing for joy at what your hands have done.

++++++++

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,
15 proclaiming, ‘The Lord is upright;
   he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.’

 

Reflection: “Still Bearing Fruit”

 

We live in a culture that affirms youth and devalues age - even in the church. Who ever heard a minister say how glad he is to have an elderly congregation?  But this Psalm sees age as the stage of moral and spiritual life in which we grow into mature wisdom, still bearing fruit in old age.  (Ps 92:14)

 

Eleanor Roosevelt wrote:            

Beautiful young people are accidents of nature; 

beautiful old people are works of art.[1]

 

In the Jewish tradition, the Midrash Rabbah declares: "How welcome is old age! The aged are beloved of God!"  [2] The Biblical tradition speaks of extraordinary longevity, however we read these numbers. (e.g. Abraham 175, Isaac 180, Jacob 147, Moses 120, Joshua 110).  At the end of Moses life it is written: "yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone." (Deut 34:7)

 

Whatever we make of these ages, we know that God called older people to share in his purposes:

  • the obedience of Abraham and Sarah in their 90’s.

  • the leadership of Moses and Joshua – both around 80 when given their mandates.

  • the prayerful ministry of Simeon and Anna (84) - boundary people who recognised God's Messiah when he came in the arms of a poor working couple from Nazareth.

  • the visionary prophecies of 90-year-old John on Patmos, seeing the unfolding of history in all its confusion and final resolution in the New Creation.

 

These exploits might excite us or exhaust us, but the recurring theme of scripture is that older people are "elders" in the sense of people who gather wisdom and share it generously with others.

 

James Houston, founder of Regent College (Vancouver), writing in his 90’s, says of the elder Christian that our lives are to be marked by certain qualities: adoration before God, being attentive to the concerns of others (in practical care giving and in letter-writing), offering "narratives of grace" in the face of suffering and showing the meaning of steadfastness.

 

"Gentleness is also a fruit of the Spirit……The true beauty of mature Christian character lies in….living with an expansive, leisurely, fulfilling life which provides harmony of action and an atmosphere of peace within which to shelter and nurture others."[3]

 

So the next time we notice that we are all getting a wee bit older, we would do well to remember the reassurance of the ancient Psalmist:

 

We will still bear fruit in old age; we will stay fresh and green.  

_____________________

[1] Lane, John, The Art of Ageing: Inspiration for a positive and abundant later life, Green Books, 2010, p 89

[2] James M Houston and Michael Parker, A Vision for an Aging Church, IVP 2011, p 57

[3] Ibid p 77

A Blessing for Old Age

 

May the light of your soul mind you;

May all your worry and anxiousness

about growing old be transfigured.

 

May you be given wisdom for the eye of your soul

To see this beautiful time of harvesting.

 

May you have the commitment to harvest your life,

To heal what has hurt you,

to allow it to come closer to you,

and become one with you.

 

May you have great dignity,

May you have a sense of how free you are

And above all may you be given the wonderful gift

Of meeting the eternal light

And beauty within you.

 

May you be blessed, and may you find

a wonderful love in yourself for yourself.

 

(John O Donohue, Anam Cara – Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World)

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