17 You’ve taught me since my youth, God,
and I’m still proclaiming your wondrous deeds!
18 So, even in my old age with gray hair,
don’t abandon me, God!
Not until I tell generations about your mighty arm,
tell all who are yet to come about your strength,
19 and about your ultimate righteousness, God,
because you’ve done awesome things!
Who can compare to you, God?
12 The righteous will spring up like a palm tree.
They will grow strong like a cedar of Lebanon.
13 Those who have been replanted in the Lord’s house
will spring up in the courtyards of our God.
14 They will bear fruit even when old and gray;
they will remain lush and fresh.
We live in a culture that idolizes youth, that spends vast sums to hide signs of advancing age and that uses phrases like “out to pasture” to describe the elderly. Psalm 71:18 showed that long before today’s hair coloring or anti-wrinkle creams, people could fear that God would abandon us as we grow older. But, the psalmists said, God doesn’t despise age. God calls us to serve at all ages, and always welcomes our willing hearts. (Click here for information on Resurrection’s Crossroads ministry, helping people learn how to serve in life’s second half.)
O God, I’m so used to hearing (and saying) things like “too old” or “too green” that it’s a joy to see that the Scriptures, and you, show no age bias. Free me from those biases, too. Amen.
When I was young and, I’ll be honest, much more foolish, I became part of a large disagreement in my small church in Florida. There was growing dissension between the people who had been going to church there and singing from the same hymnal for years and younger folks who were more accustomed to singing more peppy modern praise choruses. The traditionalists wore their Sunday best to church while the contemporary crowd wore what they wore every other day of the week. I was about 14 at the time, so I was a proud contemporary worshiper. So proud, in fact, that I let it cloud my judgment.
I looked at the arguments from the traditionalists--mostly people older than my parents. They believed that the traditional worship style was more reverent and respectful of God’s majesty. I scoffed at that. I showed God my respect every day--I didn’t need to put on a show for Him on Sunday. And the modern praise choruses were so vibrant and full of life--much more relevant than those stuffy old hymns! Why couldn’t people open their minds to new traditions? Why couldn’t people accept my clearly superior worship preferences over their own?
What I realized much later was that words like reverence and relevance did mean something, but were too often just nice ways of saying that our personal preferences were better. Words like tradition and open-mindedness were good things, but became justifications to force our beliefs on others. The contemporary crowd wanted open-mindedness only when it benefited them and their mindset, and the traditional crowd wanted tradition only when it was the tradition they had grown up with and become accustomed to. Both were correct, but both had the potential to be wrong if they existed at the expense of the other.
The fact was, as much as we missed each other’s point sometimes, we needed each other. The contemporary crowd didn’t understand the rich history and meaning behind the traditions that had stood the test of time, and could learn much from years of wisdom. The traditional crowd didn’t understand how different newer generations were becoming, and could learn much from the raw energy and passion of the other side. We were two vital organs arguing over which was better, when losing either of us would prove fatal to the body.
I’ll be honest: I’m still not very moved by traditional worship and orchestras--but I’m glad that those things are there. And I know people who would rather listen to nails on a chalkboard than the youth bands playing rock and roll worship--but they’re glad that it’s there. Realizing that there is room in the kingdom of God for viewpoints other than your own leads to a stronger church, and stronger churchgoers. We’re all stronger when we learn from each other, and we’re all happier when allowed to worship how we feel led to--and that all starts with being open to traditions from all eras, young and old.
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