Sunday, December 3, 2017: When It Is My Turn To Be Old

THOUGHT FOR CONTEMPLATION:

“Unlike the attention focused on other prejudices, ageism is relevant to every person fortunate enough to make it beyond a sixth decade of life.”

(by Laura A. Robbins)

PRELUDE

WELCOMING WORDS: Wendy M.

CALL TO WORSHIP:

(Adapted from Deuteronomy 6:10a-11 New International Version (NIV))

As we come together on this new day

may we be mindful that we have been given a land with flourishing cities we did not build,

houses filled with good things we did not make,

wells we did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves (we) did not plant – then when we eat and are satisfied, when we seek shelter and are protected, when we gather from our towns and cities, may we remember with gratitude.

INTROIT

LIGHTING OF THE CHALICE: Molly & Bridget B.

May this chalice light our morning

With care and compassion;

And our time together

Fill us with love and new hope.

(Rev. Dr. Anita Farber-Robertson)

OPENING HYMN: “In Sweet Fields of Autumn” (#52)

OUR COVENANT:

Love is the doctrine of this church,

The quest for truth is its sacrament,

And service is its prayer.

To dwell together in peace,

To seek knowledge in freedom,

To serve humankind in fellowship,

To the end that all souls

Shall grow into harmony with the Divine.

This is our great covenant,

One with another, and with our God.

SONG OF ASPIRATION:

From all that dwell below the skies,

Let songs of hope and faith arise,

Let peace, good-will on earth be sung,

Through every land, by every tongue.

Amen.

CHILDREN’S TIME: with Rev. Anita

Rev. Anita read “Mrs. Katz and Tush” by Patricia Polacco

SINGING CHILDREN TO THEIR CLASSES:

Go now in peace, go now in peace;

may the love of God surround you,

everywhere,

everywhere

you may go.

CANDLES OF JOY AND SORROW

MEDITATION AND PRAYER

MUSICAL MEDITATION

DIVERSITY TOPIC: AGE: WHY IT MATTERS: Michael O.

OFFERTORY

READING: “The Little Boy and the Old Man” (by Shel Silverstein)

(read by Rev. Anita with Michael O. and Adam L.)

The Little Boy and the Old Man (by Shel Silverstein)

Said the little boy, “Sometimes I drop my spoon,”

Said the little old man, “I do that too.”

The little boy whispered, “I wet my pants.”

 “I do that too,” laughed the little old man.

Said the little boy, “I often cry.”

The old man nodded, “So do I.”

“But worst of all,” said the boy, “it seems

Grown-ups don’t pay attention to me.”

And he felt the warmth of a wrinkled old hand.

“I know what you mean,” said the little old man.

READING: from “Old, Frail, and called by God” (by Joyce Ann Mercer)

“Before his death at age 91, psychologist Erik Erikson jotted down notes for a revision of his book The Life Cycle Completed. In that book he had named eight chronological stages of human development…

“The psychologist now identified a ninth stage. ‘Old age in one’s eighties and nineties brings with it new demands, revelations, and daily difficulties … The ninth stage …involves an integrative review of the previous eight stages through the lens of the challenges of older adulthood.…

“In one’s eighties and nineties one may no longer have the luxury of …introspective despair. Loss of capacities and disintegration may demand almost all of one’s attention. One’s focus may become … to just get through a day intact…

“From that, Joyce Ann Mercer notes:

“Perhaps at no other stage except adolescence does the body occupy such a premier place in defining the contours of life. But unlike adolescence, in which bodies pulse with energy and vitality, the bodies of older adults generally speak the language of decline, leaning toward diminishment and death rather than growth….

….

“The heightened body consciousness of older adulthood critiques the cultural overvaluing of independence and autonomy. Chaplain Beth Jackson-Jordan recounts the story of a frail elderly woman confined to her bed in a nursing home, who found purpose and meaning in being a good listener to nurses’ aides, housekeepers, and others who moved in and out of her room each day to provide care. Disrupting the dichotomy between dependence and independence, this bedridden woman replaced it with an interdependence that does not rely on quality of physical capacity. God’s call in older adulthood invited even those with frail bodies and mind to serve the neighbor, as caregiver and care-receiver are graced by one another’s presence.

….

“Receptive dependency may not be an easy position for people schooled in cultural norms of self-sufficiency, autonomy, and individualism. The call to receive care (and in so doing to nurture the caring capacities of others) reminds the rest of the faith community that we are created for relational interdependence rather than self-sufficiency.

(Joyce Ann Mercer, Old, frail, called by God, Christian Century, July 5, 2017)

HYMN: “Just as Long As I Have Breath” (#6)

 

SERMON:

When it is my Turn to be Old

The Rev. Dr. Anita Farber-Robertson (copyright)

One year a good friend gave me a calendar for Christmas- one of those calendars that has a page for every day, and you rip off yesterday’s to reveal today’s. Each day had a different saying. It was called “The Wild Woman’s Calendar.”

Don’t know why she would have given it to me.

On one of those days it quoted a woman who had said:

“I don’t know what the big deal is that everyone makes about their age. All your age tells you, is for how many years you have been alive.”

Wow. She is right!

All your age tells you, is for how many years you have been alive.

When I was a child, all I wanted to be was a grownup. I wanted the power, opportunities and privileges of grownups. I coveted their autonomy, their ability to seemingly do what they wanted to do whenever they wanted to do it. That’s how it seemed to me at least, from my child’s perspective. Maybe that was true for you.

When I was a grownup, people would pay attention to me, listen to me, and take me seriously. What I said would matter. My ideas would matter. Oh, I wanted that.

I became an adult gradually, as did most of you, I imagine. At each milestone, when I married, when I bought a house, when I had my first child, I said to myself, ”Ah, surely now…now I must be an adult. Surely now people will treat me as an adult, with respect, with attention to what I think and say, and with a fair chance at opportunities for which I was qualified.

In many cases it was so. And in some it was not. I was small. I was female. I was young, all not attributes of the quintessential, cultural adult. In time I learned that I was part of a very large cohort group of people in my community and my country who while adult in years, and even experience, were not accorded the appropriate stature of a grownup. Women. Small people. People of color. People who did not speak English well, or at all. People who were deaf, blind, unable to walk.

After the growing up years of waiting to be able to function as an adult with agency, and then waiting to be old enough, or big enough, or whatever it was enough that you needed, to achieve the gravitas of a recognized adult, something switched, and all of a sudden it was not good to be an adult with gravitas. It was time to start worrying about getting older, looking older, acting older. It was time to worry about losing hair, and losing muscle tone, losing a youthful shape, smooth skin, and eyes that could read small print. Panic sets in. And it happens so quickly, that window of time when you are neither too young nor too old, closes quickly around here.

Fast Forward. Laura Robbins notes:

“The consequences of ageism influence how we are able to live the last third of our lives, and can even affect our life span. …Perceptions about older adults constrain the types of roles they assume in the community, limiting them as individuals and preventing communities from gaining the wealth of knowledge, wisdom and energy from what some call our fastest growing natural resource (Greenya and Golin 2008)[1]

 “…ageism is believed to shorten our lives. One study reported that older adults who held negative views about old age faced life expectancies that were, on average, seven and a half years shorter than those of their peers. (Levey, et. al., 2002)”[2]

Well that’s a kick in the head! We are doing it to ourselves!! If we just lived our lives as they came to us, without wringing our hands about getting older, we could get to live seven and a half years longer- and enjoy it!

If we viewed our birthdays as a report on how many years we have graced this earth with our presence, rather than projecting onto it a predication of the mortality that lies ahead, we could enjoy those birthdays, and experience them with the grace of gratitude, rather than regret, or despair.

Why do we do that to ourselves? Create negative views of the life cycle, and shoot ourselves in the foot by first, not enjoying what we’ve been given and second, by cutting short the time we were given to have and share it?

I think we do it because we are taught to do it. In some cultures, the elders are valued, venerated, appreciated. In some cultures the years added are perceived as value added. In our culture every year added, once you are past 35 or 40, seems to be perceived as a year of value lost. Ouch!

What happened to the worth and dignity of every person (our first principle)? What happened to acceptance and appreciation of the interdependent web of life, with all of its cycles, of which we are a part (our seventh principle)? What happened to recognizing the wisdom of our traditions from which we draw our principles, wisdom of the ages and the ancients? Surely there is value in the fresh eyes and ears and vitality of the young. In the hope and the dreams they carry by which they, and often we, are inspired. And surely they would be helped were they and we to understand that every stage of life has something to offer in the process of creating the “world community of peace, liberty and justice for all” our sixth principle. In other words, if we worked together, rather than creating these competitive age cohort groups.

Ageism,” says Laura Robbins, “is just wrong. Are we all to be discounted,” she asks, “as we get older? We don’t tolerate making fun of other population groups, why do we allow this kind of prejudice to go unchallenged? We can’t imagine “anti-women” or “anti-black” products, yet we buy into ads for billions of dollars’ worth of “anti-aging” creams and cosmetic productions.”[3]

She’s right, isn’t she? We have been sold a bill of goods. We who are older are like so many groups that have been sidelined or marginalized and discover that they have somehow absorbed the dominant group’s negative perception of them. We often call it internalized oppression. And everyone in our culture, male, female, Black, Asian, Latinx, White, have to some extent internalized the oppression of elders, decrying the natural process of aging, and the natural changing of our social location as we move through the cycles of life and into the season of receptivity.

When it is my turn to be old (and I certainly hope I get to have a turn at it), I want to be able to heed:

The call to receive care… to nurture the caring capacities of others.[4]

I want to reach out and grasp the little boy or girl at hand, and give them a squeeze, my acknowledgement of our connection that together we might:

…remind the rest of the faith community that we are created for relational interdependence rather than self-sufficiency.[5]

Just as long as we have breath, we have a role to play, and it is a precious role that we, you and me and all of us, have to play- together.

Amen. Blessed be.

CLOSING HYMN: “We Laugh. We Cry” (# 354)

EXTINGUISHING THE CHALICE (read by the congregation):

We extinguish the flame but not the light of truth,

the warmth of community,

or the fire of commitment.

These we carry in our hearts until we are together again.

BENEDICTION

CONGREGATIONAL RESPONSE:

May the long time sun shine upon you,

all love surround you,

and the pure light within you

guide you all the way home.

POSTLUDE

[1] Laura A. Robbins, “the Pernicious Problem of Aging”, in Generations, Journal of American Academy of Aging, posted 10/22/15

[2] Op. cit.

[3] Ibid

[4] Joyce Ann Mercer, Old, frail, called by God, Christian Century, July 5, 2017

[5] Op. Cit.