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    This sermon was preached by Pastor Keith Cardwell at Swift Presbyterian Church.

    Family and Faith
    in Later Years

    Psalm 71
    July 31, 2016

     T ODAY IS THE FIRST in a sermon series on family and faith. Each week will address a different age group. Today we look at the later one-third of life — somewhere 60ish and upward.

     Psalm 71:9: Do not cast me away when I am old;
     do not forsake me when my strength is gone.     

    The psalm writer hits the head. He’s praying to God but that verse might well be quoted in other contexts. As we grow older we fear we will be forgotten. Not after we die, but while we still live. You may not be as active as you once were. Knees and joints don’t work so well. Life is more sedentary.

    You fear being forgotten by people you used to work with. You’re afraid that friends — who also stay closer to home or have moved to retirement villages or to another state to be closer to family — will forget you.

     † † † 

    A GREAT FEAR IS TO BE FORGOTTEN by family. Grandchildren move to faraway places and are starting their own families. You hardly see them. Children are busy with their own lives, maybe traveling more as empty-nesters, maybe still focused on work and getting their own children through college. Perhaps most fearful, forgotten by a spouse who suffers from memory loss but they no longer know you or express love for you.

    Everything seems focused nowadays on young people. Radio stations don’t play the songs you like. TV shows don’t have anybody your age on them and when they do, they’re mostly crotchety caricatures of real, mature adults.

     † † † 

    IN THE LAST DECADES of your life, there are many of fearful places you might find yourself. One place people of faith might well fear is being forgotten by God and the church. You’re no longer able to be as involved with church. And when you do go, everything seems to cater to younger folks.

    You used to attend Presbyterian Women. Even if you wanted to, it no longer exists [in our church] because everybody else got older and tired and it stopped. You were on the yard mowing crew but now your son mows your yard. You taught Sunday school, sang in the choir. Prepared meals for funerals. You lived in the community of faith, expressing thanks to God for his grace and love through offering yourself through service. But not as much anymore. Maybe not at all. You do well to be present on Sunday mornings.

    The result: You fear being moved to the fringes and being forgotten by God and Christ’s church. In a major study of women over age 65, women were asked how their congregations perceived them. They said they were invisible. (Faith Formation After 70: Ministry with Older Adults, posted by Dorothy Linthicum on May 16, 2016)

     Psalm 71:9: Do not cast me away when I am old; 
     do not forsake me when my strength is gone.     

     † † † 

    A PROBLEM FOR MANY older adults in their later years is not a lack of faith, but a lack of being nurtured in that faith once they are unable to participate fully in the daily life of their church.

    You last-one-third members and members in assisted living or confined to home, you folks with family members in this group, hear this: You are created in the image of God. We talked about this last week in relation to Vacation Bible School, but older adults hear this: You are a person of worth and value no matter your physical state or mental state. God has called you to faithful discipleship until your last breath.

    Faith, nurtured and matured over decades, helps you stay focused on living a life of significance and creating spiritual legacy. Mature religious faith does not guarantee happy outcomes. Mature faith doesn’t mean exemption from danger and accidents. It does affirm that all is not vanity in the universe, whatever the appearances may suggest.

     † † † 

    DON’T THINK BECAUSE of physical limitations you have nothing to offer. Consider these gifts:

    ● The gift of receiving: One of the gifts you give to the church is the gift of receiving. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” So, senior adults often provide the opportunity for others to be “more blessed.” I know many of you, your parents, your family have a hard time receiving. You’ve spent your life giving to others. Now is a time to humbly, graciously, and gratefully receive what others are able to give. Without people willing to receive, no one can give.

    ● The gift of life experiences: Personal life stories are a treasured resource for the church. Your rich and varied stories are a testimony to God’s work in your life. Stories of God’s goodness; stories of the ways in which his blessings have been so obvious. Stories of regrets and failures. Stories of God’s lavish grace and his complete forgiveness. We all need those stories, and they ought not be told only at your funeral. Children who know the faith stories of church elders tend to do better emotionally and spiritually. Stories help tie them to the past and the present and alert them to their own stories.

     ● The gift of faith.

     Psalm 71:18: Even when I am old and gray,         
     do not forsake me, my God,                                  
     till I declare your power to the next generation,  
     your mighty acts to all who are to come.             

    We have ways to connect with family through technology like never before. More and more older family members provide after-school care. These and other cultural factors mean the younger generations “will have greater involvement with their grandparents … than any previous generation of grandchildren in American history.” [Vern L. Bengtson et al., Families and Faith: Generations and the Transmission of Religion (report submitted to the John Templeton Foundation, July 2011), 117.]

     † † † 

    GRANDPARENTS, THAT INVOLVEMENT translates into religious influence.

    Tell your life stories to your grandchildren and great-grands. Share your faith with them. Read Bible stories via Skype. Text them on an ordinary day and let them know you’re thinking about them.

    On Facebook, post a nugget from each Sunday’s worship for them.

     † † † 

    SOME PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS for the rest of us:

    ● Remember the elderly: Faithfully remembering those who can no longer physically be present blesses them and makes us a better people when we do. Visits, cards, telephone calls, helpful deeds, especially on special occasions (birthdays, anniversaries, holidays) help them know they are not forgotten and feel like members of the body of Christ.

    ● “Adopt a Grandparent”: Moms and dads, think about a plan to adopt a Swift member who has no family or whose family for various reasons is not able to visit them. Single folks, consider a person over 60 to be a dinner partner or a movie mate.

    ● Visit those who are confined to home: Be attentive to their needs and to minister to them. We have deacons assigned to every family. We have church officers to take communion to people at home so they know they are remembered and that they are still part of the church. But that doesn’t mean you cannot do that also. Visits, phone calls, cards, don’t have to come from official church channels.

    ● We already lead worship once a month at Live Oak Assisted Living. It can be very meaningful, both for the older members and for the congregation, even children, to go there on occasion and worship with them.

     Psalm 71:9: Do not cast me away when I am old; 
     do not forsake me when my strength is gone.     

     † † † 

    WHEN THE CHURCH IS PRESENT with people in their later years, they know that God has not forsaken them.

    Keith Cardwell    

    Comments on sermons are welcomed and appreciated. 
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    Swift  
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                 —————
    23208 Swift Church Road
    Foley, AL 36535
    Phone: (251) 943-8367
    email: swiftpc@gulftel.com