I don't often post sermon thoughts, but yesterday's message is sticking with me. It was part of the Grocery Store Tabloid series, with the title, "How to Be 40 Happier' - a reflection on Ecclesiastes 9: "I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful, but time and chance happen to them all...Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one bungler destroys much good." What is wisdom, and how do we age gracefully?
1) Be Yourself. In Henri Nouwen's words, "claim your unique presence in the community." You are a gift from God, as are others. Warning: Not everyone will be delighted.
2) Own Your Values, but don't get stuck. "Anything goes" is another form of slavery. Solid day-to-day values, freely chosen, lend our lives a basic sanity. Kathleen Norris offers one such simple rule from the Benedictines: "No one is exempt from kitchen duty."
3) Know How To Suffer. We all feel like we are the center of the universe, but we are not. And Jesus repudiates the idea that your suffering is some kind of punishment from God. Pitch that idea. Ann Lamott affirms that grief can give us (only after crying and yelling and writhing) "the two best gifts: softness and illumination." Parker Palmer reminds us that there is no way out, only through.
4) Give "Em a Break. A rock and roll musician and church member, a veteran of thirty years playing clubs and concerts, once taught us that the sinners and the saints are the same people. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. wrote that humanity's best idea so far was when Jesus said, "Blessed are the merciful." The best way to age gracefully is to develop a generous spirit.
5) Every Day is a New Gift from God. Imagine "ongoing Genesis," greeting every day with new eyes, new ears, and an open heart. My 90 year-old mother obsessed for a week about the right clothing, jewelry, make-up and gift for the birthday of a college friend the same age. The ensuing party, which involved at least a half-dozen 90 year-olds, had a delightful spirit of God's presence. It is never too late for a jaunty cap, nice jewelry, and a little rouge.