Back in the Day: Grace, Laughter, and Getting Older
Summary of Back In The Day Series
Week 1 – Back in the day, we walked to school 12 miles barefoot up hill both ways. We discovered the ethic of hard work in this phrase and we wrestled with the fear behind the saying that our society has lost that work ethic today in spite of the fact the people work more hours, longer and more on their weekly agendas than ever before in the last 75 years. And we found guidance for managing that fear in the the story of Moses as we learn to value the ethic of the past and see with new eyes how we are living it out today.
Week 2 – Back in the day we bought gum for a nickel and chewed it all week long. We discovered the value of living in the present moment, of finding ways to quell our incessant future oriented minds and to live into Jesus command to not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will have problems of its own. Today is the day the lord has made and we should rejoice and be glad in it. This is the lesson of communion each week .- be present to this day, to what God has for you, and to the beauty and wonder that is right before you right now.
Week 3 – Back in the day we didn’t have our own room. All the siblings slept together in one room and had to learn how to get along and love one another! We looked at the balance in our lives of alone time and people time. We admitted our need for time to be alone to recharge. And we accepted that God made us to be together, in community, to love and share with one another. And communion is a practice and ritual which reminds us of our togetherness and how we are to treat one another with love as each person represents Christ before us.
Our saying today:
Back in the day snap crackle and pop were sounds I heard from my cereal, not my body!
Today we are looking at Grace laughter and getting older.
In the years before the Revolutionary War in a village at the foot of New York’s Catskill Mountains there lives a Dutchman. One autumn day, he wanders into the mountains with his dog to escape his wife’s nagging. He comes upon a group of ornately dressed, silent,bearded men playing nine-pins who call out to him by name.
The Dutchman does not ask who they are or how they know his name. Instead, he begins to drink some of their liquor and soon falls asleep. When he awakens on the mountain, he discovers shocking changes: his musket is rotting and rusty, his beard is a foot long, and his dog is nowhere to be found. He returns to his village, where he recognizes no one. People begin asking him how he voted during a recent election. Never having cast a ballot in his life, the Dutchman proclaims himself a faithful subject of King George III, unaware that the American Revolution has taken place, and nearly gets himself into trouble with the townspeople until one elderly woman recognizes him.
On an inn he recognizes, the Dutchman discovers that a portrait of King George’s has been replaced with one of George Washington. Most of his friends had been killed fighting in the American Revolution. And his wife died some time ago but he is not saddened by the news. (Seems to be relieved to be free the bonds of marriage!) And finally he realizes that he has been away from the village for at least 20 years and that the men he met in the mountains are rumored to be the ghosts of Henry Hudson’s expedition crew. After finding his now grown daughter, she takes him in and he resumes his usual idleness preferring the company of the young… not so much to be in touch with this new world he woke up to as to tell them stories to preserve the old world in a relentlessly changing time.
Who is this Dutchman?
Answer: Rip Van Winkle!
What is the moral of this story?
Answers: Life goes on whether you are there or not. Change in inevitable. Or maybe this: Don’t drink with strangers!
I think the story is a metaphor for aging. It forces us to realize that the world changes…whether we are awake or not. And it asks us to consider how we react and respond to what happens to us and the world as we grow older.
Life passes Rip by and he appears to have learned little. He lives almost purposeless both in his youth and in his old age.
Our faith has another story of aging within it. A story that gives us some guidance about growing older.
The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.” Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.
They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.”
Abraham had heard this before and from the very moth of God. So this is the second time he heard it. But Sarah had not.
And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?”
I’m not sure about the pleasure Sarah is referring to here. Maybe the joy of a newborn baby…or maybe the act of making that baby! Maybe both are intended just to give us a little laugh!
The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.” But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”
So, why did Sarah laugh?
I think she laughed because she was a good comedian. She knew how to do what every good comic does. She knew how to find the funny.
Sarah had a sense of humor. She laughed because, as she said:
- She was over 100 years old,
- She was (in the ESV translation, Sarah describes herself as “worn out” in every possible sense), and
- She was gonna have a baby.
The first two of those go together. The third doesn’t fit. And that is funny!
Sarah laughed because of the truth of those three things: age, worn out, and pregnant. You see, if she knew pregnancy was a lie, she would have no reason to laugh. (In fact, maybe quite the opposite.) She laughed because she believed it could happened and the possibility of it happening at her age is what was so funny!
Sarah laughs because she finds the funny.
Wanna return to that ESV translation. “after I am worn out…”
Sarah had tried to have children and failed. Tried and tried and been disappointed time and time again. Tried and tried and been unable to produce an heir.
Can you imagine the disappointment? The struggle? The feeling of failure? Wondering what might be wrong with you that you cannot fulfill one of the purposes you had hoped to fulfill as a spouse? In this society at this time, Sarah may have felt purposeless.
Have you ever tried and tried to make something happen. And your efforts completely fail. But then God comes through and delivers the very thing you had tried to do?
You could be mad. You could get frustrated and ill about it. Or you can receive it with grace like Sarah did…and just sit back and laugh at the absurdity of it all!
You see, despite years of disappointment, Sarah was willing to embrace the impossible and by doing so, she embraces a new purpose for her life in her old age. And the ridiculousness of it all it absolutely worthy of a good laugh.
Truth – we all age. We grow older. It is a never ending fact of life. As you age,
Whether you appreciate change and enjoy the newness of a world that isn’t what it used to be. Or whether you resist the changing world and strive to preserve the old ways. Or whether you are somewhere in between, our faith teaches us to live in grace. Grace for the old. Grace for the new. Grace to be young. Grace to be old. Grace to be naive. Grace to be wise.
Sarah and Abraham teach us what grace looks like. That in the midst of change, in the midst of the impossible, in the midst of a world that doesn’t make sense, in the midst of what lies ahead after years of disappointment…..we receive life with grace and laughter. We enjoy what is before us. We receive each day as a gift from God. We love every precious second of life that is right here, right now.
Writer Kurt Vonnegut:
When Hemingway killed himself he put a period at the end of his life; old age is more like a semicolon.
You are here. And your life is not over. Today is a semi-colon. God has set seconds, minutes, hours, days, months and even years ahead of you. Embrace each one with such grace that you laugh the day away in love and wonder and awe of the amazing life that God has given you and the incredible things God will do with your life right now…whether you are 9 or 90.