Aging

Preaching and Worship Resources about Aging

The poignant and inevitable process of growing older, aging is a pilgrimage toward the City of God with opportunity for sanctification along the way.

In Scripture

Abraham "Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people" (Gen. 25:8).

Leviticus 19:32 "You shall rise before the aged, and defer to the old; and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord" (Lev. 19:32).

"As for mortals, their days are like grass; they flourish like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children's children" (Ps. 103:15-17).

Turning gray ". . . even when you turn gray I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save" (Isa. 46:4).

Alive in Christ "If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ" (1 Cor. 15:19-22).

"So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day" (2 Cor. 4:16).

Citizenship in Heaven "But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself" (Phil. 3:20-21).

Absolute Purity "Do not speak harshly to an older man, but speak to him as to a father, to younger men as brothers, to older women as mothers, to younger women as sisters — with absolute purity" (1 Tim. 5:1-2).

Holy City "And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (Rev. 21:2).

Points to Ponder

Poignancy of Aging Like everybody else, Christians note the poignancy of aging. Joints ache. Parents and friends die. Upper register music sounds screechy. We know a time is coming when almost nobody on earth will understand who we were or what we wanted. Meanwhile, spring is especially depressing, writes William Willimon, especially when you "see young lovers walking through apple blossoms." You feel yourself getting older. "You have more yesterdays on your account than tomorrows. . . . there are more doors closing behind you than opening in front of you." He adds that it was in just this frame of mind that, one day, King David stepped out onto his balcony and spotted Bathsheba.

From Shakespeare One response to the poignancy of aging is in Act 5, Scene 5, lines 24-28 of Shakespeare's Macbeth: Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Rejecting such despair, the people of God acknowledge plainly that "the days of mortals are as the grass of the field" but then we add, just as poignantly, that "the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him" (Ps. 103:17). Life is not "a tale told by an idiot" but a drama of a living body of people — a body with many parts, in a drama with many parts to play. This is a tale told by God and signifying everything of final importance in this life and in the life to come. It's the drama of the tragic fall of human children and of how a resourceful God has come among them to lift people who have fallen and place them on their feet, and to do it for no reason other than his own chesed, his own lovingkindness.

Everlasting Love of God The only meaning our lives have is a meaning conferred by this everlasting love of God. This is the love that has planted the generations, cultivated and delighted in us, worried over us and worked among us when we were laid low, and which one day comes for us not as a grim reaper to cut us down but as a faithful gardener who wants to transplant his trees to a place where their leaves shall never wither, a place where their leaves can be for "the healing of the nations." These are lives that gain whatever meaning they have in being treasured by God and then in being spent to increase the Divine pleasure. These are lives that actually bless God Himself: "Bless the Lord, O my soul."

Role of People Among Their Gods Isaiah 46:4 reverses the role of people among their gods. Isaiah was amused by the gods of neighboring nations who had to be toted out of town ahead of enemies. Take divine Nebo off the wall carefully, so he doesn't fall on his divine nose, pack him up, and haul him away on a buckboard. Israel's enemies had to carry their gods. But as John Timmer once stated in one of his gleaming sermons, Israel's God carries Israel, so that the big question in any religion becomes, "Who is carrying whom?"

Christians may be unintimidated about their belief in the life to come, when the "new Jerusalem" descends to earth and God's dwelling is with us. This is not "pie in the sky by and by" but a solid hope of a solid new heaven and earth. Aging is a pilgrimage into this hope. With a destination wedding in their future (the city of God is "prepared as a bride adorned for her husband") Christians may age with poise. They are headed for a future more glorious than they can imagine.

Virtues of Christ Meanwhile, the call for aging Christians is to put to death whatever needs to die — impurity, evil desire, greed, idolatry — and to clothe themselves with the virtues of Christ — compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and love. The call to die and rise in this way is the call to preparation for entry into a new heaven and earth where vices are unwelcome and, finally, irrelevant within a setting full of light and full of wonder.


Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.