The 21st century can be a difficult time for older folks. Not only is our church giving us heartburn, but we can’t get our new-fangled televisions to work, figure out how to use the dash full of icons on our new Toyota or understand how to make a call from any place other than the ole red instrument that’s been on the bedside table since the end of the Vietnam War.
Only divine intervention can help us when we call Time Warner Cable and have to talk to a man in India who speaks only a few words of English. And by the way, how do we make that doggone light stop blinking on the old dust-covered VCR on top of the downstairs television. Oh, that’s right, our 6-year-old grandson came by and did it without a second look.
And if this high-tech mumbo jumbo isn’t enough to make a preacher cuss, now they’ve gone to messing with our church.
Suddenly, we wake up and realize that no part of society has changed any more than the church, the sacred place where we were baptized, grew up, got married and raised our children.
We used to feel right on the cutting edge as we sat in our accustomed pew on Sunday morning wearing hats and short white gloves, singing “Holy, Holy, Holy” and “Amazing Grace.”
But, hey, somewhere along the line, even our church began to move in new directions, singing new songs, for example, not the ones from the familiar blue Hymnbook that gathers dust in the pew rack right next to a new translation of the Bible. Did I hear myself saying, “I don’t like this version of Psalm 23. It’s not the way I learned it in Bible School.”
And just when did we stop using the organ and bring in percussion, guitars and banjos? And start calling the sanctuary a “worship center.”
Wait a minute, who decided that Sunday morning worship is not the most important thing that happens in my church every week? It must have been some of those younger church members who talk about “small groups” and who are always looking for some way “to take the church” out of its beautiful edifice and into the streets, or even to gather for praise and worship in a neighborhood bar. (Well, OK, I know John Wesley did the same thing in the 18th century, but does that mean we should be doing it now? Hey, John Calvin stood by when some non-believers were burned at the stake. Does that mean we need to stage such extravaganzas these days? I don’t think so.)
Great goodness, when did Baptists begin to put the sign of the cross on the foreheads of worshipers on Ash Wednesday or wash feet on Maundy Thursday”? And when did Methodists begin doing a version of a genuflect when they pass in front of the cross. (Did some of that Anglican stuff rub off from Sam Wells, the former dean of Duke Chapel?) Seems to me that Baptists and Methodists and Presbyterians are starting to act more like Episcopalians and Episcopalians are acting more like Baptists. What’s going on here?
And baptism? With all the pitchers of water being poured instead of sprinkled from a discreet little silver bowl and preachers flicking water around the congregation, it makes Presbyterians wonder if the Baptists didn’t have it right after all. No doubt about it, baptisms are getting wetter. Even babies get more than the three or four drops like they used to 40 years ago.
Change is difficult for older Americans, who have spent a lifetime being flexible, rolling with the punches. Now, some of us are looking for a simple life. An affinity for high tech devices is not part of our DNA.
Recently, an older woman who lives alone could not be reached by friends or family for more than 24 hours because she had a new phone she did not know how to use.
She thought she had toned down the ringer so she would not be disturbed while she was studying the Sunday School lesson. Actually, the phone was cut off and all her callers were being sent to her answering service. Frantic daughters were calling and so were some of her friends.
One daughter, in the mountains for the weekend, called a neighbor who checked on the unconnected Granny. She was found to be safe and sound at the Presbyterian Church teaching the Sunday School lesson..
“You knew I was going to teach Sunday School,” she told her irritated daughter. Monday morning, Granny got a real “talking to” by the daughter who gave her an hour-long lesson in how to use her new phone.
How about giving Grannys a break!
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