Summary: (For Senior Adult Sunday) Children ask for things for themselves, think in limited terms, and believe they can escape responsbility. Mature people think in terms of love.
“If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
And if I attain my golden years, and if I have my retirement fund secure, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
And if I come to three score and ten, or four score and seven, or even more, and if everyone pampers me because I am a senior citizen, but I do not know how to love, I am nothing.
And if I don’t have to get up on Monday morning any more except to travel on the seniors bus to Atlantic City, if I have punched my last time clock, if I have seen that supervisor’s snarling face for the very last time, if I do it all without love, what good is it?
Yea, verily, if my daily companions are a bunch of fellows named Arthur Itis, Ben Gay, and P. T. Bismol; if when I reach down to tie my shoe I wonder if there is anything else I should do while I’m down here; if I sit through more funerals than festivals, more wakes than weddings, if I have to do all that and know neither what it is to love or to be loved, well, then, what’s it all been about, anyway?
Paul’s great hymn to love is kind of unsettling on Senior Adult Sunday. Paul seems to think that love and aging belong together. He seems to think that as we grow older we are called upon to put behind us some things that may have been appropriate in our earlier years, but which are not on target any more. And he links these things to love. It sounds like this:
“Love never ends. But as for prophecies... tongues ... knowledge ... partial [things], [they] will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.”
I put an end to childish ways, but love, love never ends. For just a few moments this morning, can I explore with you putting an end to childish ways? Paul gave us our agenda: “I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child”. But now, for the sake of love, an end to childish ways.
First, “when I was a child, I spoke like a child.”
How does a child speak? A child speaks to ask for things. A child speaks about wanting and wishing. A child says, “Give me.” A child says, “I want.” I stood at the checkout counter the other day, right behind a young father with two preschool children. The drugstore people really know how to market, because right there where you have to stand while they rummage around looking for your prescription, they have strategically placed a stand of cheap toys, each one brightly packaged and placed at the eye level of a four-year-old. And so while Dad was trying to get the medicinal matters straightened out, one of those little boys trotted up with a toy and said, “Dad, can I have this?” Dad, predictably, said, “No.” Ten seconds later, the second little boy brought up another toy, “Dad, I want this.” And again, Dad was comfortable saying a quiet, “No.” So then the attack escalated. Back to first little boy, who found another toy. “Dad, I’ve got to get this one.” This time the negative was expressed a little more firmly by Dad. “I said ‘No’. We’re not getting any of that.” But the battle was not yet finished. Boy No. 2 came rolling back down the aisle with his second choice, and announced, “Dad, I NEED this.” I tell you, when Dad said, “Oh, all right, all right,” and bought the thing, I wanted to scream at him, “Do you know what lesson you are teaching these boys?”
I didn’t do it, of course, and only partly because my courage failed me. I didn’t do it because one incident in a pharmacy is not going to do much one way or another for little fellows whose basic instinct is to speak about wanting things, wishing for things, having things. Children speak about acquisition. Children speak about wanting, getting, taking, accumulating. That’s understandable in a child.
But when we become adults, we need to put an end to childish things. We need to stop speaking like children. We need to drop the language of acquisition and adopt the language of giving. We need to put an end to having and discover sharing. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I spoke about acquiring. But if I am 40 or 50 or 60 or on up there and I am still stuck in acquiring rather than in giving, I need to put an end to that childish thing. And I need to remember that the only thing that never ends is love.