Summary: Sermon for Senior Adult Sunday; Joshua’s "retirement speech" identifies his sense of God’s promises kept and focuses on claiming the future for the next generation.
Are you a little tired of all the pious platitudes about failure? You know, the folks who tell you that failure is a good thing because you will grow from failure and you will be a better person? I am a little tired of that. I do not want to grow from failure. I want to be a success. I do not want to be a better person. I want to be an accomplished person. Isn’t that where you are too? Come on, now, let’s admit it.
We do not really want to hear any more about how many materials Thomas Edison tried for his electric light bulb before he hit on tungsten; we are tired of trying things out, only to see them fail. We are ready for success, not more failure. We don’t even want to hear the old Edison saying about success being one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. There comes a time in life when you just want all the work to be over and your goals to be attained and, whew, can I sit down for a while?! We don’t want to hear any more preachments about failure and success, do we?
Do not tell me how many experiments George Washington Carver did with peanuts; I am no longer interested in peanuts. I want success and I want it now! By the way, I heard someone the other day describing how his grandfather arrived in the United States from overseas, riding in a ship carrying tons and tons of peanuts. He said his grandfather had nothing to eat but peanuts all the way across the ocean, and that when he arrived in America, he never ate another peanut for the rest of his ninety-five years! I can identify with that, can’t you? Might be a symbol of success in some ways, but for him those peanuts represented the failures in his old life, and he was finished with that. Like some of you have told me, “I’ve been poor and I’m never going back to that. Seen it, don’t like it.” Some of us, when we get on in years, are tired of playing with peanuts. We want something real. We want success. And we don’t want anybody telling us just to hold on, because tomorrow everything will be all right. Forget about tomorrow; when you are seventy or eighty or ninety you figure you don’t have a whole lot of tomorrows. You don’t have time to fail. You want success and you want it now.
Unfortunately, a whole lot of time in the senior years is spent dealing with failure. Failure dominates us. We find that our physical powers begin to fail. Eyesight wanes. Now my eyesight has been bad since I was twelve years old, but likely as I age it will get even worse. At least I will know when it is time to quit preaching -- when I can no longer see who’s up in the balcony and how they are behaving! And physical strength wanes too. So I will know when it is time to quit teaching Sunday School -- when I can no longer climb to that third floor classroom the Building and Grounds Committee assigned to my class, thank you very much. Physical failure.
Or mental failure. Isn’t it true that in our senior years we worry about the loss of our mental powers? The woods are full of terrible stories about older people and memory loss. For example, there’s the one about the two old ladies who were sitting one day, reminiscing about the past, and the one said to the other … the one said to the other … uh, she said … um, I forget what she said! Memory loss, or even worse. Anybody who has ever visited in a nursing home and has listened to people babbling on about everything and nothing knows what that looks like. And we don’t want it. I don’t know how many people have said to me that they would rather die suddenly than to linger in a confused and bewildered condition. We dread it when everything is failing, body and mind.