This reflection was given during the Eucharist at a local retirement village and nursing home. The Scripture it references is Mark 10:35-45.
The desire to become great… I wonder, is that a young person’s game? James and John were probably young men when this conversation took place. I picture them being full of machismo and with something to prove.
When I talk to people at the other end of life – people like yourselves, in nursing homes or retirement villages or in the care of relatives – I don’t see much of that youthful chest thumping left. If anything, I tend to see a different sort of problem; the temptation to think that life has used up anything worthwhile in the elderly, and that you have nothing left to give which is of value.
It isn’t true, of course. But in order to appreciate that, there are probably two shifts in thinking which need to take place. One is to get past the value systems of the world, which worship youth and power and superficial beauty, and recognise that these are not the only places where we can see something of God.
And the other is to appreciate the ways in which you can still offer valuable service. Obviously, for you, the heart of service is not going to be in physical strength or endurance. But out of your life experience and your lived faith, you can offer wisdom and perspective which someone like me – despite being educated – simply cannot have. As you look for and appreciate the gifts of others around you, you can offer hope and encouragement in a world where there isn’t enough of that to go around. You can love unconditionally, with the peacefulness of someone who has passed through and survived life’s big conflicts. And you can pray; for people, and with people, knowing that as you talk with the one who is Sovereign over everything that exists, you are connected to the greatest source of being and meaning and power that exists.
These are not, it is true, things which are going to necessarily receive accolades in the wider world. But they are all parts of a way of life which is truly oriented to service, in the pattern that Christ showed us.
All I really want to say is, each of you still has so much to offer; please don’t let yourself be blinded to it and discouraged from making a difference in the way that only you can.
The Lord be with you.