Old and young

Thoughts on old and young in a community

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I would like to start by telling you something about our holiday, but don't worry, I won't torture you with boring slides. The older ones can perhaps explain to the younger ones what slides are ;-)

We were camping at Lake Constance and this time we visited the Seenachtsfest in Constance, because there was a brilliant fireworks display.

We naively wanted to see the whole festival beforehand, but the area was so huge and it was so warm that day that we decided to sit rather than walk around.

And Guildo Horn was performing on a stage that evening, and since the concert was included in the admission to the Seenachtsfest, we went to see Guildo Horn.

Now, you have to know that Guildo works with first-class musicians but mainly covers hits, mostly those that my generation got to know with their parents in the ZDF hit parade.

But what was totally fascinating was that old and young celebrated this concert together. At our table, for example, there were six teenagers, some of whom danced on the benches, while people who were more my age and older sang along to the lyrics and, depending on their physical condition, also danced, but no longer on the benches.

It was a cross-generational celebration and everyone present had fun.

That haunted me a bit. Why was that?

It works similarly in other areas. For example, in football stadiums and ice hockey, old and young cheer for their team together.

It's not quite the same, though. Guildo Horn somehow managed to get everyone present, regardless of age, to celebrate and have fun.

In football or similar sports, it is more of a common goal, namely that one's own team should win.

Psalm 148

In Psalm 148 we may find something comparable.

It begins with v.1:

Hallelujah! Praise the Lord in heaven! Praise him on high!

Then it lists who is to praise God, first the angels and heavenly hosts, then the heavenly bodies, sun, moon and stars.

Then follows the creation here on earth, then the human rulers, kings and judges.

Last but not least, we are all addressed (v.12.13):

12 young men and young women, old and young alike. 13 Let all praise the name of the LORD. For his name alone is great, and his glory surpasses earth and heaven!

I think this is an important mission of the church, to praise God together, and of course this also includes spreading God's praise in this world. And old and young should do this together.

Young and old together: Let's compare this with the examples from before.

Celebrating together like Guildo Horn: Does that fit as a comparison? On the one hand not, because there was no serious goal at the concert and only fun together, which in principle is not bad. Praising God and increasing God's praise has a very serious background.

But if old and young feel good together, then that is not bad and a good goal for the church.

In football, the common goal plays a bigger role and every fan, young or old, wants his team to win. But this goal is also just fun-driven, you will never agree with fans of other teams, but as long as you don't take it too seriously, it remains the most beautiful pastime in the world for many people.

So football doesn't really fit as a comparison to "Let everyone praise God, old and young" either.

How does that even work with old and young in the Bible?

No one despises you because of your youth

There are a few statements that come directly to my mind. You probably know them too.

E.g. Leviticus 19:32; NL

Honour and respect the elderly. Have respect for your God. I am the LORD!
Luther translates it a little more poetically:

Before a grey head you shall rise and honour the aged.

The Elberfelder even speaks of an old man in this verse.

Of course, it is not wrong to have respect for each other and also to have even more respect for the life achievement of an old person.

How does one live this respect?

Let us look at a contrast to this: Timothy.

In the 1st Epistle to Timothy, Timothy is appointed as a kind of deputy of Paul in Ephesus and he explains to him once again in great detail what is important and what he is to pass on to the church, among other things also in chapter 3 in detail the topic "leadership".

Then comes an interesting passage that some of you may have thought of in connection with the topic of "old and young" (1 Timothy 4:11, 12; NL):

11 Teach these things and insist that everyone learn them. 12 Let no one hold you in low esteem just because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you teach, how you live, in love, in faith and in purity.

"What is this young preppy supposed to tell me?", you might think. But how old was Timothy really? I did a little research but found no clear sources. I remember that in some sermon I heard a long time ago, the preacher claimed that Timothy was already 40 years old and was only young compared to those even older. I only had that in my head, but could no longer find any reference to it. Today I have the nasty suspicion that Timothy was not meant to be too young, because somehow that is not possible.

I didn't get any further with my research either. Another site on the net claimed that Timothy was 16 years old at the time of his conversion and then travelled with Paul for a total of 16 years from 21 onwards. Perhaps he was in his mid-30s or so when he received the letter. But sources were not given on this page either and then I gave up researching, because this is not really important for the question.

How old should Timothy be at least to be able to carry out such a task, such a ministry? Can he be 25, for example, or younger?

In 1 Timothy 5, 1.2;NL there is something that fits this topic:

1 Never speak rudely to an older man, but admonish him with all respect, as if he were your own father. Speak to younger men as if they were your brothers. 2 Treat older women as your own mother and younger women with restraint, as if they were your own sisters.

Treating each other with mutual respect is always good (the tone makes the music), but the question remains, what is the minimum age someone has to be for us to let them tell us something?

I had an interesting experience at work last. I took part in an anti-stress workshop (there was still a place available), and I experienced something I hadn't experienced professionally for a long time: the lecturer was older than me.

Normally, at every workshop, every training, I have always been older than the leader in the last few years. I almost always have to learn from younger people.

By the way, my boss is also younger than me and the whole chain of bosses up to the management are all younger than me.


Better young than old?

That doesn't quite fit.

In the story of Sodom in Genesis 19:4,5; NL, where Lot harbours the angels, this is what happens:

4 Before they had even gone to sleep, all the men of Sodom - young and old - came and surrounded the house. 5 They shouted, "Lot, where are the men who came to you tonight? Send them out to us; we will satisfy ourselves on them!"

So young and old can also be united in evil.

Of course, that's not how it's supposed to be.

I would like to share a few more reflections with you on the subject of "old and young".

Of course, the relatively well-known quotation, almost two and a half thousand years old, usually attributed to Socrates, comes to mind:

Young people today love luxury. They have bad manners, despise authority, have no respect for older people and gossip where they should be working. Young people no longer stand up when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, swagger in society, devour sweetmeats at table, cross their legs and bully their teachers

Well, do I hear a "Right on!"?

Even a scholar like Socrates obviously couldn't cope with the fact that times and ways of thinking are always changing.

Bad manners" can be understood as not doing things the same way because one no longer understands the meaning in them.

"Despising authority", "no respect for elders" and "chattering where you should be working" can also mean questioning things, talking about what makes sense and no longer simply carrying out instructions without thinking.

Some teachers also feel bullied when they are questioned. And one statement is particularly hypocritical: everyone loves luxury, whether old or young.

As a contrast, one could of course look for some quote about the old where there are similar sweeping accusations.

I did some searching, but what I liked best was a quote from the American stock market speculator Bernard Baruch:

To me, being old always means being fifteen years older than I am

I can subscribe to that.

One could go on for hours with funny anecdotes, but we are in a church service here.

What is our mission?

Our mission

Matthew 28:18-20; NL

18 Jesus came and said to his disciples: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go to all nations and make disciples of them. Baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and 20 teach them to keep all the commandments I have given you. And I assure you: I am with you always, to the end of time."

That is our real mission.

Now please detach yourselves from thoughts like, I must now walk from house to house, sing in the pedestrian zone, etc. That may be the case for individuals, but that is not the point. It is not about activity now.

We are church together, we worship together, we share our lives, our joys and our sorrows. We seek the best of the city as far as we can. We want to be open to new people and we want to find out together what God wants for us today.

I believe that we need to think about the way we want to live church, about our values, old and young, together.

Only in this way can we fulfil this mission of Jesus. How do we have to live church so that people are ready to ask about Jesus? That is the task for young and old.

And Jesus has promised that he will always be with us, until the end of time. And only in this way does congregation make sense: to be with Jesus Christ.


To sum up.