At the ripe old age of 74, it sometimes feels like I have seen it all (my grandkids wonder if I had a pet dinosaur when I was little!). Then I experience or read or hear about something new or something old from a new point of view. I should be used to it, but then I remember what we thought we’d never see in our day:
- We never thought another president would be assasinated until November of 1963.
- Until Vietnam we couldn’t imagine that America could actually lose a war.
- Personally, I didn’t believe that men would walk on the moon because my 8th grade science teacher told us, “God will never let it happen.”
- If I traveled by flight I would board the plane wearing a jacket and tie.
And my youthful church/spiritual life was filled with assumptions that:
- Mothers would always wear their best dresses, hats, and gloves on Sunday morning.
- Ffathers would leave their cigars and pipes in the car ashtray and light up as soon as church was over.
- Male elders would file into the worship on Sunday morning from the front entrance and sit together in the second row.
- I would never see more than the top third of our pastor when he preached because the rest of him was hidden behind the pulpit.
Where did the suits, dresses, pulpits, and assumptions go? Not that I miss them (really, I don’t), but back then, I just never thought it would or should be any different.
And how about sermons? Until 1969 in Colorado Springs, Colorado, I don’t ever remember hearing the word “abortion” in a sermon. Then last week we were blessed by a right-to-life sermon as engaging and compelling as I have ever heard from anyone on the topic.
And this week “gender and sexuality?” When I was younger, this conversation pretty much ran down this track: “Don’t have sex until you’re married. One man should marry one woman and they stay married. They should have a baby and the doctor will announce to the father — who was off smoking in the waiting room — ‘Congratulations you have a baby girl [or boy]!” She will return home to care for her family while he goes to work to finance the whole enterprise. The kids will move out at age 18 and the whole cycle starts over.”
What more was there to say?
Apparently, a lot. In fact, just as those previous assumptions were challenged, plenty more needs to be said. An elder who has just learned that one of his grandchildren is gay is torn about his response. My wife, Celia, tells me about a book called That’s the Way it Always Is, which has challenged her thinking. And unexpectedly, I am asked to think more deeply and speak more clearly on issues I thought I always knew.
I am trying (this worship series is helping) to see life and the future the way God does. I am trying to understand new conversations and decide how to respond to them in a godly way. I thought I had seen it all, but I haven’t. I need to see more. I need to know more. I want to see it, know it, and reflect on it from God’s perspective. I’m listening… .
Pastor Bert DeJong
ECRC Pastor Emeritus and Care Associate