We live in a time marked by generational snobbery that has been shaped in large part by a marketing machine that encourages us to trash the old in favor of embracing only that which is new. Sadly, this commitment extends far beyond the clothing we wear, the cars we drive, and the way we style our hair. It extends to people and ideas. We are encouraged to dismiss the old like bags of embarassingly out-of-style clothes. . . in favor of the new. But this is a foolishness that can unknowningly grip us.
Last evening I was reminded of the need we have to fight this cultural credo and to lean into the “wisdom of the aged.” I read an article on the legacy of my 45-year-friend Dr. Tim Russell. In the article, Rev. Keith Norman, of the First Baptist Church – Broad Street in Memphis, looks back on Tim’s life and ministry impact as a “community father.” Tim’s life on this earth ended on March 30 due to Covid-19. Rev. Norman writes this about Tim and Tim’s friend Fred L. Davis, who both went to be with Christ in the last few months: “Community fathers are the village elders. . . They are important in the life of the village. They are a covering to young people, and they freely share the wisdom of many years.”
“The wisdom of many years.” It’s that wisdom that we should so earnestly seek. . . so much so that we can never listen and learn enough from those who have more years under their belts than we ourselves. . . and have perhaps even moved on from this life.
As I thought this morning about Tim Russell’s life and legacy of sharing the wisdom of many years, I pulled a musty-smelling old book off my shelf, The Prayers of Peter Marshall. I inherited this book after my mother-in-laws’ passing over four years ago. Marshall died in 1949, but his legacy lives on in these prayers. He has become, in a way, a community father for me.” Filled with “thee’s” and “thou’s”, many would scoff at the idea that someone or something so old could have any relevance in today’s world. But I’ve been reading and praying along with Marshall, learning from his prayers how to pray with greater depth about the issues of the day.
This morning, I was taken by the timely relevance of Marshall’s prayer “To Change the Spiritual Climate of the World”:
Our Father, I think of all the pain and heartache, the tears and sorrow, the greed and cruelty unloosed around the world.
Help me to be an instrument of Thine to alleviate the pain, by this day: returning good for evil, returning soft answers for sharp criticisms, being polite when I receive rudeness, being understanding when I am confronted by ignorance and stupidity.
So may I, in gentleness and love, check the hasty answer, choke back the unkind retort, and thus short-circuit some of the bitterness and unkindness that has overflowed Thy world. I ask this in the name of Jesus, who alone can give me the grace so to act. Amen.