No Expiration Date on Service to God

No Expiration Date on Service to God

Jim Stinson, Former Consultant on Older Adult Ministries


“I don’t feel as if I belong here.”

“It is not the world I knew.”

“Maybe I have lived too long.”

Sound familiar?

Having had the privilege of pastoring congregations and serving as director of spiritual life for United Methodist Homes for more than a half century, I cannot even begin to guess the frequency with which older people have expressed these feelings. Even as I continue to serve as a pastor to a small congregation, the feelings continue to find expression.

I understand them differently now. The fact of my own aching bones, reading and hearing news (which I often wish was fake news, but alas is not), living in a world and a nation that often seem to be in immanent danger, serving a beloved church with so many congregations worried about simply surviving, the saber rattling—and the list goes on—all tempt me, from time to time, to be the speaker of these sentiments, rather than the hearer.

And I wonder, is it the times we live in? Is it my aging process? Have these things always been true? Probably.

Whatever, the fact is that I know the feeling, expressed by so many of my older peers. Thankfully, the feeling does not control me. Hope does!

A challenge of aging and ministering to the aging is listening and understanding. Yet it is much more. The faith we proclaim constantly reminds us that God continues to speak and work in the world. The stories of Jesus and the victory of the cross serve as reminders that hope is more than a pious wish. It is the very reality of God. To proclaim anything less than hope is to witness to something other than the Gospel.

The older adult, like every other person, is called to be in service by this Gospel. The whole Gospel is not being heard if she is not hearing this call and living into this hope. There is no expiration date. It continues through all of life.

A ministry in the name of this hope enables a vision that sees the reasons for despair, but continues to work in whatever way is possible for the coming of the realm of God in the here and now. Whatever one’s age, whatever one’s health or physical condition, our call is to live into, and behave accordingly. Those of us engaged in caring for and about older adults serve them best when we challenge them to remember ways in which, even as they age, they can remain faithful to this hope.