Pentecost 24, Proper 28
November 15, 2009
The Rev. Robert G. Hetherington
Hebrews 10:11-14, 19-25
Endings and Beginnings
The church year is winding down. Next week is the last Sunday after Pentecost, the last Sunday of the church year. The following Sunday Advent begins. We start a new church year. God is present at the beginning of life. God is also present at the end. As we begin a new church year, it is time to take stock of our lives.
In the Gospel reading this morning we see Jesus leaving the temple in Jerusalem. He observes to his disciples that the huge building will be destroyed. “Not one stone will be left upon another,” he tells them. Later the disciples ask Jesus when this will take place. He says “false prophets” will come and there will be “wars and rumors of wars.” But the end will not come yet. The anxiety level of the disciples is raised to fever pitch. They are looking for the end to come in the next big event that takes place.
Change is always hard. It means letting go of old things so we can embrace the new. We feel secure in our old ways. It is hard to take on the unknown. Yet life is a series of changes. One chapter closes and another opens. We are always in transition. In a sense we are pilgrims who journey into the unknown.
For us as Christians it is important to confront the anxiety which change brings, to transform the anxiety and to live in hope. The new day that is dawning holds great promise. God will not abandon us.
Our lives are a series of endings and new beginnings. The child must die so the adolescent can be born. The adolescent must die so the young adult can be born. Then there is the transition to marriage and parenthood. We do a better job in each phase of our lives when we plan ahead.
One of the challenges for senior adults is diminished health. In my pastoral experience older people can become increasingly alone and isolated. They depend on fewer and fewer life lines to keep them going which puts heavy dependence on family members and close friends. It is hard to leave a home in which you have lived for 35 years where you are surrounded by belongings that matter to you. Yet if something happens who will get them? There is the wish to maintain our current lifestyles even though we know our lives are changing. Each of us lives with a certain amount of denial.
Sometimes our adult children confront us about our diminished capacities. There are few things that make us more anxious. Where will I go? What will I do? I am comfortable in my present surroundings. I do not want to go to a retirement community. I don’t want to be with a lot of old and sick people. Questions abound: Will I like them? Will they like me?
Your attitude toward retirement communities becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you believe a retirement community is for people who are old and sick, you will wait until you are old and sick before you make the move. Then you will not have the strength or energy to make new friends or to make your retirement community feel like home.
Remember, confront your anxiety; transform your anxiety. Live in hope.
Begin a conversation with family members about leaving the family home. This way you can control who gets what. There are a few very important items you can take to the retirement community. Be pro-active. Plan the next chapter of your life.
When you are younger and stronger you have the energy to make new friends in a retirement community. You can explore the opportunities that await you. No more burden of yard work. But you can still have a garden if you would like one. You and your family also have the assurance that if something goes wrong you are surrounded by health care professionals who can handle any situation.
As time goes by the new community becomes home. At that point it is important to reach out to the next person who comes in the door. They will have the same anxieties you had when you first moved in. You can share your story and help them feel at home in their new surroundings. Each new chapter in our lives has challenges but there are also many blessings. We actually can transform our anxieties and find ourselves more hopeful about the future.
Jesus concluded has comments about the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem with thoughts about the “Birth Pangs” of a new age. At each stage of our lives God is giving birth to new experiences which we could not have had before this time. It is a hopeful image.
Another church year is winding down. What lies ahead? Certainly the future will be full of challenges and opportunities. It is hard to give up what is familiar. However, the future beckons. As we deal with the anxiety and uncertainly which change brings, we discover how there is a lot more living to do than we imagined.