Full of sap

File:Dahab Egypt Phoenix dactylifera.JPG

Date Palm in Egypt

Friday

Psalm 92:12-15

12The righteous flourish like the palm tree,
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13They are planted in the house of the Lord;
they flourish in the courts of our God.
14In old age they still produce fruit;
they are always green and full of sap,

“In old age they still produce fruit.”

We have a much different prejudice about the elderly. And, perhaps, they themselves think they no longer have an obligation to live charitably and fruitfully.

There was a wonderful, elderly Norwegian woman at my parish in Detroit everyone called Tanta Hanna.   She was not so much the sweet, kind grandmother as a sharp, delightful character. She announced at a circle meeting – in theory a women’s group for Bible study and service, but long since become a monthly meeting of friends – elderly white women in a congregation whose neighborhood had long since become poor and black – she announced, after a remark that was more blunt than polite conversation usually permitted – announced, “I’m 90 now and can say whatever I want.” The rest of the group laughed and said “Tanta, you’ve always said whatever you wanted!”

We do seem to have a stereotype in our culture that the elderly are past their prime, no longer able to make a contribution, and are expected to be – and somewhat excused for, or at least dismissed for – being crotchety and bigoted.

It is not so in the scripture: In old age they still produce fruit.”

I have known and continue to know people like this, people who, late in life, are still rich with the fruits of the Spirit. Long ago there was an elderly woman in a nursing home I went to see whenever I felt discouraged. She had everything about which to complain, but was a wondrous, grace-filled presence. I can still see the nursing center in my mind. The fact that I can picture the front of the building and the interior path to her room, reminds me of how great an impact she continued to have on the world around her.

“In old age they still produce fruit.”

I knew another gentleman.  The clergy in the inner city tended to laugh at him. He was, in a way, comical. He was hospitalized at the end of his life for some period of time – and the nurses all came to his funeral. He had filled that hospital wing with joy. Visitors ended up singing hymns. No one on the floor escaped his kindness, joy or faith.

“In old age they still produce fruit.”

I have heard people say “I did my time,” referring to their work in the life of the congregation, “Now it’s time for someone else to do the work.” I understand. But the remark often makes it sound like the work of a congregation was an obligation and a burden, and now it is their time to be served rather than serve. “It shall not be so among you.”

“In old age they still produce fruit.”

I also know people who, in their old age, are still growing and learning and bearing rich and abundant fruit. I pray I may be one of them.

Photo: By B. Simpson Cairocamels (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons