BONUS FEATURE: Elderly exegetics (January)



Today’s entry continues a series of short musings about lectionary texts that may soon appear in your line-of-sight. These entries may prove helpful in interpreting the appointed lessons with sensitivity to the realities faced by those who are older.

JANUARY Background
It seems appropriate to look at biblical texts from the viewpoint of older adults, who were among the original writers, hearers and subjects of Scripture. Not every lectionary text connects directly to this idea, but there are still moments when these texts speak wisdom to those of us who are older!

In January, the texts quickly transition from reflections about the meaning of the Nativity to a season of discernment about the meaning of Jesus’ life for our own. The Epiphany of Jesus breaks into the world with power, drawing all of us—older adults included—into ministries that bring us together in purposeful living.

Sunday, January 5, 2020 (Second Sunday of Christmas, Cycle A, *CEV and **NRSV)
Jeremiah 31:7-14 – There are reasons for intergenerational dancing: Sorrow turns into happiness, especially for those of us who consider ourselves vestiges of a memorable past.
Sirach 24:1-12 (NRSV) – Wisdom (an older woman?) looks for a place to take root again, perhaps in the lives of other older women?

Psalm 147: 12-20 – The healing of bodies and renewed hopes? Sounds like a good share of what elderly people of God might yearn for.
Wisdom 10:15-21 – Wherever she is found, Wisdom is a powerful destroyer of evil, rewarding, guiding, sheltering and lighting life’s ways. Reassuring for those of us for whom wisdom is our most cherished attribute or hope.

Ephesians 1:3-14 – “When the time is right.” One of the hardest life lessons to accept and learn. Patience as an element of wisdom.

John 1: (1-9) 10-18 – No matter our age, we are still God’s children. A feeling and comfort that doesn’t disappear as we grow older.

Sunday, January 9, 2020 (Epiphany of Our Lord, Cycle A, CEV)
Isaiah 60:1-6 – Something important for us as we grow older: A family reunion! Glowing faces and swelling hearts tell the story. We’re glad to be among close relatives—especially those from far away and long ago. Perhaps those we might otherwise forget are part of this family of God in which we are deeply entrenched.

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14 – Revisit the time during Advent when this text first surfaced. Still waiting for this kind of king/ruler/leader? Has this happened yet? We’ve experienced righteous leaders in the past, which makes our yearnings strong that God would grant us another!

Ephesians 3:1-12 – A mystery solved: “Gentiles” are part of the same body of Christ as older adults. All varieties of wisdom—including our own—are useful for God’s purposes.

Matthew 2:1-12 – Think of it: A collection of (older?) rulers and religious leaders are afraid of the power of a baby! God’s promise for all of the world also stands as a warning for weak leaders trying to hold onto power.

Sunday, January 12, 2020 (The Baptism of Our Lord, Cycle A, CEV)
Isaiah 42: 1-9 – Our baptismal commissioning is not unlike Jesus’ own: No matter our age, we will not quit doing justice. God, the source of that insistent strength, is at our side.

Psalm 29 – In life’s storms—literal and figurative—God rules over the floods. Name them, and God knows them, too.

Acts 10:34-43 – God treats all people alike, no matter where they came from. (Today might be a good day to recall our ethnic heritages, and our family’s immigration to this country.)

Matthew 3: 13-17 – A question for memory’s sake, and for legacy’s sake as well: What do you know about your own Baptism? Beyond the rite itself, what happened the day you were baptized? Anything you could share with loved ones?

Sunday, January 19, 2020 (Second Sunday after Epiphany, Cycle A CEV and NRSV)
(NOTE: On this day the Church also celebrates the life of Henry, Bishop of Uppsala, Martyr. What we know about his man is obscured in ancient history. But what survives the centuries is that this missionary labored in a land not native to him, bringing Gospel news to people who needed it. His character and deeds relatively unknown—perhaps like our own—he nevertheless was faithful in the setting where he was called to serve God’s will!
Isaiah 49:1-7 – Being completely worn out and feeling like your time has been wasted, you still know in your heart of hearts that you lived this way for the Lord God. Whatever a reward might be for all of this—remembering that we all live as undeserving beggars in God’s presence—it will be right for you, the older adult.

Psalm 40: 1-11 17-19 – At this stage in life, we know the pits and how it feels to be rescued from that kind of existence. What’s your story of God’s presence and redemption in those moments? Perhaps even now?

I Corinthians 1:1-9 (NRSV) – Here is evidence how a blessing accumulates over years to become especially meaningful to us in our later years. Being special in every way—a nice way to describe ourselves in these times.

John 1:29-32 – There comes a time in all of our lives when we stop wishing to be noticed. Instead, we direct others’ attention to those coming after us, those who deserve it. Perhaps more than we ever did. A treasured task for older adults!

Sunday, January 26, 2020 (Third Sunday after Epiphany, Cycle A, CEV)
Isaiah 9:1-4 – People of any age can walk in darkness—perhaps the longer we walk this way the more it seems normal. And yet, light shines for each of us, especially for this nation we love. Perhaps the light comes from the “Gentiles” of our times—people of other nations who can be part of God’s brightness.

Psalm 27:1, 4-9 – A theme we can’t hide: As older adults, we may worry about being left alone. Not necessarily afraid of what that means, we’re still ambivalent about the implied rejection that comes with being all by ourselves.

I Corinthians 1:10-18 – Something that old folks may be good at: Sharing the truths of life – including the Gospel—without using big words. Wisdom distills truth to its most exquisite and approachable essence!

Matthew 4:12-23 — The shadow of death somehow seems more apparent when we’re older, which may make it difficult to see the light God is shining at us. One possible way to think about that light: Repenting.

*CEV – Contemporary English Version
**New Revised Standard Version

About the author

Bob Sitze

BOB SITZE has filled the many years of his lifework in diverse settings around the United States. His calling has included careers as a teacher/principal, church musician, writer/author, denominational executive staff member and meat worker. Bob lives in Wheaton, IL.

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By Bob Sitze

Bob Sitze

BOB SITZE has filled the many years of his lifework in diverse settings around the United States. His calling has included careers as a teacher/principal, church musician, writer/author, denominational executive staff member and meat worker. Bob lives in Wheaton, IL.

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