Over the last six months I have become rather impressed with observing the way our Pacific   Island youngsters show such great respect to the older members of our congregations and demonstrate this in numerous ways without hesitation or second thought. It has humbled me and caused me to wonder how we can spread the word out from First Church.

We live in an age that in so many ways exalts youth and attempts to disguise age. Look in the newspaper advertisements or any one of the glossy weekly magazines and you will become aware of a growing practice called “anti-ageing” medicine, which includes aesthetic surgery, restorative dentistry and cosmetic dermatology. Face creams, face lifts and chemical peels are advertised that will slow or even prevent the signs of ageing. Some formulas that promise   you will look and feel twenty years younger if you swallow their pills or apply their potions and lotions.

Billboards, radio and television ads and the beautifully persuasive displays in our modern magazines all tend to focus on the worth of youth and the worthlessness of age. Ever noticed how they entice us with the words: “And there’s more …?”

How different are the words of the writer of Proverbs, who says that grey hair is “the splendour of the old” and “grey hair is a crown of splendour; it is attained by a righteous life” (16:31). In Israel, the “elders at the gate” were the symbols of the continuity of the community, and great respect was attached to their age.

I have been reading a long-waited for history of my descendants stretching back to the Black Isles of Scotland. The thing which stands out is that way back in the 18th century, the elderly were the most powerful group on society. Contemporary fashion placed grey wigs and stooped shoulders even on the young. Census reports, such as they were, indicate that persons reported themselves to be older than they were. It was said, “grey heads were wiser than green ones.” But then, as we know, all that changed.

In our society, ageism has had a face lift. The new way of valuing older people is to highlight their youthfulness and praise them for looking young and behaving likewise. Ageing has become a social crime. We have become so distanced from biblical times and the respect shown to elders. In the Old Testament we are commanded to rise in respect: “Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God” (Leviticus 19:32) It seems to me we need to value the signs of ageing –                   wrinkled, weathered faces, lined by years of lived experience; and yes, even white hair!


Graeme Munro











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