growing young gracefully

Extract from sermon for Trinity 2

2 Corinthians 4: 13 – 5: 1

Peter Stringfellow died this week aged 77 years, which was a good innings all considered! By all accounts (and I read the obituaries) he was quite highly thought of, despite his reputation as the ‘King of Sleaze’. The Daily Mail even carried a headline calling his late-in-life family man turnaround ‘the greatest conversion since St Paul’, which is stretching it a bit I think!

If Peter Stringfellow had a problem – and, like the rest of us, he probably had many – it was that he didn’t want to grow up. Stringfellow wanted to stay young forever – a quest as old as hedonism itself. To be honest, I sympathise with him. Maybe there’s a little bit of Peter Stringfellow in all of us? Well, in most men certainly! No one wants to get old. Most of us rebel against the ageing process to a greater or lesser extent.

The answer is to grow old gracefully by living a balanced life. By giving as much attention to our inner nature as we do our outer one. In Christ our outer nature [body & mind] may be wasting away, but ‘our inner nature [soul] is being renewed day-by-day’ (2 Corinthians 4: 16).

Perhaps there is sense that in being renewed (made new) every day we become spiritually younger in some mystical way. Like the classic Bob Dylan line, ‘I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now’ (My Back Pages), we can see such spiritual youthfulness in elderly people, who have or who are in the process of growing old in the Grace of God. They exhibit an eternal youthfulness. A sparkle. We might call this ‘gracefulness’.

I love this quote from David Emmott’s talk last Sunday…

“We might be camping out in one corner of our vast Victorian barn, but at least half our congregation is under 70 and not everyone’s hair has gone grey or disappeared!”

So here we are in our tent. A tent inside a tent. This building, our church – as beautiful and as historically significant as it is – is merely a tent. A temporary and a temporal dwelling. And, like our earthly bodies, Christ Church won’t stand forever…

‘For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.’ (2 Corinthians 5: 1).

In the meantime, as we go forward with our plans for our church building and our church body (us & the wider community) which meet in it week-by-week, we aim to be a ‘Temple of Grace’…

‘…so that grace, as it extends to more-and-more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the Glory of God.’ (2 Corinthians 4: 15)

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Keith Hitchman, Vicar

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