By Pastor Paula Burchill
My in-laws go to a great ELCA church in the Phoenix area. There are a lot of gray hairs there. In fact, most everyone at the church is in what my mother-in-law says they call the last third of their lives. She told me that she has found that image to be helpful, because they are reminded regularly, that in every third, God has important work for you to do. And the last third is no exception.
That image is sticking with me, too, in my middle third. A time marked with work and raising a family, and increasingly dealing with older parents and friends who are sick. Richard Rohr says the skills that take you through the first half of your life are entirely unhelpful for the second half. That has made me chuckle thinking about the worries I had in the first half of my life that seem so silly these days. There is a lot of truth in his statement. But I think the bigger truth is that what connects each third of our life is that God has important work for us to do.
A young boy was baptized at our early service on Sunday. He chose for his godmother, a woman in her last third who regularly sits by him in church. I don’t know that she has done much more than talk to him in the two years they have worshipped together, but it made a huge impact in his life. I got tears in my eyes watching them stand together at the font—he in the beginning of his first third, she in the middle of her last.
In baptism, we are all given a commission. The work God has for us is to live among his people, read his word, receive his supper, and fight for justice in the world. It was beautiful to watch that boy promise to do those things with God’s help, and his new godmother promise to help him as well.
So often we dismiss children, and even more often the elderly. I visit lots of shut-ins who wonder what their purpose might be since they can rarely even leave their homes without significant difficulty. But they pray. And they ask about the church and what they can pray for. And I see God using them as much as those who are able to volunteer every week.
Whatever third you are in, God is using you. This has been an important reminder for me. A reminder that just as we share in Christ’s body, we also share in Christ’s work–in no matter what third of our lives we find ourselves.