A retired priest friend, serving in neighboring Aransas Pass, told me over lunch the other day that he finds "First" Testament infinitely preferably to "Old" Testament when Christians are referring to the Hebrew scriptures. "Because," he said, "we need not act like those scriptures have been replaced or have no value." My heart broke for my friend as he said this. Is this what it means to be old? Is this what it feels like to be old? My calling the First Testament "Old" has never been for me an indicator of value lost or of something replaced. That he heard "out-dated" when someone said "old" probably should not surprise me - and may be indicative of the larger culture's relationship to Scripture, the Church - and even, God-forbid, people - but I pray not.
My best friends in and through this first year in Portland are more than ninety years old. Rebekah laughs at this, but in fact I have a surprisingly good number of friends near or past ninety. Some make it to church; others don't - still they cherish the frequent reminder that they are the church. Not the old or first church. Just church.
I have found in these friends a remarkable perspective with respect to the present. They aren't naive with respect to present challenges, but they are quick to identify the things that really matter. Such a perspective is often capable of being thankful and truthful at the same time, no small feat, I think, and in stark contrast to the perpetual anxieties that plague so many of us. These friends frequently appreciate the connectedness of things. They know their need of God, and they pray out of that need - and love. More than a few times in conversation with these friends a seemingly trivial observation has opened up to holy consolation - the sigh and the voice of the Spirit in the midst of His two or more (but mostly just two) gathered in His Name. Grace.
To borrow the constant refrain of one of my friends, "I am thankful" - for their witness and their friendship and the love of the Lord we praise.
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