The art of aging has been lost, said the Rev. J. Peter Holmes at the 9:15 a.m. Friday morning worship service in the Amphitheater.
“Aging is not a walk in the park; I have walked through that time with people,” Holmes said. “Sometimes we grow old and mean and tired, but life doesn’t have to be that way.”
His sermon title was “The Lost Art of Aging,” and the Scripture texts were Psalm 90:1-12 and John 2:1-11, the wedding at Cana.
Holmes said that he loved the Cana story because he always sees something new in it. It is a story about something greater. It begins “on the third day,” meaning it is about resurrection. The chief steward in the story is surprised that the host saved the best wine for the end of the celebration. As the poet Robert Browning said, “Grow old with me! The best is yet to be.”
George Bruce, a poet laureate of Scotland, was given an honorary degree by the University of Edinburgh when he was 91. The university, in its proclamation, said he was 90. Bruce protested that he was 90 when he was 40 and he was not half that old now. When he died, his grandson said that his grandfather was a young boy in an old man’s body.
Jesus turned the water into wine at Cana, Holmes said, and he showed people a way to get to the end of life more blessed. Jesus left little clues, like take one day at a time.
“Jesus lived one sacred moment at a time,” Holmes said. “We need to get in sync with that rhythm. ‘Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a present; that is why we call it a gift.’ ”
As an illustration, Holmes talked about the life of tennis star Arthur Ashe. Ashe won Wimbledon in 1975 and shortly thereafter contracted HIV and then AIDS from a blood transfusion. Holmes heard Ashe talk in Toronto toward the end of his life, and Ashe asked to be excused from greeting people after the event as he needed to get home to New York to tuck his daughter into bed.
“Ashe did not put the cart before the horse,” Holmes said. “He didn’t lose sight of the wonder of life.”
In Ashe’s memoir, Days of Grace, his wife took a series of photographs of him for the book. One of Holmes’ favorites is of Ashe kneeling next to his daughter’s bed, tucking her in, and his hands folded.
Take time to be holy and whole, Holmes said.
“Be still and listen for the voices within,” he said. “Someone bumped into me on the brick walk and said, ‘Excuse me, I can’t text and walk.’ In the walk of faith, we have to put things away and listen so we are always in touch with who we really are.”
The prophet Isaiah said that those who wait upon the Lord will fly like eagles and run and not grow weary. If we wait and listen, we will hear the voice of the chief steward at Cana saying you waited and saved the best for the end.
At Cana, Jesus filled six jars of water, containing 120 to 180 gallons, and turned it into wine.
“Jesus just gave them the liquor store,” Holmes said. “But the grace of God never runs out, there is always more love, more grace. When we see the word ‘wine’ we think of the love and grace of God.”
When we forgive more, we experience more grace and we come to the end of our days and see the best is yet to be, he said.
In 1988, Bruce was asked to write a poem about a photograph of an eroded cliff. He had a hard time, but when he was done with “Cliff Face Erosion,” it ended: “Ravaged, penetrated, scuffed, deep-graven — your face is witness, as is the human face, to the years. I look upon your face and it is mine. I look upon you and marvel.”
Holmes ended his sermon with the story of a woman, Hazel, and a piece of art. He was new to Yorkminster Park Baptist Church and was asked to return a piece of art donated to the church auction to the family who wanted it back. He went to the care home where Hazel lived, and he could see the faded spot on the wall where it had hung. Her chair faced the spot.
He asked her to tell him about the painting, and she said it was her ancestral home in England. It was a “grace and favour” farm, granted by the king, in the family forever and there were no taxes. As he went to leave, she asked him if he believed in heaven. He said yes, and she asked what it was like, since the astronauts did not find it.
Holmes told her heaven was like a grace and favour farm, granted by the king, yours forever and no taxes.
“I could feel the chief steward say to her, ‘You saved the best until now,’ ” Holmes said. “Grow old with me, trust God and don’t be afraid. So be it.”
The Rev. Don McKee presided. Victoria Yazbeck, a student of chemical engineering at Holy Spirit University of Kaslik in Lebanon, read the Scriptures. Two organizations she is involved with are Byblos Ecologia and the Scouts of Lebanon. Victoria has served as a chief in the Scouts for four years where one of the Scout Laws is doing a Daily Act of Kindness. She is fluent in Arabic, English and French. The Motet Choir sang “Turn the World Around,” arranged by Mark Hayes under the direction of Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music. The Alison and Craig Marthinsen for the Department of Religion and the John William Tyrrell Endowment for religion supported this week’s services.