So I was wrong about the dog. I'm not saying that he's in the first flush of youth. But he's not as past it as I thought.
When I started my latest jogging regime I naturally assumed that I would soon be challenging Sir Mo Farah in the vets section of the cross country circuit. I say latest because I have finally ceased to be naive enough to assume that I will now exercise regularly for the rest of my life! At the same time I assumed that that dog was beyond athletic redemption. Both of these assumptions have proven wrong.
I have found myself getting a bit fitter, but not really getting much faster. In younger days a spring would develop in my step and pretty quickly I'd move from plodder to runner. The spring appears to have sprung. And, in His infinite kindness, as soon as I feel that I might actually be looking rather athletic the Lord sends someone jogging pretty slowly, whilst chatting in an easy fashion to their companion, who proceeds to pass me with ease. Sir Mo's record is safe.
At the same time the dog has rallied. I don't know if he was slighted by the blog I wrote a couple of months ago which suggested his jogging days were over. I'm not sure that he has even read it (https://www.thekingscentre.org.uk/blog-full/2017/10/24/dog-discipleship). Perhaps someone told him of how I had maligned his athleticism. Whatever the cause he has seriously stepped up his game and now potters along happily beside me. Sometimes he even pointedly stops to enjoy a few repulsive smells before catching me up with an easy nonchalance. He still doesn't like pavements much. But in the open country he bounds like a gazelle. Well lollops like a moose maybe.
It's all too easy to underestimate the abilities of the elderly. The Bible doesn't do this, even if our culture does. The word translated "elder" in the New Testament literally simply means older, which suggests that church leaders have by definition a few more years under the belt. There is also a role for older women to play. Paul urges Titus in Crete...
"Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children..." (Titus 2:3-4)
Older women are not to set their hearts on more gin time, but rather have a vital teaching role helping younger women in the church.
I was struck by how many of the activities of our church depend on senior saints to run them. Often working long hours to do so. I heard at a conference recently how at another church they deliberately look to their 60-75 year olds to staff their community centre and the groups it runs. When you're coming up for retirement the leadership interview you about where you would like to be involved!
Our culture has two attitudes to old age, neither show much respect. Firstly, that old age is for self-indulgence and secondly that old age makes you unproductive (accept for babysitting!). We would do well to see that the older folk in our churches are the ones with the wisdom, experience and, often, the time to be most effective in the Lord' service.