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Relics of the Rested and Rusting  

Amid the many small town fall festivals of Illinois, Stillman Valley Days must rank among the finest.  There’s the usual stuff: craft shows, carnival rides and overpriced funnel cakes.  For fans of fireworks, Stillman Valley Days is probably one of the season’s last and best displays in the whole state—which is why we try never to miss.

But because Stillman Valley is definitely in farm country, there’s always a display of small gasoline powered implements.  These antique machines are said to have performed important functions on farms of the last century.  Indeed, some of them are more than a hundred years old.

But because I’m not a farmer—and certainly no mechanic—I lack the imagination required to figure out what many of these contraptions actually did.  I saw Flywheels without pulleys….crankshafts with nothing to crank.  One machine, hiccupping white smoke, had a lever that went up and down endlessly.  Watching the three dozen machines that made up this display, I couldn’t help but observe the folks in charge: a cluster of old men, seated in lawn chairs.   Keepers of the past.

In the gentle racket of missed cylinders, combustion chambers backfiring and the chatter of a small town extravaganza, my mind wandered.  It occurred to me that this sorority of rusted relics was a metaphor for the senior citizens in so many of our churches.

Sometimes by choice—but I suspect more often by default—our seniors are left with little role other than Keepers of the past... Relics of the rested and rusting.

Surely this is inconsistent with biblical mandates that show seniors in mentoring relationships, offering wisdom, guiding the younger.   Surely we have, in many cases, bought into the world’s concept of merely tolerating our older members, rather than celebrating their years of experience.

In a day when churches are increasingly hiring outside consultants…you have to wonder how much wisdom is sitting there rusting away…unknown…untapped…unused.

That’s ungood.





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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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