Words of Faith

Generational differences a metaphor for life

May 27, 2014 

At one point this year, our family included people who were 33, 66 and 99 years old. For some reason, that has stuck with me.

The 99-year-old was born before women had the right to vote in this country. Woodrow Wilson was president and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., was being constructed. Wrigley Field opened. Jane rode by horse-drawn carriage to school from the farm. Except for a couple of years in college in Georgia, she has lived in the same two counties in Tennessee her entire life.

Jane was raised in the Methodist church.

The 66-year-old was born before the State of Israel existed. Harry S. Truman was president, and Jackie Robinson became the first African-American major league baseball player since the 1880s. The Cold War was in full swing, the CIA was created. Whit was born in Ohio, but moved with her family to California when she was a teenager. Except for college in North Carolina, she lived in California for the rest of her life, all but 10 years in a couple of counties.

Whit was raised in the Presbyterian church.

The 33-year-old was born during Jimmy Carter’s presidency. That year, Mount St. Helens erupted, John Lennon was killed, CNN and Pac-Man were launched, and we found out who shot J.R. (Google the TV show “Dallas” if you don’t know that reference). Sarah was born in California, had family there and in Oregon, Ohio and the Carolinas. She went to college in North Carolina and has lived in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, where she now lives and raises her family.

Sarah was raised in the Episcopal and Presbyterian churches.

So what does that have to do with anything? I like the symmetry, and am sort of wishing that someone else in the family would have had a baby at the right time so that the trend could continue, but alas, it did not happen.

I think about the 33 years that totaled Jesus’ life on Earth, and, my oh my, the impact on the world that those years have had. I think about the fact that each of these women was raised in the faith of the Church. The traditions differ in style, but not in ultimate substance. They prefer some different language to express their beliefs, and choose different worship styles and personal faith practices. One skips church when they have communion because she thinks the shorter sermon that day isn’t worth coming out for. One wouldn’t consider it a worship service without the Eucharist. One is pretty flexible about the whole thing. One offers brief prayers, one spends hours in silent meditation, one takes a middle road and is very proud of her 3-year-old who can recite the Lord’s Prayer.

One likes old Baptist hymns, one Gregorian chants, one likes a variety of hymnody.

One is a staunch Republican, one a yellow dog Democrat, and one non-political.

Their lives are, and have been, different from each others. But each of them is rooted and grounded in the love of God and each seeks to walk the way of Christ. They love each other and focus on the things which bind them together, and not that which divides them.

Hmm… maybe that which takes place between those three generations in our family could be a model for the human family.

The Rev. Dr. Joanne Sizoo is pastor at Grace Presbyterian Church in Fort Mill. Contact her at jsizoo@gracewired.org.

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