The Best Birthday Ever
By Rev. Jonathan R. Pia, Senior Minister and Administrative Pastor
(Delivered on October 30, 2013 in celebration of Dr. Ben S. Malayang III's birthday.)
As we grow older, we notice that things are different from those we had been used to. Neighborhoods change and even Silliman University has changed. And now, Silliman is girding up for more changes. We also know that we ourselves change as we get older. Lots of things change with age. For some wrinkles appear, for a few the hair disappears. Not long ago, someone noted some of the more obvious adjustments.
(1) It was entitled, “YOU'RE NOT A KID ANYMORE WHEN…:”
- Your back goes out more than you do.
- You quit trying to hold your stomach in, no matter who walks into the room. Your arms are almost too short to read the newspaper.
- People call at 9 p.m. and ask “Did I wake you?”
- And I may add that most of the time, the topic in conversations is about the medicines that you take.
Our lesson from the Psalm is focused on the passing of the years. It is familiar to many of us. We usually hear this read during birthdays. Listen again to some of the phrasing: “all generations… everlasting to everlasting… a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night [three hours].” This is a reminder of the transitory nature of human life: ” [humanity is] like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning; in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers…our days pass away…our years come to an end like a sigh.” Then those famous words in the sweeping poetry of the King James Version in which so many of us were nurtured, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”
At first reading, it sounds depressing? Perhaps. But not necessarily. Psalm 90 really should be the theme song of those who get to be sixty and above. This is a hymn for grown-ups. It takes seriously the passing of the years as any mature person does. It takes seriously the fleeting nature of human life. As someone said, “We may not be able to add more years to our life, but we surely can add more life to our years.” The Psalmist's prayer is, “So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.” Wisdom, Lord. Give us wisdom, so that we might make the most of these fleeting years! And I may add, you need wisdom especially if you are the president of Silliman University.
How will we wisely approach the next ten, or twenty or thirty years (or however many years God gives us together)? In this passage, the Psalmist did not say how we can gain wisdom. But it is implied that wisdom comes from God. In fact in Proverbs 9:10, the writer says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”
You remember Robert Fulghum's best seller, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten? For Fulghum, wisdom is recommitting ourselves to the basics. For us Christians, these are some of the basic things that we were taught in Sunday School:
(1) We learned…and we should teach…that “God is great and God is good.” God is our Creator. This world is God's and everything in it, and even when it is not so obvious as we might wish, one day, in God's own good time, “the wrong shall fail, the right prevail.”
(2) We learned that “Jesus Loves Me, this I know, For the Bible tells me so.” We memorized, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son…” We learned that Jesus is living and dying proof of God's love for you and me and the whole wide world.
(3) We learned, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world; Brown and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight; Jesus loves the little children of the world.” If we ever give thought to that song, we know that we live in a global village. Whatever we do here affects others.
(4) We learned “The B I B L E, yes, that's the book for me. I stand alone on the word of God, B I B L E.” For answers to life, we need to read the Bible.
(5) We learned, “This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.” We were taught, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Let our lives shine that others may see the Christ in us.
These are some of the basic things that we need to remember in life. What will the coming years hold? The good news I bring to you is if you want wisdom, the writer of Proverbs tells us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”(Proverbs 9:10) And James in his book tells us that “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.”(James 1:5) With this, this birthday is the best birthday ever. Hallelujah!