It all started with Colin Kaepernick – you know, the quarterback who started the trend of kneeling for the national anthem several years ago. That act prompted outrage across the country, especially among those of us who are older folks. And then, quite recently, Nike hired him to star in an ad that uses Colin as a poster child for someone who has sacrificed everything for what he believes in. Hogwash! There has been significant blowback from veterans group and others that believe Kaepernick and Nike don’t know what they are talking about. Time will tell which side prevails.
But I then read an article that touted the Nike move as a stroke of genius. It went on to say that online sales for Nike products were up 31% and the ad campaign was a raging success. How can that be? Well, as the author pointed out, I am not in Nike’s target audience.
After all, how many pairs of Nike shoes can they count on me to buy? Their demographic is a much younger audience, people who buy many pairs of shoes, and are, as a generation, far more liberal in their views about politics, immigration and far more supportive of Kaepernick than most members of my generation. In fact, they target the audience that buys more pairs of athletic shoes in a year than I have bought in my life. From that perspective, I get their point – I won’t be buying any Nike’s and you know what? They don’t care.
And then there is this thing at church. Our founding pastor is getting ready to retire in another year or two and there is a succession plan in place for his son to take over. I will miss our current pastor – I relate to him far better than I do to his son – and we have sat under his teaching for twenty years now. The current leaders just have a better handle on the theology and can connect with the longtime members of the church more easily. Frankly, it is easier for us to open us our wallet when the “ask” comes from somebody we really connect with and, for the most part, the financial engine of the church resides with the older generations.
But the heir apparent appeals to a younger generation – those folks in their mid thirties who will be the people who take our church to the next level. And, as it was pointed out to me, those in their late teens and early twenties already view him as an old man. I wonder what they think of those of us in our sixties and beyond. While I don’t necessarily think we are being put out to pasture, we aren’t the future, we are the past. We can still be contributors, through the rest of our lives, but our window is closing and true change comes from those much younger.
The same can be said for what is happening in the corporate world. As my generation enters retirement, or at least a reduction in workload, younger men and women are taking our places. That’s difficult to watch but at least we had a hand in training them for this rite of passage. As baby boomers, I don’t think we really thought about ever stepping down – after all, many of us were raised to believe that we would run the world – pretty much forever… And yet, we know that the idea of leading forever isn’t realistic. We just never considered what it would look like when we were no longer as relevant as we used to be.
There is a poem by Dylan Thomas, written in the late 1940’s, that is starting to hit me a little harder. The title, “Do Not Go Gentle into That Dark Night,” resonates with me. The first two stanzas tell us,
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.”
I now see the wisdom of the words that I missed when I was much younger.
Our verse for tonight is from the mouth of Solomon, regarded as the wisest man who ever lived, in his book of Ecclesiastes. We are told, in Ecclesiastes 3:1, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…”
My encouragement this evening is that we are relevant – because God made us that way. We are eternal members of the body of believers who belong to Christ. My prayer is that as we age we will balance our social and political beliefs with an understanding that we have had our time as leaders. Furthermore, that we should at least consider, as objectively as possible, other positions and remember that we owe the next generations a chance to succeed by responding to their willingness to ask for guidance. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…