REV. PHILIP MEYER, PASTOR EMERITUS
10 June 2021
The weekend paper, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [I read this because I can get up to date information about my favorite teams as well as good comics], brought a couple of interesting opinion pieces which caught my attention. The first was titled In Praise of Geezers. As one who probably fits that category how could I not read it? While not agreeing with most of the political points of the essay I had to applaud the premise. The editorialist began by mentioning several known world figures, starting with Queen Elizabeth. No quarrel from me on that one, nor on Winston Churchill who was Prime Minister at the age of 77. “He was not in great shape physically. But Churchill at 50% was worth most men at 500%,” he stated. As a student of Churchill I would salute that flag. He made a comparison without naming names: “You don’t have to be able to play touch football to lead. You need to know something.” A reference to a past president who liked to play touch football with the family to show his youthful strength. However, he suffered from a number of physical afflictions which were hidden from the media. He also underestimated Soviet resolve to put ICBMs in Cuba.
What did the essayist mean by praising Geezers? Geezer is a derogatory term for an old man. What praise is there for those of us who fit into that category? He said,
“A geezer has often honed his or her knowledge, his or her passions, and his or her anxieties and insecurities.”
First of all, I like the fact that he used correct grammar, “his or hers” rather than the horrible “they!” He didn’t bow down to the idol of sexual confusion. More importantly, he pointed out that geezers have knowledge. Geeezers have lived longer than most. They have experience.
Holy Scripture exhorts us to honor our elders. I immediately thought of the passage I learned as a catechumen from our Synod’s Small Catechism Explanation. It’s under the explanation of the Fourth Commandment:
You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord. (Lev. 19:32).
Lest we forget the distaff side of the matter this passage was also included:
Listen to your father who gave you life,
and do not despise your mother when she is old. (Pr 23:22).
Quite frankly, our present society despises old people. When they are no longer useful many are shuttled off to nursing homes or whatever softer term we can find. Some elderly people I’ve talked to referred to those places as “God’s waiting room.” Even here there is some wisdom, if not humor! When information is available at our fingertips who needs to speak to a geezer!? Young people think that information is the key. It isn’t. It’s wisdom.
Younger people assume that geezers have nothing to offer. I will readily admit to the truth of the saying, “There’s no fool like an old fool.” Not all geezers have learned wisdom through the years. Some of them never got out of their teenage years. A relative of mine once described his mother, “She’s 65 going on 16.” I concurred. Some people never gain wisdom, which is why we pray with Solomon that God would give us wisdom, not riches.
Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” (1 Ki 3:9).
Wisdom comes with age, experience. I remember an exchange between a younger man and an older man, a geezer if you will. The younger man praised the older man’s success and asked him how he had managed to be so successful. “Good decisions,” replied the older man succinctly. The younger man asked, “How to I make good decisions?” the older man again replied succinctly, “Bad decisions.” That’s what life should teach us, to learn from experience. But Scripture exhorts us to listen to God’s Word.
My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
2 making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
3 yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
4 if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
6 For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
7 he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
8 guarding the paths of justice
and watching over the way of his saints.
9 Then you will understand righteousness and justice
and equity, every good path;
10 for wisdom will come into your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
11 discretion will watch over you,
understanding will guard you,
12 delivering you from the way of evil,
from men of perverted speech,
13 who forsake the paths of uprightness
to walk in the ways of darkness,
14 who rejoice in doing evil
and delight in the perverseness of evil,
15 men whose paths are crooked,
and who are devious in their ways. (Pr 2:1–15).
The essayist concluded:
“Here is what the old may offer: A certain calm. Fewer fluctuations of the mind. Less likelihood of going down rabbit holes. An ability to focus on the long view and things that really matter. Winnowed learning. A true aim.”
I exhort you to include in your reading of Scripture the Wisdom Literature. When was the last time your read Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon? Throughout those works you will find that wisdom begins with the fear of God. Wisdom is something learned in the school of life. There aren’t any shortcuts, no Cliff’s Notes, no Wikipedia. Experience is the best teacher and that experience belongs to Geezers. They know. They’ve been there. They’ve done that.
I’m going to drink a toast to geezers! Maybe I’m even toasting myself. Long may the geezers live! We need them!