Why, When I Was Your Age
I remember Jeff Walling complaining about the lack of good stories that our generation has to pass down to the next generation. Our folks from “the greatest generation” had lots of great stories— like walking 5 miles to school in the snow barefoot, uphill… both ways. My Dad tells of “chopping cotton” all day so that he could go see a Hopalong Cassidy double feature on Saturday. Mom tells about getting a battery operated radio from somewhere and rummaging around at the dump trying to find batteries to run it. Both talk about the rationing during the war (that would be World War II). But Dad does admit that he had plenty to eat during the depression; he knows that because every time he asked for food, he was told, “No, you’ve had plenty.” Great stories.
My generation just doesn't have stories with the same punch. “Why, when I was your age, we didn’t have remote control’ we had to get up off the couch and walk across the room to change the channels.” In fact, we had to change the channel with a pair of pliers because the TV channel selection knob on our ancient black-n-white TV was broken for years. Somehow that just doesn’t stack up with my Dad’s stories.
Or Paul. Paul’s gives a description of his “good old days” in preaching the gospel. To the folks at Corinth, some of whom has doubted his authority as an apostle, he recounts what he went through “back in the day” in order to preach the gospel—
Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:24-28)
I really don’t have stories like that. My great-grandfather would ride the train to Texas to preach a meeting and then didn't get paid enough for a return ticket home. I don't have stories like that. Last Sunday, I had a huge canker sore (or “mouth ulcer”) on my tongue, and it literally hurt me to talk as I preached Sunday. Not much of a story. I once had someone tell me after a Sunday sermon, "You are a terrible preacher and I would never come to church here!" I wanted to say, "Good!" But that's even not much of a story.
I wonder if preaching and living the gospel has gotten a bit too easy for us (or for me) in this land of freedom and prosperity. I wonder if we have all gotten a bit spoiled and maybe a little entitled in our expectations of faith. Ultimately, the real problem is not that the stories that we pass down to the next generation are a little weak; the problem is that maybe the faith we pass on may be a little weak as well.