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Retirement is the New Opportunity

The news came as no surprise… a bittersweet moment for every Philadelphian who loves the game. Yesterday, Jason Kelce announced his retirement after 13 years as the Center for the Philadelphia Eagles. Thirteen years, two Super Bowl appearances, one Super Bowl championship, six first team All Pro selections, Kelce ended his career with 156 consecutive starts earning him the Iron Man record for the Eagles. Jason Kelce was a walk-on linebacker for the University of Cincinnati Bearcats. At the NFL Combine, where teams scout out the best college talent, Kelce was judged as not particularly strong and rather undersized for Center at a mere 6’2” and 280 pounds- not good credentials for a player vying for a position that requires both size and brute strength. But what he lacked in size and strength Kelce made up for in speed, agility, and grit, so in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL draft, Andy Reid’s Philadelphia Eagles took a chance on the ‘scrawny’ kid from Ohio. By fall, that kid from Ohio had won a starting position on the Eagles’ front line.

On the field, Kelce’s keen read of the opposing team’s defense and his agility on the front line made him indispensable for the Eagle’s offense. In the locker room, he was a leader who could rally the team. And in public, his boisterous personality, that was often a bit crude, endeared him to the hometown crowd. Remember his appearance at the 2018 Super Bowl parade, dressed in a Mummers costume, where he urged the crowd to bark as he declared that the underdogs had won? Off the field, the Kelce legacy is found in the work Jason and his wife Kylie have shared, raising funds for the Autism Association. The Philly Special Christmas albums featuring Kelce have raised over $3 million for CHOP’s Children Crisis Center. Jason Kelce has become part of the fabric of Philadelphia, thus the bittersweet nature of his retirement. Bitter because most of us cannot imagine the Eagles taking the field without Kelce’s leadership. Sweet because he is so loved, we find ourselves cheering him on to his next Philly adventure. We know that Jason Kelce has only just begun to leave his mark that will benefit the people of Philadelphia. Thus, the definition of a good retirement- finding the next great adventure.

Think of the ancient prophet Elijah. God sent Elijah to challenge Queen Jezebel’s pagan priests to a duel that ended in their blazing defeat. Her fury knew no bounds. She was determined to end Elijah’s life, so he ran for 40 days to Mt. Horeb. During that time, Elijah’s prayer was a desperate plea that God would allow him to retire. The work was hard. Life was hard. The community had abandoned the cause, leaving Elijah alone and exhausted. He was ready to stop. But when he stopped, he found himself on Mt. Horeb where God had given Moses the law. There, in a still small voice, God called Elijah to “go back” and finish the work. In that moment, Elijah discovered the truth that the people of God have known across the ages, there is no retirement in the Kingdom of God, only new adventures.

Lenape Valley is blessed by many in our faith community that our culture would call ‘super agers’. They are well past the Social Security retirement age and yet still finding their next adventure in God’s kingdom plan. Consider:
  • A 92-year-old woman who is affectionately known as the Mayor of Lakeview. For years, she has welcomed new residents to Pine Run’s personal care facility, helping them to find their place and purpose in their new home.
  • A 78-year-old man who is still working full-time in his lab, diligently testing a new drug his team created that will be a game-changer in cancer treatment. He is currently finishing work on a 3-year grant with the National Institute of Health. But is he done? He would say the work has only just begun as they move to human trials soon.
  • A couple, 93 and 95-years-old respectively who host a vibrant Bible Study in their home at Pine Run. Twice a month, their apartment looks like a clown car with chairs appearing out of every nook and cranny to accommodate the 25+ attendees. Other days, they can be found in the gym, singing at church, and volunteering at the hospital. 
  • A 78-year-old woman who started writing children’s Christmas stories during the pandemic. Those poetic gems have blessed Lenape Valley in worship and are now sold on 
  • An 82-year-old man who loves to learn. He hosts a gathering on Facebook Live every Wednesday, offering a Bible thought and the opportunity for his online fellowship to pray. 
  • A 99-year-old woman who still lives in her own home, creating family gatherings, and documenting the family story for generations to come. A visit at Christmas time will amaze you with over 35 Christmas trees and many unique Christmas villages. 

These people have made the most of a precious gift- health in mind and body. But I also think of a ‘super ager’ I knew years ago. At one time, she was a leader in her church, running VBS and the Women’s ministry and the Sunday School. When arthritis made going to meetings impossible, she began a phone ministry inviting people to serve. When she could no longer hold a phone, she began a prayer ministry that covered her church for years. Her prayers for a young pastor blessed me many times. I hope to follow in the footsteps of those who know there is no retirement in the Kingdom, only new adventures!

With you serving in the Kingdom,
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