One of the most divisive athletes in all of history is Tom Brady. He's currently the quarterback for the New England Patriots, and is in his 20th year as a professional football player. To put his longevity into perspective, he started playing college football in 1996 when I was a Senior in high school (yes, Tom Brady is older than me). In 1996, his freshman year at Michigan, Fox News came onto the air for the first time. Bill Clinton won re-election to his 2nd term in office. Michael Jordan began his 2nd run at 3 straight NBA titles, the Macarena went viral, Tickle Me Elmo became the hottest toy in the world, and DVDs began being sold in Japan for the first time (before making their way to the US). He's been playing quarterback at an elite level for twice as long as my 11 year old son has been alive.
His longevity isn't the only remarkable thing about him. Love him or hate him, his story is just as amazing. He was drafted in the 6th round of the draft (out of 7 rounds total), the 199th player selected. He was only picked because the Patriots needed a third string quarterback (they had a pro bowl starter already in their lineup). In an age where NFL players are selected because of brawn, physical dominance and elite athleticism, Brady came into the NFL as one of the scrawniest, least athletic players in the last 40 years. He was slow, weak, and not one sports "expert" assumed he'd amount to anything other than a long term benchwarmer. In fact, the 40 yard dash he ran before the draft was slower than most 300 pound linemen can run it in. The only reason he got on the field in his second season was because the Patriots starter got injured early in the season. The rest is history.
Even now, as the Patriots sit undefeated again (6-0 through week 6 of this season), Tom Brady is preparing, at age 42, to try and lead them to a 7th Super bowl win, and their third in the last 4 seasons. He's broken nearly every quarterback record in the regular season and postseason, and his legacy grows with every game he plays. Part of why he is so hated, is that it seems like he will never slow down, and never quit getting better. At an age where most pro athletes have long given up and retired (one of his best teammates retired this past year at age 29), Brady continues to say that he'll keep playing as long as he can.
I must admit, even at 40 years old, that I feel old a lot of the time. Far too often, I think about what it would mean to retire early, to stop using my gifts, to roll over and just find a place where I can relax and coast along until the Lord takes me away. But when I think about and see people like Tom Brady, it makes me realize that I have the potential to keep using my gifts far longer than I ever would want to. More importantly, I should continue using the gifts God has given me, because God wants me to do so.
We have a "Tom Brady" in our congregation. She retired from her career a while back, but she has felt the desire to keep using her gifts, because God continues to pour grace on grace upon her, and called her to use those gifts. Barb Kersh was an associate pastor here at Henry UMC all the way back in the 1980's. She and her husband Wesley served the Henry community for nearly a decade, and eventually moved to Lake Thunderbird to retire. But she has made a choice to never give up on using her gifts.
Despite some major health issues over the past two years, and being moved four different times because of those health issues, Barb still feels the pull of Christ towards ministry with each and every day God gives her. While she says that she might not physically ever be strong enough to walk confidently, she continues to go to physical therapy to keep another part of her as strong as possible; her wrist. Barb has always been a prolific writer (many of you own a copy of one of her books), and she is determined to continue sharing her gifts with the world.
With the help of Jim and Sue Weber, Barb has found another way to share her gift. They are collaborating to film short, weekly devotionals of Barb's thoughts on life and scripture. Though she reached the mandatory retirement age for United Methodist Clergy over a decade ago, she has no intention of slowing down. We are going to begin showing these during the worship services, and posting them on our website and Facebook page. Make sure you go to www.henryumc.org or to Facebook, at the Henry United Methodist Church page, to see her and learn from her.
She is just one of many examples in this church, of people who continue to answer God's call and use the gifts God has given them. Our Thursday morning prayer team continues to gather and offer gifts, graces and prayer to so many in this community each and every week. Our missions team continues to seek ways to collect goods and do outreach to those in need in our community. And I visit so many people in their homes, who in their own little way, continue to find ways to use their gifts to shine the light of Christ on the world around them. We can't all set records like Tom Brady, but we can all continue pressing forward with the time we have. God not only gives us gifts, but God builds upon them. The more we use them, the more they grow. How will you shine the light of Christ on this world? Amen.