I am older than I realized


When I was sitting in a service a couple of Fridays ago, I began to look around at the bishops gathered there. We were consecrating a bishop to take the place of a retiring bishop. It struck me that, when the bishop of the Diocese of the West retires in May, I will be the third oldest active bishop in our denomination in North America. It was a bit of a shock. After all, on the inside, I’m still about 19 or 20 years old.

I leaned over and shared that revelation with the archbishop over North America and he shook his head, “No.”

“No?” I said. “I will not be the third oldest active bishop in North America?”

“No,” he replied. “You will be the third oldest active bishop in the world.”

“What? That can’t be true. What about Africa, Asia, and Europe?”

“Nope,” he said. “They are all younger than you.”

No wonder I’m tired and falling apart!

When I first came to Georgia, almost 41 years ago, I think I was the youngest and least experienced pastor in Peachtree City, where my first church was. My three sons were 11, 9, and 2. The oldest will be 52 next month, the next oldest will turn 50 in September, and the youngest just had his 43rd birthday this month. They are all fathers themselves and the middle son is a grandfather three times over.

My wife and I observed our 52nd wedding anniversary last Fall and we have three grandsons, nine granddaughters, two great-grandsons, and one great-granddaughter. We have been blessed with three lovely daughters-in-law. My wife has been retired for over seven years while I keep plodding along.

If the realization that I was the third oldest active bishop in our communion — in the world — wasn’t enough, I came across this little gem this week: “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. For you are just a vapor (or “mist”) that appears for a little while, and then vanishes away” (James 4:14 NASB). I suppose I’m a little more “misty” than I may have realized.

Yet there are these encouraging words from the Apostle Paul, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…” (2 Cor 4:16-17 RSV).

I am one of those people who, for some reason, has always believed in God. I’ve never had a doubt that Jesus wasn’t who He and the Church claimed He was — and is. I wasn’t a church kid and, indeed, did not take myself to church regularly until I was 15. A few weeks later, I was baptized on a Sunday morning at Mountain View Methodist Church in Kingsport, TN and found Jesus everywhere I went in life.

After the Marine Corps, I took my first student pastorate at the age of 23. For a 2 1/2 year period, after I ran into some very discouraging and critical church members in my mid-to-late 20s, I decided to do something easier and worked in Child Protective Services for the State of Tennessee.

Yet the Holy Spirit (who is not a gentleman — and whoever came up with that heresy?) literally forced me back into the ministry and I’ve been here ever since.

But the reality is that I am now an official “old guy.” I’m not quite ready to stand aside just yet. I was home for 10 weeks after spinal surgery in December and I decided that there’s only so much reading of novels and “binge-watching” that one can do and still stay sane. I also discovered that “Livestream” is not the same as being in the worship services, although I appreciated the connection.

I wish our society valued its elders more than it does. I may not be the brightest bulb in the socket, but I’ve been there a long time and that counts for something, I think. I admire the Native Alaskan communities that see their elders as sources of experience, wisdom, and tradition.

But that is “old man talk” in our Western society so I’ll stop. I have a few more “miles to go before I sleep” so, for now, I’ll stay on the road for a bit longer.

As a Christ follower, and as a lover of His Bride, the Church, I have always believed in the historic creeds. The Apostle’s Creed, in part, says this: “I believe in the … the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.”

The Nicene Creed says that part this way: “We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”

By the way, “creed” comes from the Latin word “credo” which means “I believe.” If you say you have no creed you are, in essence, saying you believe nothing.

I do not believe that this life is all there is. I never have. On Sunday, the one and a half billion Christians around the world will celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus from the Dead … a “first-fruit” of the resurrections to come.

So, even though I am currently the third oldest active bishop in the world in our denomination, life — real life — hasn’t even yet begun. Now, I have to get back to work. Time’s a-wastin’! Happy Easter!

[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctk.life). Worship services are on Sundays at 10:00 a.m. and on livestream at www.ctk.life. He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South (www.midsouthdiocese.life). He may be contacted at davidepps@ctk.life.]