Readings: Genesis 15: 1-2, 17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3: 17-4:1; Luke 13: 31-35
Leigh and I have been reviewing legal documents lately. It was long overdue that we review our wills, our power of attorney, and our health directives. It has been thirty years or so since we last reviewed them when we were primarily concerned about our children and who would raise them if something happened to both of us. Our children are now forty-four. Our attorney recommended that these documents be reviewed every five years. We were a bit overdue.
Reviewing these documents also raises thoughts of our legacy, and thoughts of our bucket list. Some people have quite the “to-do” list. I know one who wants to drive over the new Susquehanna River bridge in a red convertible, top-down, on a sunny day.
In our first reading from Genesis, Abram (he is not yet Abraham), who was getting up in years, was childless and concerned about his legacy, about his heir being “Eliezer of Damascus”. In conversation with God, God invited Abram to step outside his tent on a clear night, and asked him to “look toward heaven and count the stars”. This was how numerous his descendants would be. Abram’s legacy was way beyond his sought physical, material legacy, and way beyond a male heir. His legacy was to be the countless people of faith, the shining stars of creation. His spiritual legacy was to be beyond his counting, beyond his comprehension.
The reading from the letter of St. Paul to the Philippians clarifies one’s legacy. There are those whose “God is the belly”. Their legacy is limited to the material; their legacy is a consumer legacy. In direct contrast, St. Paul declared that “our citizenship is in heaven”; our legacy is among the People of God whose legacy is mercy, whose legacy is graciousness, whose legacy is service.
In our reading from the Gospel according to St. Luke we learn of some Pharisees warning Jesus to flee, to “get away from here, for [King] Herod wants to kill you [like he did John the Baptizer]”. Jesus responded by telling them that he had a ministry to do; he had people to serve. “I have demons to cast out, and I have people to cure.” That was how he intended to spend himself. This ministry, this service, was to be his legacy, his life’s work, and he had to get on with it.
Let’s return to the reading from Philippians. Remember that St. Paul was writing to the Philippians from Rome where he was awaiting trial for treason for which the expected sentence was death by beheading. The following verses follow—
Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
The legacy St. Paul worked for was a legacy of the Spirit, of the Holy Spirit. He nurtured people of gentleness, people of rejoicing, people of thanksgiving, and people of prayer. He encouraged them to continue a life of humble service. He knew that the legacy of service created “the peace that surpasses all understanding” as he served God with all his heart, soul, mind, and with his strength.
This, my friends, is a legacy worth pursuing all of us, and also, the legacy of service that we wish to leave for the future generations who come after us. To spend ourselves, all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength to love our neighbors as ourselves is what we are invited to do by our God. And we can do this, knowing with the Psalmist that
The Lord God will sustain [us]” in all our days to come.