What is Your Legacy?

Several years ago I taught a class a local college called Death and Dying.  The class was a multi-disciplinary look at the process of dying from the spiritual to the scientific.  The discussion involved not only the person who has died or is dying but the people left behind.  As part of the class I asked each student to write their own obituary.  In order to do this you have to ask the question how do you want to be remembered?  What is it you want people to say about you at your funeral?  These are not easy questions to answer.

When giving them this assignment I reminded them that it is not the size of the house we live in or the type of car we have or even the profession that we had, it is about the impact that we left on the world, good or bad, is how we will be remembered.  I have participated in many funerals and head many eulogies and I have not once heard someone say, “he drove a great car.”

Soon, Christians all around the world will be starting the season of Lent.  This is the time that leads up to the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Prior to the start of lent in the Orthodox Church there are three weeks of preparation, yes we prepare to prepare.  These three weeks point the faithful towards repentance and reconciliation.

This past Sunday is what is called the Sunday of the Last Judgment and the Gospel comes from the twenty fifth chapter of St. Matthew.  In this chapter Jesus speaks plainly to his followers about what will happen when the last judgment will take place.  He uses the analogy of a shepherd separating the sheep from goats.  The sheep on one side and the goats on the other and in this case one of the groups will get to heaven and the other group will not.

Love of God and love of neighbor is the marker by which we all will be judged.  Did we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those who are sick and those who are in prison.  They ask Jesus when they did not do these things for Him and He answers that if we do not do these things for all then we are not doing them for Him.  And, notice that he does not qualify how we are to do these things.

Nowhere does He say that is they meet certain criteria are we to help.  He does not say simply write a check so others can do what He is commanding us to do.  Jesus did not write checks, Jesus involved Himself in people’s lives and made a difference that is what we are called to do, make a difference.

In my sermon on Sunday I drew attention to the Cross and that the cross is made up of two pieces.  One of the pieces goes straight up and down and this signifies our relationship with God, from the earth to heaven, us and God.  The other piece signifies out relationship with those on either side of us, our neighbors those that we are commanded to help.

The place in the center of the cross, the part where the two sections come together is the intersection of love of God and love of neighbor and that is where we are, that is the place where we should dwell, that is the place where ministry takes place and it is that place, that central place on the cross, where we will be judged.

The coming season of Lent is the perfect time to start to think about your legacy and how you will be remembered.  Make this season the time you begin to work the impact you will make on the world.  You do not need to travel to some far off country to help just look out your window at those who live right next door.

This essay originally appeared in the Quaboag Current, and the Tantasqua Town Common.

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