Legacy

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Legacy

Acts 7:1-16

Stephen’s Speech to the Council1

Then the high priest asked him, “Are these things so?” And Stephen replied:

“Brothers and fathers, listen to me. The God of glory appeared to our ancestor Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Leave your country and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you.’ Then he left the country of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After his father died, God had him move from there to this country in which you are now living. He did not give him any of it as a heritage, not even a foot’s length, but promised to give it to him as his possession and to his descendants after him, even though he had no child. And God spoke in these terms, that his descendants would be resident aliens in a country belonging to others, who would enslave them and mistreat them during four hundred years. ‘But I will judge the nation that they serve,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.’ Then he gave him the covenant of circumcision. And so Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs.”

“The patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him, and rescued him from all his afflictions, and enabled him to win favor and to show wisdom when he stood before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who appointed him ruler over Egypt and over all his household. Now there came a famine throughout Egypt and Canaan, and great suffering, and our ancestors could find no food. But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our ancestors there on their first visit. On the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family became known to Pharaoh. Then Joseph sent and invited his father Jacob and all his relatives to come to him, seventy-five in all; so Jacob went down to Egypt. He himself died there as well as our ancestors, and their bodies were brought back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.”

What’s in a name?

Very few people can boast that their name is carried across the millennia. How many people can you name from 1000 years ago? 2000 years ago? 3000 years ago? The further back we go the fewer names we can recollect. Just because someone’s history is written does not necessarily mean it is well known, and just because a person’s history is well known does not mean that it is praised.

Abraham, a name which continues to be given to boys 4000 years later, maybe one of the oldest people whose name and story continues to be told and praised today. His legacy is so strong that we even know his failures and still continue to celebrate his name. In one of the first post-Easter sermons delivered by the disciples of Jesus, Stephen invokes the name of Abraham to set the foundation for his explanation of why the people of Israel needed a Savior and why Jesus of Nazareth was the one for whom they had been waiting. He could’ve started anywhere. He could’ve started with King David. He would have been just fine beginning with Moses, the giver of the law. The people to whom he was speaking were interpreters of the law and would have been very comfortable discussing Moses. But Stephen reached back into his memory and began with Abraham, a man who’s greatest claim to fame was not conquering any nation, nor giving any great teaching. In fact we have no record of anything he taught. Abraham is known for one thing and one thing only: his faithful obedience to God.

Out of the billions and billions of people who have lived and died faithfully following God, Abraham is the only one who is known and praised for that. For him that was enough. And today Jews and Christians all over the world claim his name and his legacy. If you follow his story in Genesis you will see that his greatest faithfulness, his willingness to sacrifice Isaac, his miracle child, did not happen until after he was blessed by God. Likewise most of his unfaithfulness occurred before he receive that blessing. The one faithful act that he did before the birth of Isaac was in response to God’s invitation – that Abraham would leave his family and homeland and follow God into the wilderness to seek out a new country. His life does not exemplify a good person being rewarded by God. Instead it demonstrates a lifetime of call and response, giving and receiving, initiation by God and (sometimes) faithful obedience by Abraham.

I believe the reason Abraham’s faithfulness to God changed was precisely because he became a father, and especially because he became a father when he was 100 years old. Being that old gives you no time to mess around in no time for mistakes. Isaac was set to inherit everything that Abraham had and all that God had promised him: a nation, a people, and the name that would carry on for the rest the time. Unlike parents with multiple children, Abraham had no choice but to get it right the first time. I bet that made him realize his legacy was influenced not just by his financial investments, business choices, lands bought, and houses built. His legacy was in who he was sleeping his son to be in the few years – remember he was 100 years old when Isaac was born – that he had to spend with him. Every. Single. Moment. Counted. 4000 years later, we are still reading about those moments.

What is your Legacy?

What are you doing to make sure it is both memorable and worth remembering?


  1. (Gen 12:1–50:26)

Rote

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“The Lord said:

Because these people draw near with their mouths

and honor me with their lips,

while their hearts are far from me,

and their worship of me is a human commandment learned by rote;

so I will again do

amazing things with this people,

shocking and amazing.

The wisdom of their wise shall perish,

and the discernment of the discerning shall be hidden.

Ha! You who hide a plan too deep for the Lord,

whose deeds are in the dark,

and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?”

You turn things upside down!

Shall the potter be regarded as the clay?

Shall the thing made say of its maker,

“He did not make me”;

or the thing formed say of the one who formed it,

“He has no understanding”?

Hope for the Future

Shall not Lebanon in a very little while

become a fruitful field,

and the fruitful field be regarded as a forest?

On that day the deaf shall hear

the words of a scroll,

and out of their gloom and darkness

the eyes of the blind shall see.

The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord,

and the neediest people shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.

For the tyrant shall be no more,

and the scoffer shall cease to be;

all those alert to do evil shall be cut off—

those who cause a person to lose a lawsuit,

who set a trap for the arbiter in the gate,

and without grounds deny justice to the one in the right.

Therefore thus says the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob:

No longer shall Jacob be ashamed,

no longer shall his face grow pale.

For when he sees his children,

the work of my hands, in his midst,

they will sanctify my name;

they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob,

and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.

And those who err in spirit will come to understanding,

and those who grumble will accept instruction.” Isaiah 29.13-24 (NRSV)

What do you think about memorizing scripture? I struggle with it.

I learned scripture first in Sunday school, where we were taught it by rote – that is, a repeated exercise or ritual meant to help you internalize something. Some of the first scriptures I learned through song (a kind of rote). I remember learning Proverbs 3:5-6 as a song that blessed my life many years later and helped lead me to God.

In between that first lesson and the moment I decided to surrender my life to God, there was a lot of unfaithful living and outright running from God. There is very little unique about this part of my story… most of us have been there/done that. However, what I have noticed is that it was during these very rebellious years that I could probably recite the most scripture from memory. I knew the bible – I just did not follow it with my life at all.

20 years later, I find that my memory is not quite as sharp as it was back then and I stumble over the words more. It’s not near as impressive. Yet my understanding of those scriptures has grown deep and wide. I may not be able to recall the specific words, but I often tell you who wrote them, who they were first written to, why, and how they apply to us today. Even more than that “preacher knowledge” I can give personal testimony about how they apply to my life today as a personal witness.

My wonderful teachers, taught me to memorize the scriptures, but only half the job was done. I’ll claim it was because of my own stubbornness. What I needed, more than rote memorization was a relationship with God. Perhaps my teachers thought I was too young to have a relationship with God, so they gave me rote instead. Maybe they just did not know how to explain it. Or maybe I was not listening.

It was during the year of Christ’s birth, we are told, that those who had memorized the scripture missed the Messiah. They knew where to find Him… indeed they knew enough to send the Gentile Magi to meet Him, but they would not follow the scriptures themselves. For them, knowing the bible was enough. They did not think they needed to know God.

Regardless of what happened in my own life, God makes it clear that our connection with him needs to be deeper than something we just memorize and recite. There needs to be a spiritual understanding underneath and through it all. As Isaiah wrote: we need to do more than memorize the commandments. We need to trust and obey our commander.

  • What spiritual lessons did you learn by memorization?
  • How have they blessed your life over the years?
  • How has God brought deeper meaning to them ?

Surely goodness, surely mercy

right beside me all my days

and I will dwell in Your house forever

and bless Your Holy Name

Thursday December 22, 2016

spiritus asper

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valor colored moments in patient days

lean into the wind just to feel its breath

to hear their name sung by the prairie grass

in the Rollingda Bultryple – my heart’s meter

drumming up from the dirt that coats my bones

 

there is another side I cannot see

facing out-taken fragments of mortar and pestle

crushed memories, congealed in tears

and painted like salve to balm my regret

off-white and sterile, dimmer and clean

 

perversely palatable these winnowless spaces

which pull on the edges of cheekbones and lips

turning backwards against their internal setting

until vigilance snaps with a rack-shatter clatter

and diligence stretches the joints out of keep

 

where is the storm to send what is the matter

at hand four beforehand and afterward never

when it’s time to fall back to the spring of complacency

comatose solitude frozen insensitive

bulwarks to blame for the faith of the enemy

 

lessen the teaching of carpeted clamor

when fire resounding is what my heart dreams

and fills my grip over with precipitation

that flashes with wonder and coddles the rage

against white-washed solutions and desolate gain

 

loosen the fount of Chimaera’s gullet

buttress the bridges that bide in between

the time to rush forward in anticipation

the time to crawl under the plunging debris

to the solace of six spaceless moments of motion

 

oh bring me that wind to blow through my bones

and peel the layers of paint worn and past

from the top of my head to the tip of my chin

and down to my toes where the cleaners crawl through

and make me anew

and make me anew