This week’s lectionary readings have me thinking about legacy. What have others left in us? What will we leave with those who follow?
Sometimes I’m amazed by the brevity of Jesus’ earthly ministry. What can one really accomplish in three years? I was in my first congregation for roughly that amount of time, and it was just about enough time to realize what I had been doing wrong for the first two years and start trying to correct it. Jesus, did you ever wonder if turning water into wine was really the best kickoff? No? Presumably, Jesus did not have the same problems as shiny new ministers and got to maximize his three years. And yet, it was still only three years. One might also assume that God could have chosen some other length of time, so three years was not arbitrary. Jesus wasn’t just making do with what he had. He was being intentional about when he left, and how he left. Which is truly a mystery, because if you’re reading the gospels, these disciples are a bunch of very clueless dudes.
Jesus ascends and leaves them while they’re still fairly bewildered, with the final instructions to be Jesus’ witnesses. This strikes me as a peculiar turn, since for three years he’s basically been trying to keep a lid on it. He’s told them to do all kinds of things, but recounting his life to others hasn’t been one of them. But that’s the last bit of the legacy that Jesus leaves: “Tell people what you have seen and heard.”
We who are Christians are such because of two millennia of our predecessors who have done just that. We carry out the legacy of Jesus in all sorts of ways, through words of love and acts of service, but these passages invite us to consider how we are specifically witnessing to Christ as the foundation of the things that we do.
This week’s lectionary also begs the question of how we plan our own exit strategies. What legacy will we leave? When those who follow us act as witnesses of our lives, what is it that they will report? It’s clear that Jesus was intentionally preparing the people who followed him to continue on after he was no longer with them. How might we prepare the people around us for our inescapable temporariness?
Preachers, what word are you bringing this week? Listeners, what comfort and/or challenge do you hear in the scriptures?