Monday, November 3, 2008

Leaving a Legacy

Scripture Reading: Revelation 7:9-17
Scripture Lesson: Deuteronomy 34:1-12
Sermon: Leaving a Legacy

There is a couple in rural Arkansas who let their 6 yr. old go out and play with his friends every afternoon. The rule is, though, that he must be home no later than 5 p.m. Breaking this rule brings out the paddle, so you know the parents are pretty serious about it! One April Monday, the boy was playing, but it was 5 p.m. His mother worried and worried because the boy was always so punctual. Arriving a full hour late, his mother jumped him, "Why are you so late!" He replied, "But, Mom, I'm not late!" She shot right back, "Young man it is 6 o'clock! You're a full hour late!" The boy looked puzzled, and said, "But the sun. I always know by the sun, and it's just now in the right spot!?!" His mom began nodding, "Oh..." And she began to explain about daylight savings time and how daylight now "lasted longer," and how the clocks were set forward, etc. The boy looked at her incredulously, and finally asked, "Does God know about this?"

I hate daylight savings time. I hated it in Illinois. I hated it in North Carolina...and I hate it here! Bah, humbug. I'm glad you all made it here on time because I'm not sure exactly what time it is. We apparently "Fell back," but what does that even mean? Ok, I'll stop, but I'm not sure God does know and if He does...I'm sure God's upset about the whole thing [tic].

Today we celebrate All Saints' Day. A day that we celebrate the lives of the faithful Saints, and we celebrate their graduation to the Church Triumphant. Their legacy lives on with us. Their faithfulness brought us here today! Be it a nurturing of a child's faith or the invitation to Bible study or church, some Saint has been vital to bringing you here. Today's text speak of a Saint, Moses, that left an incredible legacy. The story of Exodus, Passover, Mt. Sinai, all speak to us after thousands of years. What an incredible legacy!

Moses' legacy was threefold. He was a person of faith, a man of God. It's important, though, that we don't measure his faith by the burning bush or the parted sea...No, faith is measured by the answer, "yes." Moses could've said no to God...But, he didn't. When God said, "Go to Pharaoh," Moses went. When God said, "Lead my people," Moses did. We see and measure Moses' faith not by the big events (those are the measure of God); rather, we measure him by his willingness to follow God wherever...whenever...whatever.

Moses was also a leader. Imagine being a simple shepherd (today a farmer) being asked to confront the most powerful man in the world. Imagine going to the President of the USA and saying, "Your foreign policy is all wrong! This is what you need to do!" Would you expect to be listened to? I would expect a mocking laugh or a condescending, "We'll take that into consideration." Moses did the hard thing as a leader and stood up for what was right. He stood up for others despite the danger to himself. Perhaps the more difficult leadership was leading God's people. They whinned, they moaned, they complained, they threatened him. A few times God even offered to wipe them out and start over with Moses, but Moses said, "God don't. These are your people." Thus showing Moses' other legacy as a Servant, not only of God, but of others. He constantly was trying his best to do what was right for the Israelites. He interceded on their behalf to God. Moses wasn't in it for himself. He was in it for everyone. He loved God, and he loved his fellow Israelites. Moses was a servant.

I think we can learn from Moses as a Saint. His legacy teaches us about what it means to be a Saint. Perhaps first, we should as what a Saint is? I think a little boy captured it well. You see he was visiting his grandparents one Sunday. At their church there were beautiful stain glass windows, much like we have here, except that they had many different Bible pictures on them. There were pictures of St. Mark, St. Luke, St. John, St. Matthew, St. Mary, St. Peter, St. Paul, and a lot of other saints. When he got home, he told his mom and dad how pretty the church and specifically the windows were. Trying to be ornery, the father asked, "Well, what is a saint?" The boy thought for a moment and said, "A saint is somebody the light shines through."

Amen to that! The Christian Scriptures speak of believers, followers of Jesus, as hagios, holy ones...Saints. All of you who follow Jesus are saints for hte light of Jesus shines through you. Today, we remember all the Saints who have gone before us, but we, who without them, would be lesser. Indeed, who of us here have someone in our lives who has been that saint...the one who the light shined through?

There are the famous saints. Saints like Augustine, one of my favorites, who being quite wild in his youth, came to Christ and become the most influential theologian of the Western church. Or St. Catherine, patron saint of old maids adn philosophers (not making that up)! She was tied to a wheel and was to be spun to death. However, according to tradition, the wheel caught on fire, burned her ropes off, and she jumped to safety...only to be burned at the stake...all for her faith. "Cat be nimble. Cat be quick. Cat jumped over the candlestick." You've heard it, but supposedly it came from that story. St. George fought dragons, but he is remembered a saint because he refused the imperial order for all Roman soldiers to worship pagan gods. Tradition says that he tore the edict up right in front of the emperor. He died loyal to Christ, standing up to the emperor. St. Patrick famous for Shamrocks and ridding Ireland of snakes, actually is remembered a saint for something much more powerful. You see he was kidnapped as a child and taken to Ireland. He was held as a servant-slave for years. Finally he managed to get free and went back home...where he studied, became a student, became a priest, and went back to the very people in Ireland who captured him and held him hostage. St. Patrick, missionary to his enemies. That's what being a saint is...all of these people demonstrated in their lives the radical grace of God and the light of the witness of Jesus shined through.

I have a saint that is important to my life [I held up a picture]. This is my grandpa and I. This is from our wedding because he was the bestman at my wedding. He was a great grandpa. We worked a lot of hours together during the summers, and we were buddies. But, he's not a saint because he was my grandpa. You see this is the person who shared God's truth to me at a moment when I needed to hear it. He brought me back from some dumb choices I was making, and his words to me shaped my call to ministry. The light shined through.

What about you? Who are your saints? [the congregation shared stories of saints in their lives].

What made these people saints? What was Moses' and their lasting legacy?

They pointed to God. Moses pointed to God. The saints love God. Their aim is to love God and please God. A saint's legacy is to live life such that it mirrors God's own character and reflect God's glory. Their legacy is not like the Taj Mahal, a legacy of beauty, yet a legacy of death for it is a tomb. The saints' legacy is not in buidings or tombs, it's in their lives devoted to God. There's a story of a wealthy man who was very free spirited and liked to throw his money around. And after his death, he had very specific instructions for the mortician. Upon burial, they put on his sports jack, a hat, put a cigar in his mouth, a scarf around his neck, and placed him in his cherry red convertible Corvette. They placed the speedometer at 80 mph and lowered him down. A friend, holding back tears stated, "Man, that's livin'!"...[puzzled look] Uh, no that's dyin' and it isn't leaving a legacy.

They offer themselves. The saints give of themselves. They live for others. Like Moses they intercede for others. They help others. They give to others. Like the saints in our lives, the legacy of saints is giving that others might grow.

Saints give through time. One of the characteristics of saints is that they often don't see their impact. Abraham never saw his descendents become a nation. Eve never saw her offspring, Jesus, crush the serpents head. Peter never saw the Church as we know it, all over the world. Yet, their trust in God that living faithfully would be rewarded came true...but not in their lifetimes. My grandfather never got to see all the ways he impacted and impacts me today. Your saints may not have seen all they ways they made a difference in your lives, but they did make a difference. The mark of Godly living, of the legacy of the saints, is that our lives live on with repurcussions for the world.

So what's your legacy? Over the next 3 weeks, we'll be talking about leaving a legacy. A legacy of faith. A legacy of devotion to God's mission. A legacy of being the church that God is calling us to be. What is our legacy going to be? Are we going to light the light shine through us?

Are you pointing to God?
Are you giving of yourself to others?
Is your life making a long-term impact?

Are you ready to stand up, saints, and claim a legacy that declares to the world that Jesus is your King?

[I think it would be cool if you blog readers would like to post your saints, too!]

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