My legacy: What will be left when I'm gone?

Reflections published in the campus newspaper

My 90-year-old father-in-law -- Paul Reed -- died one Saturday morning. The next Tuesday I conducted his funeral in the sanctuary of Bethany (OK) First Church of the Nazarene. [ more on my father-in-law ]

Having to put together a funeral service and prepare a sermon for it has made me think a lot about what I want to be remembered for.

What kind of legacy do I want to leave? To be sure, I probably have a few years left. However, when the time comes and I'm gone, what will people remember about me? Or, even more than that, what kind of influence do I hope will remain in those people who crossed paths with me?

Here are some random thoughts thatwent through my mind as I prepared for that funeral service:

  1. I hope that part of my legacy would be a passion for living for God. The danger on a campus like ours is that of surrendering to going through the motions. There's a great temptation to becoming a practical deist in which no real thought is given to God and spiritual matters during the week and worship is relegated to an hour on those Sunday mornings when one does manage to attend a church service.
  2. I hope that part of my legacy would be a consuming love for the church as a community of faith (rather than something we always complain about because it doesn't "meet my needs.") To many people, being a part of a church is an optional extra for the believer. It's not. Scripture says we have been put into the church by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13, 18, 24). To not love the church -- or worse, to turn one's back on the church -- is in direct opposition to God's will.
  3. I hope there will be a love for the wonderful mosaic of cultures and peoples inhabiting our planet. The human tendency is to turn inward and become very ethnocentric. I hope part of my legacy is helping people respect and even esteem cultural differences.
  4. I hope people who cross paths with me would wind up living a more simple lifestyle rather than continuing on their path of buying the most expensive car they can afford, living in the biggest house they think they can afford, and wearing the most lavish clothes they can afford. I would hope that a decision to live more simply would allow them to channel more resources to ministries of evangelism and compassion. I have friends who make good salaries but who are so deep in car payments, house payments, and loan payments (for Christmas presents, for vacations and for furniture) that they find it difficult to scrape up $50 to give to a needy friend. It shouldn't be like that!
  5. I hope that my legacy would include a burden for reaching lost people around the globe, especially those in the least-evangelized societies. There are still people on this earth who will have no chance of hearing any of the Good News unless new missionary efforts are launched to reach them. I hope people will catch a glimpse of how God's heart is burdened for these lost peoples.

Thank you, ARMM

Note written for the newsletter of the Nazarene Association of Retired Ministers and Missionaries based in Bethany, OK

Half a century or so ago, Barbara and I said goodbye to fellow ministry students at college graduation and then four years later at seminary graduation time. We had no idea we would wind up in our retirement living in the same metro area with many of those former classmates. ARMM has given us the opportunity to reconnect with them.

We were idealistic back then. Not all of our lofty dreams came true. We didn't accomplish for the Kingdom all that we had hoped to. Our paths took twists and turns we never anticipated. However, the ideals we cherished then remain valid today and, at ARMM, we celebrate each other's faithfulness

We also mourn those who dropped out along the way. Some let other alluring voices drown out the call. Some allowed sin to take root and flourish and destroy. We mourn the trail of broken ordination vows left by some of our classmates.

Still, in the middle of the sweet and the bitter -- the warm camaraderie of those finishing the race together and the sad memory of others who should have been here -- we join Andrae Crouch in singing, "Through it all, I've learned to trust in Jesus . . . I've learned to depend upon His Word."

    -- Howard Culbertson

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