What Is Our Legacy? Easter 3

What Is Our Legacy? Easter 3

Easter 3: April 18, 2021

Year B: Acts 3:12-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36b-48

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Some of us who are just a little older might ask ourselves “What legacy do you want to leave behind?”

Sometimes that question is related to money. Sometimes it’s about the “imprint” so to speak that we leave on the life of people and institutions that we have encountered over our lifetimes. It’s certainly a question often asked by reporters when interviewing individuals who have played a pivotal role in society. In a one-on-one interview, the question of legacy inevitably comes up. Those whose lives have impacted society at large are forced to think of their legacy, hopefully not in self-aggrandizing ways, but as a continuation of the good produced by their lives’ work. It’s a question they have probably pondered many times before, especially as they approach the end of their career, and even more, as they approach the end of their life. I think of the funeral of Prince Philip who certainly has left a legacy behind, not least of which is the funeral that he left his personal touches on yesterday morning.

We’re tired. We’re tired of so much including being physically apart from one another. My heart broke as I watched Queen Elizabeth yesterday at the funeral of Prince Philip, her husband of seventy-three years. To see her seated alone was almost more than I could bear. Yet, the Queen, who has perhaps the strongest faith in Jesus Christ of any monarch I have witnessed, bears the pain and is given the strength to do so because of her love and faith.

Of course, there are many more people who impact our daily leaves who leave us a legacy. It’s been twenty-five years since my father died, nineteen since my grandmother died and two since my brother died all within days of one another. My father left me with a love of learning, my grandmother left me with a love of prayer, and my brother left me, well really left my younger sister, knowing that the U.S. Navy has been the source of many good things, including glow sticks. You can buy them anywhere now. In 1975, the Navy was a source of glowsticks and no other kids in our area had them! On a more serious note, my brother left a legion of being a nice guy who was always willing to help a friend.

While no interviewer ever asked Jesus what legacy he wanted to leave behind, the question of legacy — what Jesus sought to leave behind — is an important theme in Jesus’ post-resurrection accounts. Jesus does not seem concerned with what the masses will have to say about him – rather, Jesus is concerned with what his disciples will know and believe, and what they will do in his name.

In today’s gospel, we encounter Jesus with his disciples one last time. This is the last time Jesus will share his peace with the disciples; this is the last time the disciples will be able to see and touch Jesus’ body; and this is the last time Jesus and the disciples will share a meal. After this, Jesus will lead his disciples to Bethany, where he will be lifted up and seated at the right hand of the Father.

Think about the encounter that the disciples had with this risen Christ who had to declare not only “peace be with you”[1], but also that he was not a ghost.[2]

Think about what this experience means in a Christian context in today’s world. It is not just an old story of two thousand years ago, but it is the story of our experience with the Risen Christ.

Think about our legacy and how bleak it becomes when we fail to “touch and see” the harm that is done to our brothers and sisters.

We’re quite frankly numbed to the daily violence that pervades our life. Since January there have been 145 mass shootings in the United States. To put that in perspective there’ve only been 108 days in the year so far. More than one mass shooting every day.

When we can impersonalize and make someone a statistic, our legacy is at risk.

Look at my hands and my feet,” Jesus has to urge the disciples. “See that it is I myself.”[3] He is desperate for their acknowledgement, their acceptance, their love.

We are or should be desperate for acknowledgment, acceptance and love. Not so desperate that we hurt others, but that we reach out and touch and see. Sometimes I think we’ve love that ability.

A city in Colorado is being sued for the use of excessive force in an arrest. Now, this arrest is different from many others we’ve heard about. It was the arrest of a then 72-year old woman. She suffers from dementia and aphasia, leaving her pretty much unable to communicate intelligibly. She was accused of shoplifting.

“She shrugs with her arms outstretched when he questions why she did not stop despite him following her in a patrol car with his lights on…when she then turn her back to him and starts walking away, the video shows the officer quickly grab one of her arms, puts it behind her back and pushes her 80-pound body to the ground and puts her in handcuffs as she looks confused.

This case is different, and I don’t want it be the poster child for people to become aware because the woman who was arrested is white. The reality is that all vulnerable people, including people of color, including the disabled, can be taken advantage of by people abusing power.

As disciples of Christ, we are called to acknowledge the sinfulness that surrounds us. And as Jesus tells the disciples that “repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations.”[4]

All nations. All colors. All abilities. God’s promise is made attainable to all people regardless of status, class, race, or all other categories designed to separate and fracture the human family of God.

“Touch me and see,” invites Jesus. Yet, we are going to have to accept the gospel without benefit of touching the historical Jesus. Without benefit of touching the resurrected Jesus.

So what’s the next best thing? What is the way we can respond to Jesus’ invitation to “touch me and see”?

To see Jesus in the other. To be a church that lives and breathes the resurrection and the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.

For us to be a witness and to preach repentance and forgiveness requires very simply that we be willing to tell the world about our encounters with Jesus Christ and the word of God.

We are called every day, to be authentic disciples, to become part of the resurrected life of Christ.

“Touch me and see”.

We are challenged today. Whom in our communities needs the presence and witness of the risen Christ? What kinds of experiences and understandings do we need so that we can be credible witnesses to God’s aims in the world?

Before their journey, Jesus addresses his disciples and presents them with a final testimony. Jesus tells his disciples that everything written in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms has been fulfilled by his passion, death, and resurrection. And now that God’s word has been fulfilled, true repentance and forgiveness can finally be proclaimed to all people. 

Jesus’ legacy is his passion, death, and resurrection, and it has fulfilled everything promised in Holy Scripture. Through these acts, God in Christ has opened salvation to all nations, expanding God’s word through the Word made flesh beyond the people of Israel. But Jesus does not simply leave behind a legacy – a long list of accomplishments and accolades – but a covenant – an eternal and limitless promise.

Jesus opens the minds of his disciples not only so that they can understand the scriptures and grasp who Jesus really is, but also so that they may continue to follow in his way of love once he departs this earth. If we want to fulfill our end of Jesus’ eternal covenant, we need to partake in that which the risen Jesus did himself: offer his peace.

When it is time for our legacy to be shared will it be one of peace, one of love, and one of faith in Christ?

[1] Luke 24:36b, New Revised Standard Version (“NRSV”)

[2] Luke 24:37, NRSV

[3] Luke 24:39, NRSV

[4] Luke 24:47, NRSV

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