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A Legacy of Loving the World: 7 Easter C

John 17:20-26

”I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25“Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

I’m mindful today of the fact that my mother has Alzheimer’s disease and that it is progressing. I call her every week, but that’s becoming less successful because sometimes she forgets how to use the phone. Alzheimer’s has been called the disease of 1000 griefs, because you lose the person you love one little piece at a time.

I’m mindful today that I won’t be able to talk to the woman who raised me again. That woman is gone. What’s left is someone who looks like my mom but who sometimes can’t remember how underwear works. I miss the fiercely independent, strong, vibrant, intelligent woman who raised my sisters and me. I’d like to tell her one more time how much I appreciate the sacrifices she made, how I think she was right to value education as highly as she did, how proud I am of the awards and honors she received as a social worker–both statewide and nationally, and that much of what I’ve learned about authentic, self-giving love I’ve learned from her.

I can tell her these things–and I do–but they are just words to her. She doesn’t always track the meaning of what I’m saying.

I’d like her to know that some of the things she valued most in life are still making a difference in the world, that she has left a legacy. She had a hand in shaping the way resources are now provided for families with handicapped children in the state of Utah. She raised four responsible and caring children who live many of the values she instilled in us and show love and care to their families. Her commitment as a parent, sacrificing whatever was necessary for the sake of her children, is my model for being a parent. She emphasized always doing the right thing, even if it costs you, even if it is hard, even if the consequences aren’t fun, even if no one believes you. You still live with honor, with dignity, and with ethics.

I’d love to tell her that this is her ongoing legacy, that these values and accomplishments are still making a difference in the world, but I can’t communicate that to her any more. I can’t tell her, but that doesn’t diminish her legacy. This world is kinder, more helpful to people with challenges, more honest, and more ethical because of her. I’m part of that legacy. And I’m proud to be.

What would you like your legacy to be? What are the values you’d like to continue to affect the world after you’re gone? How do you want the world to be different because you were here? That’s your legacy, and it’s what you leave behind for the world.

Some people leave a legacy through their finances. They set up a foundation or a trust or an endowment so their money can continue to provide something they value after they’ve died. Many churches have an endowment for exactly that purpose.

Others leave a legacy through their children. Raising them to carry on the family business or the family reputation or the family values. This is often the concern for royal families who ascend to the throne of their country.

Others leave a legacy through modeling the values of a particular lifestyle that inspires others to live those values in a similar way. Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King, Jr exemplify this.

Regardless of how you do it, it’s worth pondering what kind of a difference you’d like to make in the world after you’re gone. What would you like your legacy to be?

In this text from John, Jesus is praying that he would leave a legacy. Sometimes texts from the gospel of John don’t make immediate sense and just sound like a lot of words. That one today, I think, can be like that. But what’s happening is that Jesus is praying that his disciples will carry on his mission of loving the world. Just as he has known the Father’s love in order to share it, he’s praying his future disciples would know his love so they can share it. As he and the Father are joined together to love the world, he’s praying that we would be joined to one another to do the same thing. He’s praying that we would carry on his legacy of loving the world with God’s own love.

What Jesus wants more than anything is that his love, which has saved the world, won’t die with him. He’s imploring the Father to allow his legacy of loving the world to continue; that his disciples would somehow unite with him in this. He knows the only hope the world has is that God’s love can continue to be shown. He has lived his whole life showing that love. And now he is pleading that his disciples will be able to do it.

Jesus is praying for us here. He’s including us as part of his legacy. This is his hope, that God’s love for the world continue to be revealed.

I’m moved that Jesus has invited me to be part of his legacy. I’m honored to be included in that with you. The love he has shown to us, the love that has restored us, comforted us, assured us, is the love he invites us to share. The love that has saved us is the love that will save the world. And Jesus is praying that we will be united with him in showing them that love.

That’s Jesus’ legacy: the creation of a community of people that love the world like he does. May God’s love continue to hold us as we carry on that legacy.

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Posted by on May 9, 2016 in Sermon


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