Sermon For Sunday, May 27, 2012

Pentecost Sunday ~ Memorial Day

Acts 2:1-21

“What Legacy Will YOU Leave?”

Franklin Circle Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Cleveland, Ohio ~

Rev. Allen V. Harris, pastor & preacher

Hear the podcast of this sermon here:  120527SermonPodcast

My mother had a saying she would tell us kids: “Don’t count on any inheritance from me, children.  I’m using up every dollar while I’m still alive!”  I’m not 100% sure we kids knew what my mother meant by that, or whether or not she really knew that, at least on a tangible dollar-and-cents level she would be foretelling a profound truth, but we always smiled and laughed it off.  It was painfully true that, upon her death 17 years ago my mother had no monetary fortune to pass on to her heirs.  In fact, she was woefully in debt at the time of her death and, other than some household items and memorabilia, her creditors took most everything, most especially the house, our homestead.  But, thankfully – and gracefully – my mother was able to give a legacy that went far beyond investments, real estate, or priceless heirlooms.

Among her many gifts, my mother left a legacy of not just surviving, but thriving.  Having lost not one, but two husbands, both times while she was pregnant with her husband’s second child, my mother knew the unique juxtaposition of living in tragic mourning and expectant joy at the very same time.  She lived what Psalm 30 proclaims, “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning,” and “You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy!” (vs. 5b & 11).

Now, my mother was no Auntie Mame, as she worked hard to care for her fatherless young children, not once, but twice in her life.  But Sara Vernon Traffenstedt Sizemore Harris did have a spark of life that allowed her to live life to the fullest despite her circumstances.  Not only did we never want for the basic necessities of life, we splurged.  My mother looked great, all the time.  She got dentures earlier than absolutely necessary in life, and began to color her hair so that her young children would feel she looked like a lively mother and not a mourning grandmother.  She provided us with a nicely furnished home which had air conditioning long before it was popular or economical.  It would not take much for my mother to whisk up her family and go see Mr. Chew at Chew Den and order Chinese Butterfly Shrimp for the whole lot of us.  We would go on summer vacations to Disneyland and Disneyworld.  As soon as we got our driver’s licenses, my brother and I were gifted with cars far sooner than many of our friends at school.  Whether it was my mother’s intent or not, she seemed determined that her children would not be seen as sad fatherless urchins, but vibrant, happy, and well-cared-for children.

What legacy was left for you by parents, grandparents, or other significant adults in your lives?  Were you gifted with resources that you treasure or that have made your life better?  Were you bestowed with qualities and characteristics that have made your life better, richer, fuller?

Jesus, too, had a saying that he imparted to his followers that harkened to the day he would not be with them.  In the fourth chapter of the gospel of John it is recorded that, during the discourse Jesus had with his disciples preparing them for the events that would transpire in Jerusalem that would lead up to his arrest, crucifixion, and death, he promised a particular legacy to them.  In this case, he promised the Holy Spirit would come and be with them.  He said it in several ways.  In verse 17 Jesus says this legacy will be “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive… you know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”  In verse 26 Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as one who “will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.”

It was then, later, on the feast day that celebrated the harvest and the giving of the law in the ten commandments, that Jesus’ legacy, the Holy Spirit, would indeed come to his followers, and in the most dramatic way.  In the rush of a wind, with flames of fire as if they were tongues dancing above the heads of the disciples, Jesus legacy came upon them.  In the ability of those gathered from the corners of the known world to hear the good news of Jesus Christ in their own language and to be transformed by its meaning, Jesus’ legacy became real.  Pentecost, a quiet minor Jewish festival, becomes in one day a celebration of the birth of the Church Of Jesus Christ.  The transformation of the followers of Christ from a scared band of misfits mourning the loss of their leader to an empowered and, indeed, emboldened company of evangelists ready to create the church was magnificent.  What a legacy indeed!

Now, I could have told you in my story other inheritances I received from my mother.  I could have told you about my constant anxiety regarding my use of money, and how I walk the line daily between being recklessly spendthrift and excessively tightfisted.  I could tell you how I must restrain my envy when I think about the legacy of Craig’s mother, who also passed down gifts of love and grace, but alongside those a substantial financial inheritance that paid for Craig to get another Master’s degree as well as for the down payment on our house here in Cleveland.  We could all tell of the difficult and painful side of the legacy of those who went before us.  But we must never let those sad and even sinister inheritances be the last word on what we have received from our forbearers.  If we did, we would be crushed, confused, and consumed with anger, hopelessness, and jealousy.

We must choose, rather, to receive and live out the legacies that give life.  Legacies of faith, hope, and love.  Legacies which inform, inspire, and empower.  But this is only part of the task.   Each day, my beloved, we are also challenged to decide what legacy we will leave those around us and those who follow us.  You see, each moment of our lives we are all crafting the legacy we will leave.  That which consumes the most amount of our time, our energy, our passion, and our resources will be that which we leave behind to those who come after us, whether by blood, or by simply being the future generations of this church, this community, this planet.

On that Pentecost day long ago, the disciples chose to no longer stay in hiding following the unimaginable death and resurrection of their beloved Jesus.  Even though every single one of them had betrayed him in one way, shape, or form, they regrouped, remembered, and recommitted themselves to being the community of Christ which Jesus so lovingly called them to be.  And God responded.  The very legacy Christ promised was poured out to them on that day, giving them the resources they would need to take this Beloved Community and make it real the world over, and into the future.  That legacy overflows to us this very day.

Today, on this day that is both Memorial Day and Pentecost Day, we remember those who have gone on before us and the legacies they left us.  Today, on this day that is both Pentecost Day and Memorial Day, we are keenly aware of the legacies we are creating for those who are coming after us.  May we choose this day to both receive and give legacies that empower, embolden, enliven, and give life!