The Only Lasting Legacy You can Leave

The Colors of the Cottage Garden. Photograph by Michael A. Milton. ©️ 2022. Noncommercial use permitted.

“He is building his legacy.” We have often heard that statement referring to a politician seeking to establish his record for posterity. We sometimes hear about one seeking to build a legacy in terms of business. It is frequently uttered, for example, by a frail older man laying his hands upon a chosen child to carry on a heritage of leadership. We have all experienced this in some way, and to some degree, have probably wanted it for ourselves. At its core, without selfish ambition, or any nefarious motives, this is a good thing. However, the psalmist uses this familiar transfer of wealth, prestige, leadership, or a record of accomplishment to contrast with a greater legacy: the legacy of faith. Nothing is more important because nothing is as enduring as leaving a legacy of faith. Faith in Jesus Christ transcends the finite heritage of power or prestige. When the presidential libraries, multigenerational and well-earned successful businesses are all gone, the legacy of faith will remain.

For you, O God, have heard my vows, and have given a heritage to those who fear your Name.

Psalm 61:5

When I was pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga, one of our older members passed away. She had been known as “a mountain woman.” Long widowed from a faithful husband who worked with his hands in a local factory, this woman was known for teaching Sunday school, vacation Bible school, and cultivating an incomparably fruitful garden. She lived to a ripe old age. At her funeral, the children, who all lived in neighboring states, came together for the memorial service. Before the service, as I gathered with them privately, I learned that the most significant epitaph repeated was, “She didn’t have that much, and she never did.” They were speaking of a legacy of wealth. That part was indeed genuine. The summary of her life, however, was much more extraordinary than such a dour assessment. Indeed, those of us who knew *Mrs. Moore recognized that she was one of the wealthiest women in the community. Mrs. Moore’s life was filled with love and admiration from those who had sat under her teaching and guidance as children. Her garden was much more than a standard backyard vegetable patch. A veritable nursery, the garden reflected the care born out of a love of God, as if doing her best in her garden was a way to say thank you to God for his lavish grace in saving her from her sins. She was also one of the happiest ladies I had known. At her service, I read this verse to the congregation that included her seven children seated up front with their families. I talked about one of the wealthiest women I had ever known. There was a strange look on the faces of her children. “Didn’t we just say to you, she never had a thing in her life?” If faces and expressions could talk, that is what I heard. We concluded our service with the question,” Having looked at this passage and considered its meaning, can we not say that Mrs. Moore has left you with a lasting legacy of inestimable value? As with any estate, the question remains how you will use the opportunities she has bequeathed.”

There is a message for each of us here. Your most significant legacy for your family, community, and this world is a heritage of faith in Jesus Christ. How are you building that legacy today? You will not need a team of financial professionals or estate lawyers. Everything for faith and godliness is available in Word, Sacrament, and Prayer. Oh, that each of us would see the pathway to the incredible and indestructible nature of the heritage of faith in Jesus Christ. What eternal wealth will you leave to those who follow?

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

* I have changed her name.

Photograph by Michael A. Milton. ©️ 2022. Noncommercial use permitted.

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