Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting You are God.
You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!”
For a thousand years in Your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.
For all our days pass away under Your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.
- Psalm 90:1-4, 9-10
For what do you wish to be remembered? Recently, this question has been much on mind, not because death is imminent, but rather, because our days are numbered, and I am not sure I always use my days wisely. As the common saying goes, I often major in the minors, meaning I do those things which are unimportant instead of that which is most important. So long as we are alive, the possibility for change is before us. That is especially true for Christians because the Spirit of God is given to us to strengthen us and help us. The Holy Spirit connects us to Christ, to be sure, but the Spirit also provides what we lack to grow us in the Likeness of Jesus Christ.
The Likeness of Christ is not the same thing as the Image of God. The same in our creation, but not at all the same now… Every human being is made in the Image of God, irrespective of belief, faith, morality, actions, or any other facet of our humanity. We possess the Image of God from our creation, in our conscience, sentience, and imagination, and especially, in our capacity to govern and be governed. All people possess these qualities and more, though none of us can claim to use them wisely at all times, or even particularly wisely most of the time.
The Likeness of Christ, however, is what the phrase says: we are like Christ Jesus. To be like Christ, we must be changed, transformed from the fallen, sinful, and rebellious self into a being that – more or less, depending upon the modicum of humility – resembles our Lord. We are to be holy, set apart as heirs to the Kingdom and for our Father’s purposes throughout our days here. Thus, we must grow in virtue so as to resemble Jesus in some degree, to whatever degree we can or will submit to the work of the Spirit in us, obeying the commands and the call of Christ day by day.
Life is short. That is the point of psalm above, which is attributed to Moses. Frankly, I think running around the desert with hundreds of thousands of fearful, complaining Israelites would make life feel very long. Regardless, when we consider the span of the universe, billions of years in the making and gazillions of lightyears in spread, human life is astonishingly short, sort of an inconsequential blip. Another thing the psalm says is that life is hard and troublesome. Awareness of these two seemingly obvious facts appears to be in search of its nadir today. If ever there was a people who want to live long, easy lives, that would be us. We spend an inordinate amount of time and energy trying to prolong life while keeping it easy and happy, as well.
Maybe you haven’t been faced with this paradox, but as I age, I find that prolonging my life impinges upon the ease and quality of my days. I can’t eat this, and I can’t do that. I take this medication, and I have that test. My ability to see is declining, but not as rapidly as my ability to hear. Almost none of my sundry parts retain their original placement, and to be perfectly frank, several of my body parts have been removed entirely. On a positive note, the missing and/or replaced parts do not creak, pop, or hurt as do the original parts.
My memory is not what it used to be either. I can’t remember where I was going with this…
For what do you want to be remembered? How we love, live, and act toward others today will determine how we are remembered in the future. Life is short. Are you using it wisely? Are you growing in the Likeness of Christ, so that you will be fit for your place in our Father’s Kingdom? These are the crucial questions of life, of how we are to live each day. While the fabric of American life seems to be unraveling, you and I have more for which we are to live, and we will have purpose regardless of the state of our nation or who is leading it. Our purpose is to be set apart to love and glorify Christ while growing in virtue to reflect Him in word and deed to the world around us.
What I like about Psalm 90 – and I encourage you to read the whole psalm – is the opening line, “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.” While we may be transient, passing, and brief, our God is from everlasting to everlasting. That is a consolation and hope to me. Whatever we may see will never be all that there is. We have lost the contentment of soul that comes with knowing that we are each a brief flash of life, gone in a moment, yet granted immortality by the grace and love of God. Life loses much of its urgency when we stand back and look from a longer perspective. We need to regain the perspective of life’s brevity in the middle of a generation for which self-absorption is an acclaimed art form.
The origins of Memorial Day date back to the close of the Civil War, a war that claimed more lives than any other war or conflict in the history of America, and the Day expands with each decade, as American men and women continue to defend our nation. Remembering the price that others paid so that we might be free is a worthy exercise, one that should humble us and fill us with gratitude. Today, Memorial Day has become a time to remember our own loved ones, as well as military heroes who bought our freedom with their life’s blood. What do you remember about those you loved who are no longer present to you? What do you remember about parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, children…? How will those around you now remember you? More importantly, are you really the person you want others to remember you being?
I want to be remembered as a better person than I truly am. That is the hope of Christian salvation – that we can be a better person than we are. Actually, the true hope of Christian salvation is that we can become someone entirely new, someone entirely different from the person we once were, the person we hope others forget. The possibility for transformation is always before us, if we are willing to see ourselves as the unworthy and sinful rebels against our God that we are.
This generation is not more important than other generations. This generation isn’t even unique or special among generations. Future generations will look back at this generation and see a host of flaws, most of which are the source of great pride today. And that generation will have its own set of unrecognizable flaws, just as we do now. For that reason, perhaps it’s not a bad thing to be a fleeting speck of human life in the grand scope of things.
You have some control over how you are remembered, but the control you have is determined by your willingness to be humble and obedient before God. Otherwise, whatever memories you leave behind will not finally be to your credit. The only lasting memory of great beauty is who you are and who you are becoming in Jesus Christ.
As we give thanks for those who fought and died for our freedom today, let us pause and ask ourselves how we want to be remembered. When we can answer that question, then we know how to live today.
In Christ –
Rev. Elizabeth Moreau
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