WELLSPRING: Legacy

A response to the "small group questions" for the 3 March 2019 message at First Pres, Boulder. [1]

What is a family 'mantra' or constant piece of advice you received from your parents?

I have struggled to answer this question all week. The fact is that nothing specific comes to mind. That isn't to say that I don't think I learned anything from my parents; but I tend to think of my parents as teaching through the example of their life more than specific moral instruction that could be condensed to a mantra.

I wasn't satisfied with that answer, though; maybe I just didn't pay attention? So I took the question as an encouragement to reach out to my siblings and find out about their memories of the experience. So far, they've said basically the same thing.

I've Thought a lot about how a father should teach a son, and it's given me renewed appreciation for the example that my father set for me. But I do think my father struggled to provide actual instruction, in a lot of ways.

My mind goes to when I first tried to learn C. I came home with an absurdly thick instructional text on the language; but his first reaction was something along the lines of, "You know, it's going to be a lot harder to do GUI programming with C than you're used to with Visual Basic. You know that, right?"

It might be a strange association, but I relate it to how he approached our relationship. I always wanted to be like my dad: he had my "when I grow up I want to be a computer programmer" school paper hanging in his office basically forever. But I remember him saying, way back when I was so young, "One day you won't like me like you do right now, and we won't be able to be friends." He always struggled with the idea of being friends with your children, and it always frustrated me.

Looking back on it this week, I think Dad was always trying to look into the future for potential trouble, and to prepare for it. I think he was trying to prepare me for what he saw as likely frustration if I didn't expect hard work learning a new, lower-level programming language. I think he was preparing himself for the sadness he expected to feel during teenage rebellion. And I think he was preparing us both for the difficult responsibility of being a parent when you're not getting along with your son. All of this is good--the only trouble was treating these potential future problems as inevitable, sometimes to the extent of self-fulfillment.

Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the Lord sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him. But if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. So take this seriously. The Lord has chosen you to build a Temple as his sanctuary. Be strong, and do the work.

[...]

Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. He will see to it that all the work related to the Temple of the Lord is finished correctly. The various divisions of priests and Levites will serve in the Temple of God. Others with skills of every kind will volunteer, and the officials and the entire nation are at your command.

excerpt from the New Living Translation of the first book of Chronicles [2]

What pieces of legacy advice can you pull out of this passage? How are these connected to a life of generosity and stewardship?

God makes himself available to those who seek him; and he who knows you intimately.

But beyond that (and maybe even including it) this seems a pretty personal exhortation from David to his son. I'm loathe to read any further into it or to generalize the message, particularly as it relates to our relationship with the son and the spirit.

As for how it relates to a life of generosity and stewardship, I find this connection somewhat tenuous. We are expected to respond to the call the God has placed on our life; and, for Solomon, that was (among other things) to build the temple. He is to take it seriously and do it well; but much of the work is simply to trust God that it will be guided by his will.

What do you hope to pass on to the family line that will grow up hearing stories about you?

Be a little bit better than your father, and raise your children to be a little bit better than you are.

David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly:

“O Lord, the God of our ancestor Israel, may you be praised forever and ever! Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things. Wealth and honor come from you alone, for you rule over everything. Power and might are in your hand, and at your discretion people are made great and given strength.

“O our God, we thank you and praise your glorious name! But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us! We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace.

“O Lord our God, even this material we have gathered to build a Temple to honor your holy name comes from you! It all belongs to you! I know, my God, that you examine our hearts and rejoice when you find integrity there. You know I have done all this with good motives, and I have watched your people offer their gifts willingly and joyously.

“O Lord, the God of our ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, make your people always want to obey you. See to it that their love for you never changes. Give my son Solomon the wholehearted desire to obey all your commands, laws, and decrees, and to do everything necessary to build this Temple, for which I have made these preparations.”

Then David said to the whole assembly, “Give praise to the Lord your God!” And the entire assembly praised the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and they bowed low and knelt before the Lord and the king.

excerpt from the New Living Translation of the first book of Chronicles [3]

What stands out to you about this long prayer? As you study it, what do you notice about its structure that could also be your prayer practice?

There are striking similarities, in my eyes, to the model prayer Christ gave his disciples.

Our Father in heaven,
may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
Give us today the food we need,
and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one.

Sometimes, when I don't know how to pray, I think about this prayer. I don't recite it; but I think about its structure. The order and priority it presents. And I try to meditate on what my priorities should be in prayer, and what from my life hangs on this structure.

David's prayer is similar. It praises God, and acknowledges his kingdom. It acknowledges that everything we have we get from him. It acknowledges our obligation to give back from what has been given to us. And it asks for leadership from God, and that the people be made to follow him.

Generosity sows eternal benefit with temporary assets. Share some part of your life where you are invested and pleased with what will likely happen after you die.

I get where this question is coming from; but frankly this is not my concern. My role is to be in relationship with and respond to God. Part of this is to be in relationship with and respond to the people around me as well, and to live that relationship as a reflection of the model that God has provided for me; but if I let myself be concerned with the effects that my presumed obedience will have on the world around me, I am taking credit for the work of the spirit, and thinking more highly of myself than I ought. This is not to say that I never do; but I'm uncomfortable holding up this behavior as exemplary here.

[1] WELLSPRING: Legacy
[2] 1 Chronicles 28:9-10; 20-21
[3] 1 Chronicles 29:10-20