You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men;3 being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, [a]cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of [b]human hearts. 2 Corinthians 3:2-3

 

It was John Calvin's request that he be buried in an unmarked grave. He had no desire to leave any kind of personal memorial or remembrance behind. A legacy. Let me say that for the greater part of my ministry for Him, I haven't shared that desire. Most of us don't. We like personal memorials. The huge number of schools, hospitals, stadiums and so on that are named after people of note attest to this. Our human hearts desire to leave something of ourselves behind, remembrances that prove we mattered, that we achieved. Most of us don't, but it's not for lack of trying. We want to live lives that matter, and visible memorials are the best means of doing so, we think. It can be a real snare, and it has entrapped so many of us, especially we who are pastors.

I'm entering into my 25th year here in the church I serve. This was never my plan. When I came here all those years ago as a still young man, full of energy, dreams, and above all, plans, I expected to plant a church, grow it, and within 5-7 years, move on to a larger area of service. You can imagine my frustration when God didn't have the same plan for me that I did. I also came with a clear idea of the kind of church I wanted it to be; one that offered great ministries, a full range of ministries that would attract a wide range of people. I was sure this would guarantee the fulfillment of my "vision." It seemed that all was going according to plan when the Lord threw the proverbial "monkey wrench" into all of it. I wanted a kind of "consumer centered" church. He wanted one that looked a lot more like what a brother in our fellowship called a "MASH unit." MASH units, officially called Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals, hold little appeal for those who are seeking out fully staffed, state of the art "hospitals" that will see to the meeting of all their needs. MASH units offer on site surgery, and the goal is keeping lives from death, not making sure their hospital room holds all the amenities. MASH units see many come in, and intense care is given, but then they move on. And the unit keeps on working, moving on as well. It will never be a full service hospital, but it will make a difference. Set up in tents and temporary structures, they leave little physical mark that they've been there. The only "proof" is in the lives that have been saved, healed, and impacted by what they've done. In short, they "minister" in a mostly unnoticed way. This is tough on those of us looking for a legacy. It surely has been tough on me. At times it still is, but He's brought me to the place where I have (mostly) embraced that which He's called me to. And He's brought me to see that the true legacy of any pastor, of any true witness for Christ is found in Paul's words to the Corinthians. The lives, souls, that are impacted, changed, made whole and new for Him, are what the true legacy of a believer, pastor or no, is. It's not in the buildings we raise, or the ministries we establish, or the fellowship halls named after us. It's in the "letters" we leave behind, written on the hearts of those He's entrusted to us, whether we serve in a MASH unit, an emergency care outlet, or a state of the art facility. I hope there are many such letters resulting from what He's entrusted to me, but only He can pass judgement on that. That's surrendered to Him. My call, and yours, is to go on serving, seen or unseen. To go on seeking to write these letters on whatever lives He brings before us. Likely unseen by most everyone...but Him....the only Watcher who matters, and the only proof of a life that matters as well.

Some years ago I returned to the secular college I attended before I knew Him. I walked by two dorms that had both been named after previous Pennsylvania governors when I attended. The names had been changed to honor people more in time with the present generation. That's the way the legacies we seek always end up. As the Egyptians forgot who Joseph was, so will most forget who we are. Yet He won't. He'll save those "love letters" our hearts and ministries have written. Written as pastors, husbands, wives, parents, friends, people. And whether we're part of a MASH unit church, or a long established one, and both are so needed, our worth is not found in those trophies that bear our name, but those lives that bear our love. All of us are letters written on another's heart...on His heart. Who are the letters from yours?

Blessings,
Pastor O

 

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