The Legacy Project - Theology
God has blessed the world with abundant variety, including in the experience of a life. Every varied stage of life, from moments immediately following birth to the transition of death, is a sacred season with its own unique tasks and rewards. It is a truth of our culture that some seasons of life are considered more fruitful and positive than others, and that some seasons should be avoided or ignored however possible. As people of faith, however, we affirm that all stages of life are blessed and with purpose, including the life stage of death.
Every human institution, including the church, has a natural lifecycle, “a time to be born and a time to die” (Ecclesiastes 3:2). However, because the church is also a sacred institution, we are called to extend God’s ministry into the future by passing on a legacy to the next generation. II Kings 2:1‐14 tells the story of Elijah passing on the legacy of his ministry to Elisha, imparting a double share of Elijah’s spirit to Elisha, preparing Elisha to begin his new ministry – a ministry of creating new places for new people. Notice that Elijah was not concerned about establishing his own legacy as an influential and powerful prophet for Israel; instead, Elijah was focused on proactively passing the mantle of ministry to Elisha in order to extend God’s ministry into the world, a world that he had not yet even imagined. So, too, a local church, as it nears the end of its ministry lifecycle, can leave a double portion of its spirit for the next generation by joyfully supporting the ministry of an emerging faith expression or a new church start.
We hear this theme of death as a vital and productive part of the life cycle echoed in the Gospel of John 12:24-25 when Jesus tells a crowd that “very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Far from being a quiet, passive time in the cycle of life, death here is shown to be one of the most vital and promising times, full of potential and opportunity to create new life for those who come after. It is also a deeply relational time. If the grain of wheat remained where it was on the stalk and withered, no new life would come from it. Only through its relationship with the earth and the transformation made possible there can new life be created. So, too, it is true for the church. If we stay in the same posture up until the moment that we cease to be, we relinquish the possibility of seeding new life. Only when we are willing to fall into fertile ground do we die to new life. We do this not in a spirit of defeat, but instead with deep hope and the courage of faith. We do this as a practice of a radically faithful life, choosing to see death as a time of blessing and potential, a time of choice, and a time fully held in the miraculously transformative hands of God.