|Old Massanutten Lodge, one of our favorite meeting places|
What good things would we want to be remembered by when we are gone? What do we wish could be said of us at our memorial service or could be imprinted on our tombstone?
According to the last chapter of Proverbs, neither charm nor physical appearance are of lasting consequence. In this passage a truly good woman is valued not primarily for her beauty, but for her character, her generosity, her wisdom. She is not described as a shopper-savvy consumer, but as a skillful producer, a successful entrepreneur, as a godly influence to be reckoned with.
The Psalm 1 text describes the truly good man (or woman) as one who refuses to "walk in step with evildoers", but who dares to live by the divine drumbeat of timeless truths no matter the consequences. Such a person grows tall and produces great fruit, like a "tree planted by a stream of water."
The reading from James 3 and 4 beautifully defines the greatness that comes from Jesus' kind of wisdom, not one that seeks to impress or outsmart others, but one that sows peace and builds harmonious relationships.
Finally, in the Mark 9:30-37 text, Jesus counters his disciple's vying for positions of prominence by holding a child in his arms. It is the one who pays attention to the least noticed and least likely to contribute to our own rise to power, he says, who is truly the greatest. So in this case, it is not the child we are to emulate, but the one who welcomes and pays attention to the least among us, as though we were welcoming Jesus himself.
So what might be our best choice for an epitaph on our tombstone?
"She opened her arms to the poor, and extended her hand to the needy... She spoke with wisdom, and faithful instruction was on her tongue." - from Proverbs 31
"Blessed is the one who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked... who is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season." - from Psalm 1
"The wisdom from above is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit." -from James 3
“Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all…. Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me.” - from Mark 10