Now that I’m retired, I often get to sit beside my lovely Bride during Sunday worship—a perk I seldom had in my long life as a pastor. Another perk, which I relish, is attending worship with a variety of congregations of all sorts, shapes, sizes, and styles.
This morning I worshiped with a few new friends in an independent congregation that gathers in the all-purpose room in a local school. Ah, the joys of independence. Not having your own building can be a pain, but the freedom it affords definitely offsets the maledictions it can bring.
While I thoroughly enjoyed the service, there was a single moment that stood out more than the rest to me. The preacher mentioned something that I think about from time to time. The fact that he mentioned it was not as startling as was the way he said it. If I remember correctly, his words were something like, “Someday you will be a framed picture on someone’s piano.” Let that one sink in for a while.
How many people do you remember from a generation ago—two generations ago? Most of us probably can’t pull up very many memories concerning such people. If you have vivid memories of people from three generation ago, you’re really lucky. Even seeing a photo of a family with four surviving generations is a rarity. That certainly didn’t happen very much in my family, and the opportunity for it happening again is fleeting.
It causes me to wonder how long after I’m gone that my framed photo will last on someone’s piano. How much of an impact did I make (even on my own family)? How much of an impression will I leave on the world? We’d all like to think we have some importance as we journey through this world. But most of us produce far less consequence than we’d like to imagine (Facebook not withstanding).
The Apostle Paul warns us not to think more highly of ourselves than we should (Romans 12:3). Still, since most of us are at the center of our own universe, it’s rather tough to follow his suggestion. Maybe that’s why we take so many selfies. After this morning, I’m tempted to come up with a decent photo of myself and get it copied and framed for all who have pianos. Someone’s bound to get the hint.
“A Distant Relative”
The real problem is that soon there won’t be many people left to tell my story. Somebody might be able to say something like, “That guy was a distant relative.” Beyond that, I will just be another pretty face (quit laughing).
Ultimately, the framed photo will end up in some antique shop. No one will buy it unless there’s something unique about it. Eventually, it will end up in a trash heap. I guess the best strategy at this point is to do the most we can with the time we have left. The good we do just might be the only thing that will last.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]