You have taught me ever since I was young,
and I still tell of your wonderful acts.
Now that I am old and my hair is gray,
do not abandon me, O God!
Be with me while I proclaim your power and might
to all generations to come.
~Psalm 71:17-18 GNT
Everything was all too familiar.
The church was old fashioned with huge stained-glass windows and the magnificent altar popular a century ago. Still it was striking and beautiful. It was reminiscent of the church I attended in my early years. This Lutheran Church was well cared for in a way I’ve not seen in a while. The meticulous maintenance spoke of love and dedication for the church and from the community that worships in it.
The hymns were also familiar, although I had not sung them in some time. I’m not sure who chose the passages that were read, but they were some of my favorites and would be the ones I would want at my funeral.
As I looked around the church, I was struck by the faces of those who are, well, familiar to me, although those faces had evolved through the long years of our relationship. Distance and time made us not as close as I would like to be with them, yet could not break the ties I have with them. My uncle, aunts, cousins, second cousins all spoke to me of generations of those who continue to follow the faith that was instilled in us by our parents, grandparents, and remotely, but still influential, great-grandparents.
I was back in the state where I was born for a funeral of one of my cousins. She was smart, funny with just the right amount of sarcasm, and was often the catalyst that brought this family together. Even in death, she brought many of us from far and wide to meet as one to celebrate her life and grieve her too early death.
For that hour-long service, I was hit by nostalgia: this was the faith tradition I was born into. It was made possible by those who traveled from Germany to bring the gospel to America. These ancestor’s dedication was shown in the faces of all those present. The passages read and some of the songs we sang were likely read and sang by those faithful ancestors. The generations seemed to merge at that moment and come full circle.
Several days after the funeral, I found the passage above, quite by accident and from an unfamiliar text, but it spoke to me. As I read it, I thought it reflected how I was feeling about faith and how it was passed to me, and how I desire to pass it on to my children, grandchildren, and beyond.
I long to be like those ancestors. They sacrificed much to bring their faith in God to others. They practiced their faith in such a way that they passed it on to those of us who followed them.
I hope the faith that means so much to me would be practiced by those who follow me, much like I followed in the faith of my forefathers and foremothers. Perhaps not in the tradition of them, but still in a personal way where the generation that follows me can remain connected by faith in the God who loves them and wants a relationship with them. I hope they would see themselves as part of this continuation of faith and belief in God that was started so very long ago.
With no doubt there will be more family reunions. I don’t look forward to them as they will likely occur through loss in this world. However, I do look forward to the reunions in the next world. I believe in heaven. I believe that God is faithful in bringing home His people to live with Him forever. The generations of my family who follow the faith will not be lost to me forever. I anticipate with joy that final family reunion. The tears will not be from sadness, instead from joy in being with those I have loved, those who encouraged my faith journey, and those who made it so easy for me to believe.