Leaving Our Footprint

I need to get something off of my chest.

I was moving around and hopping from foot to foot while I was preaching this morning (this is actually not the confession, that’s just how I preach) when I caught my heal on my pulpit chair and almost wiped out mid-sermon.

I think I held my composure pretty well, but I like to keep things real on here and felt the need to fess up regardless.

Today’s sermon – I remembered the audio today!  That’s all here.  Enjoy!

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Philippians 1:21-30

Leaving Our Footprint

I have a confession: I had my sermon basically completely outlined by the end of this week; I had an illustration that I thought was pretty solid and would work well with this particular scripture, the rest I knew would flow and by Friday morning I was in great shape.

So on Friday I snuck away to Connecticut to see the opening night performance of a local production of Shakespeare For My Father, a play written and originally performed by the actor and playwright Lynn Redgrave.

Now some of you know that Lynn was a church member of mine at my church in Connecticut and a good friend of my family. So seeing this play – seeing a character that she based on herself and once played – was meaningful on many levels to myself, to my family and to my extended church family that had gathered in the theater that night.

Shakespeare For My Father is about Lynn’s relationship with her father, Sir Michael Redgrave. Sir Michael played many a Shakespearean roles throughout his lifetime and career and Lynn’s memories and anecdotes of her life with her father are intertwined with Shakespeare’s dialogue throughout the entire play.

Early on in Shakespeare For My Father, Lynn’s character quoted the Bard’s play, As You Like It: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”

As soon as I heard that, I immediately lost track of what was happening on stage and knew I needed to make some changes to my sermon when I returned to Massachusetts.

This morning’s scripture comes to us from Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi. Paul says to the Philippians, “For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you.”
Paul said, “But to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you.”

And Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”

So if all the world is a stage – the world we are living in, the world we are present in right now, the world that we are in the flesh in, as Paul said – then what characters are we playing right now, in this world, in the flesh?

Paul said that it is necessary for us to remain in the flesh, that there is work that needs to be done here on earth. Paul said that it is imperative that we remain here and that we continue to share our faith with each other and with those around us. Paul said that we need to live with spirit of outreach portion out what we have abundantly with those in need. Paul said that we should live our lives in a manner worthy of the ministry of Jesus and of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Paul was saying that there is work that needs to be done right here, right now. And he was saying that we all need to walk in the path of our journey; to play our own part.

When the actor who played Lynn said the words, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players,” I immediately thought about this scripture, the scripture that I was preaching on this morning. I couldn’t help but think that this – this world that we are living in – is our stage.
And I couldn’t help but think that each of the characters that we are playing are important, that each of the characters that we are playing are different, that each of the characters that we are playing are irreplaceable and that each of the characters that we are playing have the ability to make a huge impact on that stage – on the world.

Okay, okay, I’m sure that somewhere my 9th grade English teacher’s ears are ringing because I doubt that is actually what William Shakespeare had in mind when he wrote As You Like It. But think about it: What character – what role – are you playing in this world? What character – what role – do you want to play in this world?

Now I would be remiss if I didn’t say that as soon as I heard the sentence, “All the world’s a state, and all the men and women merely players,” I thought about the role that Lynn had on my life and on the lives of the people that I love. But here is the thing: Thinking about the role that she had in my life brought so much joy to me in that moment – because I started to think about all of the wonderful ways that she impacted my life while she was here, on earth, in the flesh, on this stage.

And then I started to think about all of the other saints that have come and gone before me. And I thought about all of the wonderful ways that they impacted my life – those who I knew and those who I didn’t know. So many people have impacted my life because of the time that they spent here, on earth, in the flesh, on this stage.

Who are your saints? Who are the people in your lives who have impacted you because of the life that they lived and the footprints that they left behind?

I wonder how each and every one of us might impact the lives of those who come after us because of the lives that we are living here, on earth in the flash, on this stage, because of the footprints we are leaving behind.

Paul said, “Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that … I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel.” He is challenging the Philippians – and challenging us today – to strive to do great things, to live out the gospel, to be on a constant quest for hope and for peace here on earth.

If we live our lives in the flesh, if we live our lives for today and if we live our lives seeking to live out the Gospel message then we will leave that footprint for those who come after us to see.

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” We are all playing a role in this world in our journeys through life and we will all leave our footprints behind. I think it is important to ask ourselves now, “What do we want those footprints to look like? What paths do we want those footprints to be walking down?”

This scripture text acts as an extravagant invitation to all of us to focus on living in the moment, to be in the flesh and to think about how we can truly walk along a righteous path. This text invites us to think about and look carefully at how the decisions that we are making today are impacting the footprints that we will leave behind one day and to consciously decide what kind of legacy we want to lead.

Every step that we take, every decision that we make, every relationship that we form happens in this moment, on this world, on this stage. But – it also has the ability to impact the lives of so many who will follow behind us. And that is extraordinarily powerful.

What footprint do you want to leave behind?

Amen.

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