Legacies are funny things. A long time ago, a legacy was simply the function of a deputy. It was the assigned set of tasks that a functionary was given in order to fulfill their terms of office. You became, in effect, an extension of a person's influence, much the same as David intended for his son Solomon. After decades of struggle and conflict, as the great king of Israel was winding down his rule, he names his son Solomon ("Peace") as his heir and lays up supplies for the building of a temple for the Glory of God. David's legacy, one he hopes will be a positive one, is that the one thing God held back from him--the building of a more permanent dwelling place in the midst of Israel--would be attained. With that legacy comes good and ill...some of David's heirs do right by it, while most do not live up to it: a legacy as a burden.
Legacy also brings a sense of purpose, as we see in the psalm selection today. As we continue to make our way through this ongoing song of praise, petition and rumination of the psalmist on his/her relationship with the legacy of God's commandments I am beginning to see some patterns. God is just. The Psalmist is striving to hew closely to the teachings of God's precepts. "People" who are not just are stumbling blocks. The Psalmist decries his/her own weakness and the interference of others. God is both witness and hoped for dispenser of support for the psalmist, and of judgment for those people who promote injustice. The legacy of the covenant is a constant source of provocation for this psalmist who strives to be a jealous of the Law as God appears to be for the faithful.
Finally, in Paul the tension around the legacy of Israel's covenant with God confronts the access that the Gentiles have been granted to the Gospel. As it does in every generation, in most organizations and seems to exhibit as a trait in almost all human cultures, legacy is shown as something that can define whether a person is going to be "in" or "out" because of the legacy they receive from those who have gone before. Thing is, Paul reminds us that while we may assume that God recognizes Israel because of genetic declension from a favored ancestor, the truth is that God's greater intent is to value faith, trust, devotion and the pursuit of justice. When Israel, chosen out of the nations to receive the legacy of the covenant, is faithful they are a lamp to other nations in order that they might see God's blessings and be drawn to communion with God. When Israel, again chosen out of the nations to receive the legacy of the covenant, fails to keep those precepts, then they are made a ward and sign to the nations so that they might witness what happens to those who fail to keep faith, invest trust and devotion and pursue justice in the name of God. Legacy is not birthright, Paul reminds us...it is a gift bestowed and a duty engaged. We carry it with us, and by God's grace we are given the charge to pass it on to those who will follow us. God willing, and our own wills consenting, we just might be able to deliver our legacy as one that gives life to the generations to follow.