Renew, Regrow, Re-invent: Working for our Legacy

May 3, 2023 by Maggie Harmon

It is just a few days after Easter as I write this so I am spending a lot of time thinking about resurrection and what that means for me and for the churches I work with. I find myself thinking as well about perspective and how where we stand can make a huge difference in how we experience the world.

Sitting in the pews of many churches these days you might at first perceive a sense of scarcity: fewer people, less energy, greater space. All of this is an accurate way of experiencing reality. So, too, in the day after the crucifixion, there was a vast emptiness. Space that was formerly filled with promise was ostensibly gone.

Energy abhors a vacuum so when space is created something comes to fill it; in those first few hours after Jesus’ death grief filled the space that he had occupied.

Opportunity beyond all imagining

Maggie Harmon, MRO

We may be in the midst of grief over the change occurring in our churches today. Our churches do not feel the way they did decades ago. They do not occupy the same space in the social landscape. Things have changed and change is hard, scary, and uncomfortable. Certainly no one would suggest that the transformation Jesus underwent from human life to spirit was comfortable.

But after grief in the story of Jesus’ death comes opportunity, hope, and joy beyond all imagining. The resurrection tells us that there is something else, something beyond what we could perceive with our human eyes, something greater than we could imagine. Some were quick to move from grief to opportunity. Others took a little longer, but the lesson is that we are called to take that leap and to move forward.

It is time to put aside our grief over what was and experience the possibility of what can be. I suspect that while Jesus was alive none of the disciples really believed that they were going to have to take over someday. Sure they could help out; they could preach, they could do some healing but they had a very real, very tangible safety net. Until they didn’t.


Balance and a shift in perspective

And then, miraculously they did, along with a transformational charge: you are the body, you are the spirit, you have to be the work of Jesus in the world. And there were not that many of them – the “church” was small, they didn’t have big buildings, and they were not terribly popular with the people in power. But wow! Did they ever manage to do something incredible!

We are no less the recipients of that charge today. We are no less responsible and we are no less capable. The legacy of the opportunity present in the resurrection is ours, and we must do the work that will pass that legacy to the next generation and the one after that. We can not stop at grief but instead we must move through that grief to the world of new possibility and new beginning.

In yoga practice, you always do every move on both sides of your body. Functionally, this makes sure that your muscles are balanced. Psychologically, it allows you to check your view of the world with just a subtle shift. Stand on your right leg in tree pose and the world looks one way, stand on your left and the view changes. When we stand facing the empty tomb we see a loss, when we experience the emptiness in that tomb we can fill ourselves with all the possibility that brings.

Our churches have changed from the very beginning. Indeed, without change, we would not be where we are today – a link in a chain stretching back thousands of years.

If we shift our perspective just a little to the fullness of the opportunity in front of us, the promise of transformed life inherent in the resurrection, we can move forward together with hope, with joy, with gladness, and with the full knowledge that we will do our work to make sure that the church is there for thousands of years to come.

Maggie Harmon serves as the Presbyterian Foundation’s Ministry Relations Officer for the Southwest. Maggie works with churches and ministries of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) located in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Hawaii.

Maggie’s experience includes 20 years of legal practice, management consulting, and leadership coaching. She is a member of First Presbyterian Church in Oakland, Calif. Maggie holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California—Davis and a Juris Doctorate from the Santa Clara University School of Law. She also has certification in leadership, organizational growth, and social science from Stanford University Graduate School of Business.