There is a popular cultural understanding, based on an ancient theological concept, that our soul returns to life after death, that we are reincarnated.
Generally, Westerners have this notion that reincarnation means our present self is contained in one soul, and that if reincarnation exists it means we just keep coming back in human form.
But what if reincarnation is like genetics and reproduction and decomposition and all other matters of the universe, where in the end and at the beginning we come out of a mix of the all-ness that is and has been?
What if we have not one old life, but slices of all old lives?
Part Martin Luther King, part Hitler, part Gandhi, part Mary, part Jesus, part Mother Teresa, part Joe and Jane Schmoe?
What if our karmic debt (the consequences of human action) is a collective mishmash of paying for the good and the bad of all that has transpired to date in human history?
Even if we do not accept the concept of a literal reincarnation of the soul, isn't that how it actually works? Each of our present souls are haunted by slavery still. We are haunted by the Holocaust. We are haunted by bad choices of our predecessors, aren't we?
And we benefit from great things done by those before us and those amongst us now too, don't we?
Good work in science and medicine have given us better lives. Efforts by abolitionists, child welfare reform, feminists, civil rights leaders - people like MLK and Gandhi - have paid off for us handsomely, as we move further away from oppressions.
Understanding we are reincarnated in the future through the vibrations of our actions in the world means what we do and who we are in life matters.
What if we lived our lives knowing that the next generations get a slice of us traveling through time and that the slice of what we do while we are here is the debt or the saving that we pass on to them?
What if life is about being our best, so the next bits of all of us can be even better?
This idea dovetails nicely with Jesus' teachings that in life we strive to love our neighbors, love our enemies, take care of the least amongst us, make sure all have enough and welcome all into the community just as they are.
If we did all that, reincarnated or not, we'd be better people and we'd leave behind a better world generation after generation,
If we did all that, whether we believe in karma or not, the lasting effects would be vibrations of treasures from the past, not vibrations of harm from the past.
God calls us to a new way of living. Jesus teaches us the way where we care about everyone else, and they care about us.
That's the love and the justice part of living that will lead to the peace God longs for us and all generations.
The truth is that what we do - who we are - matters much over and over again to humankind. You matter. Much.
The Rev. Scott Elliott is the pastor at Riviera United Church of Christ in Palm Bay. Visit Riviera UCC's website at rivieraucc.org.