“What Stories Do We Tell?”
Matthew 1: 1-17
1 An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, 4 and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of King David.
And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7 and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, 8 and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9 and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.
12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.
17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.
This advent season we are following the theme titled: From Generation to Generation from Sanctified Arts. As an introduction to this theme the writers had as their focus scripture verse Mary’s song of protest from Luke 1:28b-50
“Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
For the Mighty One has done great things for me,
And holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
From generation to generation.”
Each week during advent we are going to look at the characters in our scriptures and wonder; What did each character pass on or contribute? How did each character participate in God’s liberation and love? Which characters try to thwart God’s justice and what can we learn from them; What is our role now? What is our generation’s task? What will we carry forth, and what should we leave behind? We begin this series from the gospel of Matthew and the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah.
Just a few days ago I was sitting in my brother’s home, looking at pictures and family videos. Later we talked about our grandparents and started remembering the past. We told story after story, recalling the details of events that have been stored quietly in our minds for years. But something even more significant happened during this story telling time…the connection, the connection we have with each other that had been forgotten. It is and will always be a connection that strengthens our relationships with one another. We are bound with one another by our life experiences. We are who we are by these stories that span lifetimes. For the writer of Matthew there is a particular intention in the names written down, in the order decisively laid out from three sets of 14 generations. 42 generations in total. For you and me this might seem insignificant, a part of scripture we simply pass over quickly or skip all together. But for those reading this historical account it has both political and spiritual implications. Diana Butler Bass helps us to see in more detail the significance of this list of connections from one generation to the next generation. She says, “the writer of Matthew presents Jesus as King of the Jews: An account of genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” The claim is big and bold, directed toward a Jewish audience seeking both political liberation and spiritual empowerment during a time of oppression. Matthew claims that this Jesus, whose story he tells, embodied both King David’s royal authority and the covenantal authority of Abraham. All God’s promises to Israel are fulfilled in Jesus, who appeared to be a carpenter, but in actuality, was both king and savior.” The writer of Matthew wrote down the names.
These stories of historical connections confirming the genealogy of Jesus from one generation to another generation also revealed this amazing God who is at work, who is still at work in the lives of all these people leading up to birth of Jesus, Emmanuel God with us! (And this list has only a few of the 42 generations in total.) Now if we look at this list what do you notice? Only men are listed…right? Where is Mary’s lineage? Of course, it was a patriarchal system, yet women were part of the Jesus’ genealogy, weren’t they? This list is not complete. Then there is another interesting observation, as the sanctified arts creative team brings to light…”as you read through the names, note the vastness of stories represented here—stories of trauma, triumph, hardship, and beauty.” Another important thing to note is that some of the kings listed were evil, I mean really bad people. None of them were perfect people…all are flawed, making one mistake after another. This is the genealogy of Jesus! A vast, complex, puzzling array of humanity.
What stories do we tell that arise from our own genealogy? I’ve been thinking about this. Are we selective in the people we connect ourselves to? Of course, it’s quite natural to lift up the successes of those who came before us, the accomplishments of the generations that came before us, right? Oh yes, I’ll mention that my grandfather was an inventor, but will I mention that he had only a 4th grade education. I can easily share that my father was an engineer, but will I mention that he suffered from anxiety and depression. What stories do we tell? We might choose to hide some aspects of our genealogical history thinking if we reveal all, it might not shed a good light on us. Might we choose to hide some aspects of our history, afraid it will become like a ball and chain limiting us to the past, dooming us to repeat history, limiting our vision to see who we still become? But what if we claim our full complex, sometimes confusing, disjointed, genealogy like the writer of Matthew so boldly reveals about Jesus, so that we too can claim that we are who we are because we believe in the living God who is always working in our lives. We believe in the living God who transforms our flaws into fulfillment, our weaknesses into strength, our sorrow into joy. The living God who takes all that we are carrying from the past with us moving us forward, transforming our lives day by day, empowering us to participate in God’s great, never ending story of liberation and love. We have many stories to tell! Amen