December 17, 2012
Assistant Professor, Communication and Media Arts
Genesis 49:2, 8-10
Psalm 72:1-2, 3-4ab, 7-8, 17
Excited by today’s Good News? At least one person is.
“The genealogical lists in the Bible document the most exciting parts of the story,” according to Eugene Peterson, a pastor, author, and bible scholar. “The history of salvation is thick with names.”
Thick? Yes. In the first 17 verses of Matthew’s Gospel we meet 46 members of Jesus’ family. But exciting? It depends on our point-of-view. Today’s list is populated with murderers and adulterers, Jews and gentiles, Israelites and foreigners, men and women; a few outstanding in faithfulness, a few outstanding in evil, and a lot of “ordinary” folks in between. It’s a messy list. Yet God worked through each individual and the Word became flesh.
If we prefer an ethereal and “other-worldly” God we won’t be excited by this (or any) genealogy. For Matthew, salvation work is to be discovered primarily in and among God’s people. And, not people in a generic sense but individual, sweating, scratching, messy, imperfect, individual people – with names. When we prefer a solitary stroll in a field, or a walk on the beach to bumping elbows or rubbing shoulders with others in our circle – classmates, co-workers, parents, siblings, parishioners, pastors, etc. -- we’re liable to miss God’s saving action or, at least, misinterpret it.
But if we’re willing to accept God on God’s terms, by God’s name “Immanuel” (God with us), we might find a couple of reasons to get excited: First, we’re in on the action. As Peterson points out, “The story of Jesus doesn’t begin with Jesus.” It doesn’t end with him either. It continues in a line of individuals, named disciples, that leads to us. You and I are not audience members watching God’s dramatic action, but named cast members. We are an instrumental part of the salvation story.
Secondly, we don’t have to be perfect. Look at the list. In the course of 24 hours I can be saint, sinner, leader, follower, insider, outsider and, mostly, ordinary. The good news is all kinds are part of God’s family tree. That’s exciting.
Peterson, Eugene. (2012). The Message Study Bible. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.