Thursday, January 3, 2008

Word of Promise #1

“Where did I come from?” is often our children’s first serious question. We usually think that the child wants to know what we call “the facts of life.” I just spent the best part of a year writing a book about sex. I called it, Naked and Not Ashamed. So I should know “the facts of life” by now. I read hundreds of books, interviewed people and thought a lot about sex.

So do I know where I came from?

Well, as it turns out, knowing a lot about sex does not tell us where we came from. Besides, sexual information, as important as it is, is hardly “the facts of life.”

Ancient people thought that this question of origins was the most important piece of information they could have about someone. Appalachian people think so too. We were all poor up in the mountains but we “knew who our folks were.” That’s why I can tell you the names of all my ancestors since the sixteen hundreds. But does that tell you anything about me?

I think it does. Then again, this blog is not about me. It’s about Jesus.

St. Matthew begins his story about Jesus by telling us “who his folks were.”

Hundreds of people in our church are listening to The Word of Promise, a dramatized reading of the New Testament produced by Thomas Nelson. (My wife wanted it because Jim Cavaziel, who played the part of Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, reads the words of Christ in this project. God knows if her motives are really about learning the Word of God! But I digress…)
Trish and I listened together.

“Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers.”

This is the passage that always gets a laugh from modern readers. It has caused many a reader to stop reading the New Testament before he ever really begins. “Boring stuff,” he thinks as he tosses the Bible aside and picks up his People Magazine.

It’s not true. This is not boring. Each name in this chapter has a story. The actual begating didn’t take that long and it didn’t require a lot of intelligence. The interesting part – the stuff between the begating – constitutes the real facts of life.

Jesus was the son of sinners and saints, kings and paupers, tragedy and comedy. There is real drama peeking out between these begats. Verse 11 just tosses this phrase nonchalantly, “Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they were carried away to Babylon.” What? That’s it? Rape, pillage, murder and mayhem – deportation – this is terrible! Nonetheless, two people find a way to begat someone. Life goes on because life is irrepressible and that life jumps from generation to generation until it personifies in the person of Jesus, “in whom was life and that life was the light of Men.”

That is the real facts of life!

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