Anne Currie
29th September 2019
Finding Our Roots

If you are on the rota to read the first reading in the service then you’ll know that It’s not often that the person reading the Gospel gets all the hard names to read out, It’s usually the other way around! But this morning it was the turn of the Gospel reader.

And it’s not often that you hear the genealogy from Matthew’s Gospel read out in church either. It’s not normally included in the lectionary readings.

Over the next three weeks, which include our Harvest celebrations, we are keeping the season of Creationtide.

We’re thinking about our interaction with God’s creation… what comes out of that… and where do we go from here? How faith, love and God in the person of Father Son and Holy Spirit are inextricably linked with and woven into our lives, past, present and future.

In the past few years tracing your family tree has become a popular hobby. We’ve all got a family tree, even if we’ve never been inclined to research it. I’ve been working on mine… Take, for example, the timeline for my great grandmother… she had eleven children and three husbands, at least we think they were husbands and only three of them, but it’s not entirely clear from family stories.

By the time my grandmother was born all the older children had left home and gone their own ways, so she only really knew one of her sisters and a half-brother. There’s a whole tribe of people out there who I’m related to but apart from the names on a piece of paper I wouldn’t know them from a bar of soap. Perhaps you are one of them!

And I really wish that I had spent more time talking to her, getting the stories and the history, knowing where I’d come from and my small place in history.

Jesus’ family tree that’s here in Matthew’s text isn’t really one in the strictest sense. It’s more a statement of his lineage and connection to God’s history with his people, condensed down to the important bits. But that’s not to say that it isn’t true or that ancestry wasn’t important. It was. Jewish lineages were recorded and kept by the Sanhedrin until they were sadly destroyed in AD70. All that history gone at a stroke.

In the western world, for many hundreds of years families have recorded their family timelines in the front of their bibles… and now Matthew records Jesus’ family tree in all our bibles.

A family tree is important as it gives us a sense of identity, who we are and where we’ve come from.

Have you ever watched the programme “Who do you think you are?” a popular programme about tracing the ancestors of celebrities. Who can forget the moment that Danny Dyer heard he was descended from King Edward III? And the thing is that some experts say that because there were so few people living in England at that time, there’s a possibility that any one of us could be descended from medieval royalty, if only we could trace our family back that far.

If you take that theory further… I wonder if there is anyone here who is a distant distant distant cousin of Jesus?

If Matthew’s list of names is not a name by name representation of Jesus’ lineage what’s it doing here.

A roll of drums, a fanfare if you like to announce the coming of the Messiah by his lineage and this one is very impressive indeed. However, it’s also dangerous. If you remember the Christmas story Herod was a puppet king installed by the Romans and was not a popular figure.

So, shouting about the fact that you were descended from a line of ancient kings would not be something you’d want Herod’s spies to know about… Matthew has Jesus right on the edge even before he was born.

But it shows that Jesus has a past rooted deeply in Jewish history… we can see familiar names along the way.

If you read up about the genealogy… there’s a lot of stuff about numbers 7s and 5s and the like, but I’m drawn to the explanation about it being split into 3 sections, 3 promises made by God to 3 people, 3 promises about a son. All very trinitarian.

We’ve God’s promise to Abraham: God promised Abraham that he would have a son and that through his son all nations would be blessed.

Isaac was a bit of a miracle child. His mother was barren, and both his parents were extremely old when he was born. The miraculous birth of Isaac in the Old Testament foreshadows the miraculous birth of Jesus in the New Testament. And Matthew’s genealogy both begins and ends with the miraculous birth of a child in fulfilment of God’s promises.

God’s promise to David: God also made a promise to David about a son.: “When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, … Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.”

God’s promise to the exiles: just as God made promises to Abraham and David about a son, he also made promises to the exiles about a son. We find these promises in Isaiah who foretold the exile. From whence we get the Christmas readings.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.”

Remember how Matthew began his gospel in verse one: “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham.” Jesus is both the promised son of Abraham and the promised son of David.

Therefore, Jesus is the fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham that all nations will be blessed through him. He is the fulfilment of God’s promise to David that a king will rule forever on his throne. And he is the fulfilment of God’s promise to the exiles that a child will be born who will reign over all. Jesus’ birth is rooted in God’s promises.

And God keeps his promises.

After the flood, when everyone had stumbled out of the ark, God made a promise, a covenant with us….

The Lord said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, …

As long as the earth endures,

  seedtime and harvest, cold and heat,

summer and winter, day and night,

  shall not cease.’

God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations:

Now God loves us very much, but he’s well aware of our backsliding ways and it is becoming obvious that we are not keeping to the task that was originally given to Adam, to have stewardship over the earth, to care for God’s creation, holding up our side of the bargain to enable every living creature that moves on the earth to be fruitful and multiply.

Creation season gives us a chance to stop and think about our place in God’s scheme of things on this earth… just as a family tree places us into history. We can look back and seen the generations stretched out behind us from where we stand in the present.

Sitting here today, we quite possibly have direct link through our ancestors right back to when the first humans were farming in the middle east, as modern mankind spread out from there up into Europe and beyond. And through that ancestry maybe we do a connection to Abraham, Noah and David.

Jesus had a past. He didn’t just spring into being in a stable. Matthew firmly places him in history. His family tree roots him in Jewish history, and it roots him in his humanity. His personal family tree culminated in his birth as something new, a fulfilment of all those promises… and as of that moment he then becomes the common spiritual ancestor of all of us.

Genesis 8.12-22
Matthew 1.1-17