The Lord’s Family Tree

“Oh NO! Not the family tree scriptures again!” I can almost hear the congregation thinking out loud when we come to portions of the scriptures that have “and so and so begat so and so, and he begat so and so, and …” I’ve even been asked “why is that in the Bible?” I remember when I was first ordained as a priest having to read this passage in church for liturgy, and thinking “I am about to butcher these names!” Seriously, whether your priest will admit this or not, we talk about this passage every year and one brother was kind enough to record the names pronounced correctly for us! God bless him!

But, seriously, WHY is this in the Bible?

The short answer: You can pick your friends, but you’re stuck with your relatives!

Look at our lesson today in Luke 3:23-38, 4:1

At that time, Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Salathiel,…” (I won’t make you read the whole thing!)

Let’s face it, it’s easier to not do this hard work of being a family. In the short term it is so much more pleasant to reduce the Faith to a commodity that we can simply change the brands if we don’t like something. So, the scriptures puts it right in our face! The Lord, in His flesh, has a genealogy. He has a family. He takes His flesh from one of us and He accepts all that entails, even having a family and a family tree that we may not always be proud of! And by doing that He invites us to see beyond the difficulties of being a family to the amazing display of His grace and mercy in creating a family in the first place.

As with any spiritual work, we have to start by confessing! We actively reject the twin sources of delusion: “What I am afraid of” AND “What I wish for.” These are our family members. They are – good, bad, or indifferent – my family. Do I wish some of them weren’t? Sometimes, but that isn’t my call. I am called to embrace my family and love them even when they aren’t very lovable. Because sometimes I’m not very lovable either.

Next, I am also called to confess, not their problems, but mine! There is nothing like serious communion to uncover the brokenness of my own heart and my real spiritual weaknesses. My pride gets confronted. My expectations get tested. And I get asked hard questions about my own life. Far from spending my time analyzing their problems, close communion invites me to see my own spiritual weaknesses and offer them to God to be healed.

Finally, I am called to confess my love and need for my family. The truth is I wouldn’t be the man I am today without my family, both physical and spiritual. Even when it’s been hard, real spiritual benefits have flowed to me from my rubbing shoulders and sharing my life with these precious people. Hard? You bet, but, if I have the courage to see it, every bump has invited me to become more serious about my faith and more insightful about my own weaknesses. I wouldn’t know things about myself if it weren’t for this communion of persons called my family.

Today, embrace the courage to do the hard work of communion. This “hard work” is more valuable to your formation than you might imagine. And the willingness to embrace this “hard work” is part of your spiritual life! The spiritual treasures offered to you today through your communion with real persons is simply too valuable to dismiss. In fact, if you take this communion seriously, it will make you Orthodox on Purpose!

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