Johnny has fore-fathers




Someone once made a joke that the way Einstein discovered that time was relative was easy. He observed that when he visited with relatives, time slowed to almost a standstill. I can relate. When I was young, there were times when the extended family would gather. Boring!  I would think that the old folk would never stop talking. The minutes seemed like hours.  Of course, I’ve noticed the flip side of this phenomenon – when I am having fun, time passes quickly.

Kinfolk and family is a great blessing from God, and what would we be without them?  But with kin comes a family history, and this history shapes us and molds us. In almost every family, there are good people, kind and generous and funny. There is also ugliness and tragedy and sinfulness. Both the good and the bad weave into our history to make us who we are. Naturally, we are uncomfortable with the bad. We either deny that it is there, or work mightily to overcome it. Sometimes, family seems absolutely toxic. 

The Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 1, the genealogy of the Lord tells us about His family history. By this history we know that by taking on flesh, Christ took upon himself a family tree. And what a tree it is – filled with the good, the bad, and the ugly! Here is the glory and the mystery of the Incarnation. When I was born into the Moses and Owens family history, I became aware of the good and the bad.  In my lifetime,  I’ve tried to overcome the power of that history. The history of Christ’s family is also a mix of  good and bad. Yet, in Christ  that history was redeemed.  This gives me hope that the dysfunctional history of my family life is not an irresistible force that will go on forever. By my own salvation, my family tree can be pruned of its dead branches. 

This is wonderful news. Besides attaining my own salvation, all of the generational mess that has been passed down to me can end with me. It need not be passed on to my children and their children’s children. This gives me hope and encourages me to try harder to attain the kingdom of God.If I fail, then my children will have to overcome this family history themselves. 

Christ is descended from Adam. This means that not only is Christ my Lord, He is also my brother. The family tree that he has come to claim and redeem is my own tree, and so I have a powerful ally whose grace can help me in this most difficult work. It also means that all of you are my brothers and sisters, and whatever history you bear, good or bad, is my family history. Therefore, You and I am not alone. We have quite an extended family, and we can struggle together, and help each other to prune the family tree.

I heard somewhere of an old tradition that when someone becomes a monastic, several generations of the monk’s family are given a special grace to help them achieve salvation. That seems right to me.

There is an old proverb mentioned in the Bible: “The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” Yes, I have often puckered up on the tangy history of my forefathers. Now, the sweet taste of the wine of heaven has begun to remove the flavor.  May God help me so that my children’s teeth will never be set on edge. May their mouths will be filled with the sweetness of God’s praise. 

I ask the Lord that help me so that I will stop eating sour grapes, and that His love will completely drive the sour taste of my family history from my mouth.

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