Amy Jones,
Agape Coordinator
Dear God, we come to worship you today. 
We come to pray, and listen.
You always hear us. 
Help us to hear you. Amen
Matthew 1:1-17

1 An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, 4 and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of King David. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7 and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, 8 and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9 and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. 12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah. 17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.
Some of the books I have most enjoyed have been the true stories of people who are forgotten to our nation’s history. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks tells the untold story of a woman of color whose cervical cancer cells were used to make enormous advances in biology. Radium Girls describes how women suffered radiation poisoning while painting luminous dials during WWI. I just started Hidden Figures, the book that the movie is based upon, and I am so grateful to know the story of the women of color who made space flight possible. These are stories that might have been lost if their writers hadn’t decided to tell them. I am grateful to be able to read these stories because I want them in my national “genealogy.” I want to remember these stories, even if they complicate what I already know about our national story.

Every family story has additions and deletions. There are stories we pump up with dramatic effect and others that we gloss over or don’t tell at all. There are a few events, and even people, that we often wish we could edit out altogether. Sometimes we succeed at deletion simply by omission. If you fail to tell a story for long enough, eventually there are no surviving family members that remember it. 

The genealogies in the Bible are not exactly the most riveting literary material. They don’t have a lot of narrative “glue.” Not many people cite the genealogies as their favorite scriptures, and they sure don’t get read at many baptisms, weddings, or funerals. But, they do help tell the story of who is important to the family history of a given person.

For example, several women are included in Jesus’s genealogy, which is interesting since women are not often included in genealogies in the Bible. Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth are all mentioned by name. Bathsheba is mentioned, though her name is excluded. She is only mentioned as “the wife of Uriah.” 

All of the women included in Jesus’s genealogy point to a place where the family story deviated from the planned course and expanded to include those on the margins. You can go back and read the story of Tamar (Gen 38), who tricked Judah into sleeping with her because, as the widow of Judah’s son, she was not receiving the care that was customary. Rahab was a very clever woman who played her cards right to save herself and her family from Joshua at the destruction of Jericho (Joshua 6). Ruth was the Moabite daughter-in-law of Naomi whose relationship with Boaz in Bethlehem ensured the survival of both Ruth and Naomi during a famine. “Uriah’s wife” is Bathsheba, with whom King David had an affair that resulted in an unexpected pregnancy and the arranged death of Uriah (2 Sam 11). Each woman’s story tells a tale of an unexpected twist in the family story that includes widows, prostitutes, foreigners, and victims.

Every day we’re bombarded with messages of our historic moment. Everything is unprecedented, novel, and consequential. Sometimes in moments like these, we wonder how we will remember what we experience. What will stand out? What won’t allow itself to be forgotten? 

I want to pay attention to stories of unexpected grace that might be forgotten later. I heard a story this week of a retired Canadian pastor whose beloved wife, Flora, died during this health crisis. He arranged an entire visitation and funeral via Zoom. He was able to visit with friends from Spain, the United States, and all parts of Canada. He had invited friends and family members to send video clips of their favorite memories, songs, and poems about his wife. Afterward, his friends said that they thought they would miss the experience of going to the funeral home and seeing people in-person, but actually the online funeral seemed more personal. Flora’s husband talked about how important it was to him to not delay planning a funeral. He needed a familiar ritual to help him grieve. I do not want to forget this story of the importance of acknowledging grief, and developing new ways to enact old rituals.

I have also heard about how people with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) are coping with what must be an absolutely nightmarish situation for them. Hearing their coping mechanisms in these extraordinary circumstances are so important to the way I want to understand my world right now. They have taken steps to slow down and understand themselves and really care for themselves in ways that I still need to learn. I hope these stories aren’t lost from our human genealogy, because they are not only how I want to survive this, but how I want to thrive in the future. I hope we won’t forget what other people, with other experiences, have to teach us.

I know our stories of this time will include people like heroic health care professionals, essential workers who make our groceries, pharmaceuticals, and gasoline available, and teachers who have invented brand new ways to instruct our children. I hope we can also look for ways to expand our “genealogy” of heroes and look for the silent, unsung heroes and remember their stories, too.
God of all generations, widen our vision to see the stories on the margin. Expand our understanding of ourselves so that we can see how our lives intersect with those around us. Help us to be, together, the people you made us to be.
Amy Jones, Agape Coordinator
Amy Jones our Agape Coordinator is an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church. In this tradition, deacons are ordained clergy who bridge the ministry of the church with the needs of the world, and vice versa. In more than 15 years of ministry, she has worked in churches, in children and family ministry, higher education, and nonprofits. In each setting, her focus has been on matching the resources of the church with the needs of the world. Agape Community Kitchen is exactly the type of work she was called to do. 

Amy can be reached by email at:
The Presbyterian Church in Westfield continues to burn as a light in the darkness as our community weathers this fearsome storm of illness. Our reach of care continues to extend far beyond our immediate borders. You can help us make a real impact in the lives of others by joining in our work through your time, your talents, and also in the fruits of your labors.
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