This week in the Eucharistic Lectionary, we are introduced to the founder of "David's Line" - King David himself. One of my favourite TV programmes is "Who do you think you are?", when people in the public eye discover things about their families from way - back which were previously unknown to them. Our ancestry makes a lot of sense of our present. "Genealogy", written by Nicola Slee, is a revealing take on Matthew 1:1–17, Jesus's own Family Tree:
He came from a dysfunctional family. And I’m not just talking about his mum and dad (the pregnancy out of wedlock, the pronounced age difference) No, it went back much further than that. There were more than a few skeletons in his cupboard.
Take great King David, the one they all wrote and sang about, eulogised in the histories, the family’s pride and joy. He wasn’t all he was cracked up to be, believe you me. He might have been Jesse’s golden-haired youngest, but later, he was conniving and horny, spying on his officer’s comely wife from the palace balcony and taking her for his own, sending soldiers to do away with unsuspecting Uriah returning victorious from battle. Some victory!
Prostitutes and foreigners aplenty scatter the litter: women you’d not want your daughters taking after, even if you can’t help admiring that plucky Rahab. Some came to a very sorry end. That poor Tamar! It makes me shudder to even think of her. Don’t let your children read her story, it’ll keep them awake for nights on end.
Best not to ask about the ones whose names have sunk into obscurity, for fear of what you might uncover: what unimaginable sleights of hand, sexual perversions, brutal slayings or tortures. Who now thinks of Nashon or Asa, Uzziah, Joham or Jeconiah, Matthan, Azar or Eliud? Don’t disturb their memories with your inquisitive fingers.
Keep going back and you end up at Abraham, another one no better than he ought to be and a whole heap worse. Right bastard, if you’ll pardon my English. Played off his wife as his sister, he did, had it away with his slave girl to get himself a son and then didn’t lift a finger in her defence when Sarah sent her packing into the desert in a fit of jealousy and rage. Worse of all, he was ready to kill his own precious Isaac on some highfalutin whim of the Almighty. That story has been causing trouble for generations down the family line, still keeps the menfolk and their offspring fighting.
No, not what you’d call a promising pedigree. Not surprising he didn’t turn out a happy family man. Little wonder he stayed single!
Nicola Slee really gets it - God didn't choose a perfect family to bring His Son to birth. He chose a family with a cupboardful of skeletons to give hope to those of us who fall short of perfection. Jesus was born into an imperfect dynasty; me too. He understands imperfection - it's in His genes! But there is someone else in Jesus's background - an ordinary young woman from an inconsequential town in a backwater - country. She wasn't perfect, although some say she was. She was , however, courageous and revolutionary...........
When does an ordinary life become extraordinary? A mundane day become revolutionary? A moment in time change history? When God enters in, Forgives sin Allows us to begin again. When we repeat Those words of Mary, ‘May it be to me As you say’
Upturned world, the bankers humbled,
politicians brought to book,
children show new ways of living,
heads will spin and turn to look.
Mary sang, exultant virgin,
birth would change her life and ours,
generations watch with wonder,
shaken like wealth’s shining towers.
Love incarnate’s gentle thunder
wakes the earth to truth and light,
hypocrites meet naked justice,
find no place in fear for flight.
Mary sings, when will we hear her:
revolution born of love,
heralding new dispensation,
cage the hawk and free the dove?
When the prison gates are broken,
when the poor can feast and dine,
then Magnificat is bringing
age of justice and new wine.
Wine of joy and celebration,
end of hunger, God is near,
time of endless new beginnings,
birth of Jesus, end of fear.
Tune: "Bethany" Copyright © Andrew Pratt (2011).
Andrew Pratt is a Methodist, an Honorary Research Fellow with the Partnership for Theological Education, Manchester; who has recently edited with Jan Berry Stainer & Bell’s new collection, "Hymns of Hope and Healing".
His blogsite: http://hymnsandbooks.blogspot.co.uk/
STATEMENT OF MAGNIFICAT FAITH
Our souls magnify the Lord,
and our spirits rejoice in God our Saviour,
for he looks with favour upon us
and sees our unrealized potential.
In the tradition of Mary,
and all who have said “yes” to God,
we stand here today,
to add our assent to theirs.
Like Mary, we feel overwhelmed;
we wonder if we are worthy,
or capable, of following the calling.
Like Mary, we have our questions
and we will not be afraid to ask them.
Like Mary, we will hear and ponder
the assurance that God will empower us.
Like Mary we will strive to say -
“Let it be with us according to your will.”
To whatever God is inviting of us
at this time in our lives,
and relying on God’s grace,
we say “yes.”
~ written by Ann Siddall, and posted on the Stillpoint Spirituality Centre and Faith Community website. http://stillpointsa.org.au/prayer/prayers-and-liturgies/
In “Following in the Footsteps of Jesus”, José Pagola has the following to say about Mary, based on the praises of God which she sang in the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55):
“Mary begins by proclaiming the greatness of God: ‘My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, who has been mindful of the humble and lowly.’ God is bountiful to the lowly. Mary praises God with the same joy with which Jesus [did], because he has hidden himself from the ‘wise and learned’ and has revealed himself to the ‘lowly.’ The faith of Mary in the God of the ‘lowly’ helps us resonate with the mind and heart of Jesus.
“Mary proclaims the “might” of God because through it ‘his mercy reaches from age to age.’ God places his might at the service of compassion. [God’s] mercy reaches all generations. Jesus preaches the same message: God is merciful to all. So he says to his disciples of every age: ‘Be merciful as God is merciful.’ With the heart of a mother, Mary understands, as no one else does, the tenderness of a God who is a Father and a Mother. From the depths of her experience, she leads us to the heart of the message of Jesus: God is compassionate love.
“Mary also proclaims the God of the poor for ‘he has brought down the rulers from their thrones, leaving them without power to oppress; on the contrary, he has ‘lifted up the lowly,’ so that they may regain their dignity. From the rich, he reclaims what they have stolen from the poor and sends them away empty; the hungry he fills with good things so, they can enjoy a more dignified life. Jesus, too, announced the same: ‘The last shall be first.’ Mary leads us to welcome the Good News of Jesus: God is the God of the poor.”
Let us keep in mind that though at times we feel lowly and powerless, that these are the times when we can most be in touch with God. Let us remember that though we may not feel “mighty,” our strength should come from our compassion, and our willingness to show compassionate mercy to all. Let us not forget that Mary had great trust in the promise that God would lift up all who are marginalized and oppressed and restore their dignity to them.
If we keep Mary as our model of faith in the compassionate love of the God for the lowly, poor, powerless, and marginalized, who knows what new wonders we can witness in 2018?
Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry: https://www.newwaysministry.org/
"TO PRAY IS TO CHANGE” by Richard Foster
“Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us. If we are unwilling to change, we will abandon prayer as a noticeable characteristic of our lives. The more we pray, the more we come to heartbeat of God. Prayer starts the communication process between ourselves and God. All the options of life fall before us. At that point we will either forsake our prayer life and cease to grow, or we will pursue our prayer life and let Him change us.
Either option is painful. To not grow in His likeness is to not enjoy his fullness. When this happens, a haunting voice continues to ask, ‘What could I have become in him if I would have been a person of prayer?’ To grow in His likeness is to enjoy His fullness. When this happens, the priorities of the world begin to fade away.”
Some of the readings for Week Three of Ordinary Time:
1 Samuel 19:1-7; Mark 3:7-12;
1 Samuel 24:3-21; Mark 3:13-19
2 Samuel 1:1-4, 11-12, 19-27; Mark 3:20-21
Teach us obedience, Lord in every part of our lives Ears to hear your word, hands to do your work Feet to walk your path A heart for all your people A mouth to shout your praise A childlike faith Humility, confidence that says to the possible and the impossible "I am the Lord's servant May it be to me as you have said". Amen
— John Birch, on his Faith and Worship website.