Into Our Midst

abraham-sarah-isaacAn 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, 3and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, 4and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6and Jesse the father of King David.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph,* 8and Asaph* the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos,* and Amos* the father of Josiah, 11and 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, 13and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16and 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.  (Matthew 1: 1-17)

So, have you ever read those verses?  Or have you just skipped over them to get to Joseph’s dream and get the show on the road?  Have you just skipped over them to get to the beginning of the story?  Oh, drat…you missed the beginning of the story!  The writer known as Matthew is so careful to include it, so careful to bring all that came before into the story so that there is no doubt who Jesus is.  More importantly, there is no doubt who these generations upon generations of God’s children are.  Jesus did not just drop out of the sky like some sort of divine UPS package.  God did not come into the world as Emmanuel, as “God-with-us”, separate from who we are.  God came into our midst—not our beginning—our midst.  God came into the midst of who we are.  God came into our messy and chaotic lives and made a home.  God came to Abraham and to Aram; God came to Aminadab and Boaz; God came to some guy named Salathiel, a no-name Bible character that had a life, that followed God and worshipped and got up and went to work to support his family so that Zerubbabel, who we also don’t know, could have a life.  God came to Sarah and Rebekah and Rachel and Tamar and Ruth and Mary and about 36 other women because regardless of whether or not the Scriptures named their name, they were called and responded and walked the journey that we continue.

This story, this story of God and how God came to be in our midst is our story.  And though we often spend a good part of Advent looking ahead, waiting, waiting, waiting, the story has been happening all along.  Advent reminds us that we are not waiting for the story to happen but rather entering a story that is and will be forevermore.

I have a certain fascination of my ancestry.  It is a way of connecting to who I am.  It is a way of discovering who I am meant to be and what it is I am called to carry for a while and then hand off to those that come after me.  I have not been fortunate enough to have children of my own (except a couple of black labs).  But these lines of generations are not single strands.  They are awkward and messy and unwieldy and sometimes hard to read and follow.  Perhaps God made them a little murky so that we would be reminded that we are all connected.  We are all children of God, walking our leg of the journey until we cannot walk anymore.  And in that moment, God picks us up and carries us home.  We are not the story but the story is incomplete without us.  God called Abraham…and on and on and on…and then God called you.

THIS Advent, be reminded not just of what happened 2,000 years ago but rather the story that would not be complete without you, the story of God in your midst.

Home is where your story begins. (Annie Danielson)

FOR TODAY:  Pray for those that came before you.  Pray for those that will come after you.  Be the story.  Tell the story.

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

Sheltered in the Wilderness

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAScripture Text: 1 Samuel 23: 14-17

14David remained in the strongholds in the wilderness, in the hill country of the Wilderness of Ziph. Saul sought him every day, but the Lord did not give him into his hand. 15David was in the Wilderness of Ziph at Horesh when he learned that Saul had come out to seek his life. 16Saul’s son Jonathan set out and came to David at Horesh; there he strengthened his hand through the Lord. 17He said to him, “Do not be afraid; for the hand of my father Saul shall not find you; you shall be king over Israel, and I shall be second to you; my father Saul also knows that this is so.”

David is one that spends a lot of time in the wilderness according to the Scriptures. He seems to always have issues. (You think?) Here, he is running, running for his very life. He knows that Saul is coming after him. So, he runs into the “strongholds of the wilderness”. Isn’t that interesting that this place that holds such danger, such peril, such forsakenness, is, here, a place of protection? David stays there, hidden away, as the wilderness surrounds him and holds him. I suppose given the alternative (you know, like when a really angry man with an army is chasing you), the wilderness appears to be a very attractive place. And it becomes easy to enter its wilds and close ourselves off to the world.

 

You know, with all this talk about wilderness, it would be easy for us to think that the wilderness is a place for us to stay. Now, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes I would like nothing better than to close myself off and not have to deal with my part of the world. Sometimes, I would love to just stay in my room for days on end and write. But even though God calls us into the wilderness in certain seasons of our lives, the wilderness is not meant to be home. The wilderness is not a place where we put down stakes and plant roots. The wilderness is not a home; it is an encounter. It is the place that pushes us. If a wilderness begins to offer us solace, we have, sadly, tamed its wilds.

 

I’ve thought again about those early Desert Mothers and Fathers, who spent the better part of a lifetime wandering in the wilderness, communing with God, and writing the tales. But they did not live in the wilderness as a home; they did not tame it enough that they could close themselves off. Imagine them moving in a way that their feet never really touched the ground. Maybe that’s the operative word…moving.

 

When you think about it, the Bible is a story of movement. God creates life and just as quickly pushes it into the wilds. The creatures wander for a time and then they begin to plant their feet and build walls and boundaries (and dress themselves). So God, with loving hands, pushes them farther out into the world. They wander and then they begin building. The Bible is a story of the rhythms of God driving us into the world and our building of walls and boundaries. It happens over and over and over again. It is no different here. David is driven into the wilderness and then decides, “you know, I’ll stay awhile and let it offer me solace and protection”. It did not last long.

 

Lent, like the wilderness, is not meant to be our home; it is meant to be our way of life. Because when we wander in the wilderness, we are free, we are vulnerable. University of Houston’s Dr. Brene’ Brown tells us that connection begins by allowing ourselves to be seen; in other words, being vulnerable, allowing ourselves to be seen, leaves us open to encounter. If we quit wandering and sit down and plant our feet and build a home that is not meant to be, that is not ours, we close ourselves off to encounter. We close ourselves off to God. So, if you feel the need to stay where you are, to build a home, to wall yourselves off, at least an opening so you can see the sun and breathe the air and know that God is always there.

 

“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable.” (Madeleine L’Engle)

 

FOR TODAY: Stop. Quit building your shelter. Feel the sun; breathe the air; encounter God.  Let yourself be seen.

(And you can hear Brene’ Brown’s TED TALK, “The Power of Vulnerability” at

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=brene+brown+vulnerability+youtube&FORM=VIRE1#view=detail&mid=A6AD2CE4CD973EA9B668A6AD2CE4CD973EA9B668)

 

Grace and Peace,

Shelli