Sunday, January 5, 2014

Who's Who, Anywho?

Matthew 1: 1-17
Whether it is a bane or a blessing, and you can decide for yourself, Christmas means family.  Whether there is an overabundance, or a lack thereof, family and family remembrances are always present.

Most recently, I think many of you know, I was at a cousin’s, on my paternal side, reunion down in Texas.  Joyce, who is now the matriarch, always reminds us of our beginnings since she has become the family genealogist.  Now we only go back to 1728 when a certain Cordt Strangmeier married Anna Marie Kuhlmann who begat Ernst Heinrich Strangmeier.  Ernst married Anne Marie Beck and they begat Johann Christoph Strangmeier  in 1786, this was all back in Prussia.  Johann marries Marie Elizabeth Steinfeld and they begat Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Strangmeier. 

Johann married Marie Henriette Graeve and they begat four children, we’ll be concerned with only one of the begats, Christian Heinrich Wilhelm Strangmeier, because he is my great grandfather.  He was begat in 1846.  Then, for some unknown reason Christian decides to immigrate to America.  But his story becomes curious along the way.  Christian was a blacksmith and when he came over on the ‘Bark Stella” in 1864, he changed his last name from Strangmeier to Warner.

I was always told it was a torrid love affair that made him change his name, but not one of my cousins, or the Mormons can confirm this as juicy fact; it’s just been a lingering family enigma.  He further shortens his name to Wilhelm Warner and then eventually Americanizes it to William Warner. 

William Warner marries Fridricka Stahl who begat 13 children and only 4 lived to adulthood, one in particular, Richard William Warner Sr. who was a baker.  Richard marries Anna Wilhelmena Dustmann (my Grandma Minnie) who begat five children, four who survived and one in particular Richard William Warner Jr., also a baker, who married Loretta Henrietta Engler who begat two children, one in particular – me, a non-baker!  I did some begetting myself and who knows how our story will turn out, I hope good. 

Seems to me though that this Christian or Wilhelm or William, my great grandfather was a peculiar fellow, changing his name, who knows?  Bad checks?  Failure to pay taxes to the soon to be Kaiser?  It’s not even a change that would indicate a typographical error.  We don’t know, I personally like the torrid love affair story.   Seems to me there is always someone in the family tree who gives the rest of the family cause for concern or wonder.   But they are family and so we love them.  I’m just happy that I didn’t have to grow up with the name little Suzie Strangmeier.  Genealogies are fascinating. 

Today we are going to wade through the genealogy of Jesus.  That is the most respecting and essential way the people of Jesus’ day would have begun the story of a man.  Lineage was important, as was pedigree because for Jews, if there was any ‘foreign blood’ read-not a Jew-he lost his right to be called a Jew.  While we may think this is really rigid and boring information, the Jews of Jesus day would have been very impressed with his pedigree dating back all the way to Abraham. 

So let’s go!  As I read I’ll fill in with some parenthetical notes about some of the people in Jesus’ genealogy.

“An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham was the father of Isaac (Remember that Isaac was asked to dramatically sacrifice his son but was sent a lamb instead just in the nick of time),

and Isaac the father of Jacob (Jacob was the one who tricked his twin Esau out of his birthright winning ‘first place’ in the twin contest),

and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers (all twelve of them including one with an ‘amazing color dreamcoat’ whom Judah sold into slavery),

and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar (well she’s an interesting one- She’s a foreigner, a Canaanite and after her two husbands die leaving her childless she tricks Judah, her father in law, by posing as a prostitute and takes what is hers according to the Leverite law, which is motherhood, has relations with Judah and has these two, Perez and Zerah)

and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, (now it gets funky because Rahab’s profession was one of the ‘oldest’ if you know what I mean, but she did her part to keep the line going, even though she was a known prostitute)

and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth (Ruth of course is an outsider, she was a Moabite but clearly loyal to Naomi her mother in law, a Bethlehemite),

and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. (What can I possibly say about King David, great and mighty on one hand, but a wife stealer and a murderer on the other.  None the less, the great and mighty anointed one solidifies Israel as a nation.  By now fourteen generations had passed.)

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah (Uriah was the one David put a hit out on and this wife of Uriah just happens to be Bathsheba),

and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat (a good and prosperous king),

and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah (this guy took the throne at the age of 16, and it too was prosperous under his reign but his pride got the best of him when he decided to go into the Temple to burn incense himself!  Bad move, that was a job for only the priest and so poor Uzziah was struck immediately with leprosy and had to live in a separate place the rest of his life),

and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah (a good king during the fall of the Northern Kingdom),

and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh (bad king, he adapted the Temple for idol worship – sets Israel two steps backward in monotheism),

and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah (another good king who became king at age 8, he instituted lots of Temple reform),

and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.

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.”

That’s some family tree, murderers, tricksters, outsiders, sibling rivalry, good kings, bad kings, poets, and prostitutes and then came Jesus, the Messiah.  And with the birth of Jesus a new light was shed upon the world, and a new way to understand living.  God doesn’t go for the most gracious or most deserving person to carry out divine purposes!  Jesus genealogy contained some seriously flawed individuals.  Looks like God goes for the ones at hand and accomplishes divine purposes through them.

So with Jesus’ pedigree, and of course, his miraculous birth, his justice oriented work and ministry, his untimely death, and redemptive resurrection, completely transformed the world.  And boy did he leave us a legacy to carry.  His human legacy, of course is to live our lives as if the poor depended upon us, even when we might just be the poor.  Speak out for fair and equitable conditions, give people a fair chance with all that living in 2013 and beyond can offer.  There are so many ways in which we can carry on his legacy, you just need a creative imagination.

And his divine legacy?  Well we can tell others, we can witness to other people about the love that you’ve known in your life because of Christ.  The neighbor that has helped  you, the doctor that has healed you, your spouse or partner who just lifts you up by looking at you, these are manifestations of Jesus’ divine legacy that let’s us know that we are beloved.  

We can’t choose who is in our family line but we do have the opportunity leave a legacy that generations could be proud of.  How about it?  What will your offspring say about you three or four generations from now?  Will you be crazy Uncle Louie remembered for passing bad checks?  Will you be remembered as a good king or a bad king?  Will there be a story to tell of intrigue, or mystery, or of redemption, and of faith and good will?

The choice is yours.  Life will go on and we will eventually become another branch on the family tree of life.  I don’t think it is so much the ‘begatting’ that you might do in your lifetime but the memories that you make and good deeds that you can do for others and this is how we become part and parcel of the genealogy of Christ.


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