Remember Your Roots



MATTHEW 1:1-17

 tree of life

Today’s scripture reminds us that even Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had roots. And Matthew wants us to know that is important that we remember those roots. Though the coming of Christ brought a lot of change for God’s people, Matthew never likes to put that change in terms of the old replacing the new. The Reformed faith, has always confessed that both the Old and New Covenant, are part of a larger promise to God’s people and to the world. As Jesus puts it in the Gospel of Matthew, he has not come to destroy the Law, to destroy things that have come before, he has come to fulfill them, to make them complete.

So what can learn about Jesus’ roots? And how can Jesus’ roots inform how we interpret the history of our own congregation and thus help us direct our future? Fundamentally, two things stand out about the genealogy of Jesus here in Matthew;

  1. Jesus is the Son of David and the Son of Abraham
  2. Jesus has unexpected people in his lineage.

By the first century the title “Son of David” had become a catch all term the messianic deliver who would free Israel, the family of God, from its foreign oppressors, and inherit the throne of David promised to him in 2 Samuel 7:4-17. The title “Son of Abraham” references one of the patriarchs and founders of the Hebrew faith. And in Genesis 22:18 God declares to Abraham, “ I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall posses the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” In other words Jesus is the one who will head the family of God and expand that family to include the nations.

Second we notice that there are some unexpected names in Jesus’ genealogy. There are five women mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy. These women include Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and the wife of Uriah (that being Bathsheba), and Mary. This is unusual because Jewish genealogies generally do not mention the women, since ancestry is traced through the male line. It is also unusual because some these women are Gentiles who married into Judaism. Finally, it is unusual because some of these women are perhaps not the best example of stellar moral characters. Rahab, for one, is the prostitute who hid the spies that Joshua sent into Jericho, and thus was spared from the city’s destruction.

As Matthew will address later, there have always been questions around Jesus’ legitimacy and his birth. So one would think that Matthew would include a lineage of people of extraordinary character to solidify the Christian claim that Jesus is the messiah. But instead Matthew includes these names of women, some of who are involved in questionable sexual situations, and yet are placed in the same genealogy as Mary the mother of Jesus.

We must further realize that unlike the rest of us, Jesus had a choice of who his family would be. As Gary Chapman points out in his book “Extraordinary Grace”,

“Jesus was the only person in history who chose His mother, father, grandmothers, and grandfathers all the way to the beginning of time. So who did he choose? People who obeyed God and showed great faith? Sinless, perfect people who always did what was right? Hardly. Those people don’t exist, of course. What do you know of your family tree? You may have pictures on a wall or faded photo albums. These wrinkled faces represent stories shared and passed down. Lore, lies, and truth mixed and matched. You see the eyes. You recognize a little of yourself in their smiles, but most never read between the lines. Most never know the heart of their ancestors.”

Even Abraham and David, who are the exemplars in this genealogy where far from perfect. Abraham, to earn favor with King Abimelech of the Negeb, lied and said Sarah his wife was his sister, allowing Abimelech to almost rape her if God had not stopped him through a dream. David, was an adultery, who had Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba, sent to the front lines of battle to die, in what was defacto murder. And yet God calls David a man after his own heart? If Abraham, David, and less than reputable women like Rahab are in the line of Jesus, what in the world are God’s standards for a faithful servant?

In the words of Chapman, “ The Bible contains this kind of record of the lineage of Jesus. Men and women who bare their souls in the struggle to know God and follow Him in challenging times. The fascinating thing about these stories is that they reveal more than the foibles and follies of desperate human beings. They also record the heart of God. The lineage of Jesus is a litmus of the love, mercy, and longsuffering of the Almighty toward His people. Towards you.” (pg,11)

Remember your roots. Matthew knew that the past is as important, if not more important than the future. That the coming of something new must be grounded in the wisdom of the old. So what are the roots of this church? Both past and present? And what does this reveal about our future? Well I read through the written church history that is available on the website, which Judy has printed out for you today. You may read it at your own leisure I will offer a few observation from the perspective of a newcomer, which has both its advantages and disadvantages. As I often say before I preach take from what I say what is of God and leave behind what is not.

First, reading the history of the church, it struck me that this congregation worked with what it had, even before we had an endowment. The history of the congregation talks about how this church struggled to find a home. How unexpected expenses arose, and how members sacrificed, with their treasures, talent, and time, to find a home for this church. It seems through my reading that there were many times during the history of this congregation that it seemed that there wasn’t enough. But our forefathers and mothers believed that because Jesus died there is always more than enough.

Second, the strangest thing that struck me reading through the history is this congregation’s history of missions, and sending out missionaries. According to the history, “ In 1916, Dr. Ernest and Ruth (Shafer) Ewers went forth from the church to the mission field in China.  That same year, Mr. Garth Salmon, a graduate of Pierceton High School and a member of the church, began his studies at Hanover College in preparation for ministry in the Presbyterian Church.  He served as pastor in many Midwest churches during his active years. In 1957, another ardent member, Catherine Froh, went to the mission field in Haiti, where she served for many years.” Most recently, Julie McKeighen, your former pianist and choir director was called to minister in Liberia. And I understand our own Ron Hall, did a short term mission trip in Guatemala. And of course, there is our wonderful Pre-School, which was founded “to serve the community by providing pre-school educational experiences with a Christian outreach”. And let us not forget Harvest Home where we reenact our own feeding of the masses. Now I hope you don’t take offense at this, but as a bit of a city slicker, I did not expect such a history for a small country church in Indiana. It seems people who come to this church get called into missions, even if that means loosing your beloved pianist. And even today there are those among you who have adopted children with disabilities, who run businesses with integrity and dignity, who are teachers who raise up this nation’s next generation of leaders, who have served and protected this nation in our armed forces, who counsel and consol those who struggle with darkness everyday. I know from talking to many of you that there are those among you who have endured tragedy, trauma, and loss. More than your fair share of trial has befallen this church. And yet you come, and yet our family is worn but it is not broken, and yet you welcome me into your midst. Today I do not see a church that is half empty, I see a church that is full of saints who have run the good race and are rightfully tired.

And our text today calls us to remember our roots! Jesus’ family tree calls us to remember that the sturdiest of trees have roots that go down deep and yet their branches grow ever higher. They reach to the Son, our Savior, and produce a new fruit, from the old they give birth to a new song, that is deeper and weightier than congregations that have not be tested by the trials of time. Our text today calls us to remember our imperfections, the Sarah’s we have sold off for convenience, the people we have hurt to serve our purposes, the ones we have sought to leave out of our history, because we find them unworthy, our the pain of conflict and shame that we rather not remember because it is too heavy to bear. Our text today calls us to remember our roots so we may grow towards our future. It shows us that God’s amazing grace works even through a gnarled family tree. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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