“Who’s your people?”

When you want to convince someone in Pictou County

that you have authority, or that you mean business,

the simplest way is to tell them who you’re from.

Even if you come from away,

the story of your family history may include a Nova Scotia connection,

and that may earn you some credit.

The question “who’s your people?” is more than just idle curiosity;

it is an important step in gaining (and giving)

trust and credibility to the rest of your story.

In terms of the story of God’s people,

the gospels carry out a similar function.

In these accounts – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John –

we are told of a turning point in the relationship between God and humanity.

In the life, death and resurrection of Jesus,

we encounter a power at work like no other;

the power of God’s love for creation – a love that overcomes even treachery and death.

An amazing and riveting story, one that gives us our identity as God’s people –

the body of Christ – in the twenty-first century.

So to tell that story, the authors of the gospels need to give their audience context –

some reason to read further; some reason to trust the authenticity of the tale.

Mark’s gospel, the earliest of the four, opens with Jesus fully formed –

baptized by John, and entering into his vocation as a travelling teacher,

and teller of difficult truths.

John’s gospel, the last one written,

begins with a hymn to Jesus’ transcendence – a beautiful and moving piece of poetry,

but here again we meet Jesus in adulthood, ready to do battle, as it were.

Only in Matthew and Luke

do we find what Paul Harvey would describe as “the rest of the story…”

We have come to treasure the story of Jesus birth.

We have developed rituals and traditions around Christmas

that are unrivalled by our rather subdued recognition

of the real miracle of Jesus Resurrection.

And we owe the gospels of Matthew and Luke

a debt of reluctant thanks for some of those rituals and traditions.

 

Both gospels were trying to tell the good news to a new people.

Each hoped to convince their wider audience of the new Christian community’s claim

that Jesus’ message was an offer open to “all nations” –

it was going to be a tough sell, so both Matthew and Luke opted for a similar approach;

they would start at “the beginning”;

they would tie Jesus firmly to the centuries old story of redemption as told by his ancestors.

So Jesus is born a Jew, but not just any Jew;

a particularly well connected member of the Jewish community.

Descended from Kings and Prophets; part of the story that was already being told –

a story of prevailing and promises kept.

 

That the lists of names are wildly different, seems not to matter.

Oh, it would mater to us,

because who you are is only understood once we know who you came from,

but it doesn’t matter in the same way

to those of us who claim the Scriptures as a source of truth.

These names serve a different purpose –

they tie different communities to the same promises –

and they help us find our place in God’s family too.

 

The particular names don’t matter –

Luke and Matthew don’t even agree on the simplest, most accessible details –

(who was Joseph’s father ?)

No, what matters is that each of these names would have told a particular part of the story.

Each name connects one more family, one more community, one more generation,

to the story that the gospel writers actually want to tell –

the story of Jesus path to the cross,

and of God’s glorious act of grace that is his resurrection.

Soon, we will begin again at the beginning.

We have asked the question – and Matthew and Luke have tried to tell us

how this child fits the puzzle that is the history of redemption at the hands of God

In time, we will stand in silent wonder at the cradle of this new born king

And we will find ourselves part of the history of Salvation.

Know that this is our story – these are our people –

and it is God who stands at the centre of this story of grace and hope.

Thanks be to God.  Amen

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