“There’s room for every story”
November 27, 2022
First Sunday of Advent
I’ve heard and seen that many of you were able to get together with family over these past few days. Sometimes, even, for the first time in several years as we come out of the pandemic period. I saw pictures of big tables made from many small ones, pushed together to make extra wide and extra-long places for the large number of people to sit. I also heard you say that gathering together was nice, but that it was also a reminder of past gatherings when loved ones were with us who are no longer present. Holidays have a way of doing that for us. Catching us in this in-between place where we’re grateful for what’s right in front of us, but at the same time we’re missing badly what is no longer right in front of us and only living in our memory.
Memory is a like a golden thread that weaves our present together. We think about the family and friends who have come and gone and we realize that it is because of them, that we are who we are. Our present traditions have been shaped by the way they loved us. There’s the special blue dishes you pull out because they came from the great aunt who popped in on family gatherings because she had no children of her own. There’s the Christmas song you always play on Thanksgiving because it was always grandpa’s favorite. There’s the way you always cook and mash cranberries from scratch because it’s the way Grandmother always did it. The recipes, the music, the dishes, the books, the prayers, the legacies. They fill empty chairs around our table with the presence of past generations.
There was a commercial that came out shortly before Thanksgiving of a young man cooking a big dinner for, what appears to be, the first time. And we see his mom present, watching over him with discerning eyes and the occasional hint of what to do next. It’s not until the end of the commercial that we realize she lived in his memory only, yet still she was there and present with him in no less significant ways.
We just heard a reading of scripture that is one you’ve probably never heard before, or at least not in the way it was read. It was the first seventeen verses of the first chapter of the first book in the Gospels and it sets the stage for the story of Jesus. Yet it was read from the First People’s Version, a translation made by and for Indigenous Peoples. I choose to share this passage in this way because it takes what is normally a list of 42 names from 42 different generations and calls these men and women by the meaning of their name, not just their name.
Our series begins with Matthew’s genealogy. In that long list of names, we remember the trauma and triumph of those who came before; each name holds a story and their story gives way to Christ’s story. When you zoom in, you may not be able to see how each character propels the story forward, but when you zoom out, you can see how each story is woven together into a larger tapestry. The Isaiah passage illustrates a convergence of opposing groups and identities coming together. Instead of the way of the past- of war—they learn a new way be transforming their weapons into gardening tools. What are the old paths that we’ve followed, and where must we diverge into a new way?
Each generation has something unique to offer. No one has to do it all. What part do we play?
Each one of your ancestors gave you something that makes you who you are.
Grace and Peace,