Everyone is welcome
Everyone is welcome.
That's good news! OK, hands up… amongst those that might pick up a Bible at all, who has ever spent time reading the genealogies at the beginning of Matthew or Luke's gospels, let alone the pages and pages of them scattered throughout the old testament? No?! It's not a trick question. If a New Year's resolution is to read through a gospel, then this might be the first verse to greet you in your endeavours: “An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” (Matthew 1:1 NRSV) Not an inspiring start, is it? Many folk give up even at that, confirmed in their view that there's nothing much of interest in there - and certainly not 'good news'. But there really is.
Read on and you're in for a surprise. Listed in amongst all the names of men, who begat sons, who begat grandsons, are names that would raise the eyebrows now and would have caused an almighty stir back then. Like any good episode of “Who do you think you are?” there are a few skeletons in Jesus' closet and the writer of Matthew's gospel wants us all to know about them. Tamar, in verse 3, we can read all about in Genesis 38. An outsider who goes about conceiving her sons by dubious means, and their father Judah doesn't come off looking too good either! And then there's Rahab at verse 5. In Joshua 2 we find that Rahab is a prostitute in Jericho who shelters Joshua's spies before the Israelites cross the Jordan and occupy the promised land. A foreigner and a prostitute, but someone who recognises God at work when others don't. Ruth has a whole book of the old testament about her. Another outsider, her faithfulness is an example to all. Verse 6 mentions the infamous Bathsheba. She and King David get up to no good whilst her husband is away at the front line. To cover it up, David gets her husband killed.
This is the sort of thing “Who do you think you are?” loves! And then we get Mary. Matthew doesn't gloss over the difficult part that Joseph and she weren't married. Or that how Jesus comes about doesn't really make any sense. What's the point of all of this? Jesus was going to be different right from the start. Not the cosy, comfy image of a cuddly baby Jesus. Not the clean cut warrior of films. Not the squeaky clean politician. Jesus was going to be different. In his history are twists and turns. God has used them to get to this point, says Matthew, and he's not stopping there. He'll welcome the stranger, the outcast, the ones everyone else raises their eyebrow at or crosses the street to ignore. He'll bring about God's love in a new, earth shattering way. The little baby that Matthew is about to start his story of, and which we've all just finished celebrating again at Christmas, is going to turn the world upside down. In all of that story is good news for us all. Because it doesn't matter who we are or what we are, we have a place in that line up. No one's face doesn't fit. Everyone is welcome. That's good news!
Rev. Gordon Strang
Cromdale & Advie, Dulnain Bridge, and Grantown on Spey (Inverallan)