Sunday, November 10, 2013

What A Surprise!

Our Mission: To Connect, Grow and Become!

"Good morning! I'm grateful you're here today," Brad declared as we began our service.

1. Sign up for a Friendship Dinner at the back table. The dinners will begin in January for three months.
2. Operation Christmas Child... Wednesday Nov. 20 we will be packing Samaritan's Purse Christmas boxes during family night.
3. Saturday Nov. 30 there will be a brunch at the church for those who want to help decorate for the Christmas season.
4. Ed and Susie would welcome assistance from anyone with strong arms and backs who can help move some furniture from their father-in-law's apartment.
5. The three Sunday mornings in December will be practice for the children's Christmas program during adult Sunday School.
6. Paula wanted us to know that everyone is invited next Saturday to make make blankets for the women's shelter.

Darlene, Ken and Chuck transitioned us into worship, accompanied by Drake on percussion. After Brad's opening prayer. Chuck spoke briefly about God's grace and then sang "Grace, Marvelous Grace" with the trio. The congregation joined in singing a number of worship choruses, followed by the trio giving us a cheerful rendition of the Gaither's "God Is Good. (He's Good All the Time)".

There were a number of prayer requests including prayer for our veterans as tomorrow is Veterans Day.

Drake read the first verses of Matthew, the genealogy of Jesus.

What A Surprise

What was Matthew thinking to start with this genealogy? You would think he'd start with something that would grab people's attention.

But back in those days people liked genealogies. They told stories, didn't play video games. A genealogy gave people a sense of identity.  "I'm not just a nobody. I am a somebody, connected to these people. I have a history." In Jesus' day it was an oral tradition to recount the stories of your forefather. And to be a priest you would have had to trace your genealogy to the line of Aaron.

What's surprising is how Matthew slips in some unexpected names in this opening story about the Messiah. For example, in verse 3, he mentions Tamar. This is not a story you want associated with a genealogy.

Tamar's story is found in Genesis 38. Judah found a Canaanite woman named Tamar to marry his son Er. Er was wicked and was ultimately killed. It was a tradition that when the son dies the father Judah is supposed to take care of her, but he doesn't. Tamar decides to deceive Judah, dresses as a prostitute and seduces him. He can't pay at the moment but lets her have his staff, seal and cord as security. A few months later the pregnant Tamar is accused of prostitution on account of her being pregnant, and the proper sentence is stoning. Except that when she produces the staff, seal and cord it is apparent that Judah has wronged her (now twice) and he intervenes.

So this is all part of the story of the genealogy of Jesus of Nazareth.

Interestingly enough, Tamar gives birth to to twin sons, and the hand of one comes out first so the nurses tie a red cord on his wrist. This red thread will carry through much of the story and is next found in the story of another woman in the genealogical account, Rahab, who was not only a prostitute but a gentile. She didn't just dress like a prostitute; she was a prostitute.

There were three options for single women in ancient times: starve, beg or be a prostitute. According to Old Testment Scripture, Rahab hid the spies who came to Jericho when Israel came to take back the land. When Jericho was destroyed, Rahab was saved by identifying her location with a red cord.

Ruth was yet another listed in this genealogy. Ruth a Moabite. Moabites were offspring of the incestuous relationship between Abraham's brother Lot and his eldest daughter.

Then there is another woman mentioned in this genealogical account, Uriah's wife, with whom we are all familiar as the story of David and Bathsheba has been often recounted, yet another scandal in the genealogical line.

What brad noted here is that it's a genealogy that is inclusive. This is not a pristine history of perfect people without spot or blemish. Rather, it is a collection of sinners, from whom a spotless lamb emerged.

Christ is not ashamed of sinners. He even puts them in His family tree. In fact, His nickname was "friend of sinners." On the day he was crucified Jesus was dressed in a scarlet robe. Throughout this inglorious past these is the thread of grace, the red strand, the red cord.

Brad then read a Tony Campolo story about waking early one morning in Hawaii and going to a restaurant. It was a place where Honolulu prostitutes gathered at the end of a night's work or in the midst of. Campolo overheard one of them say her birthday was the following day, but then noted she has never had a birthday party in her life. Campolo took this opportunity to conspire with the restaurant owner to throw Agnes a birthday. The effect is stunning, core-shaking.

When the restaurant owner learns that Campolo is in the ministry, he asks, "What kind of church do you belong to?'

 "I belong to the kind of church that throws birthday parties for prostitutes at 3:30 in the morning."

We're not here to win Christians to our churches from other churches. We're here to bring Christ to the truly needy. Prostitutes, kings and everyone in between on that genealogical list.

"My challenge to us," Brad said, "is that during this season you will pray like crazy for people who you want to see touched and changed. The Messiah is still looking for people who feel like they are a million miles away."

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