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Posts Tagged ‘history’

YouAreHereInTheGalaxyAccording to scripture, Lot was Abraham’s nephew and although he traveled with his Uncle Abraham from Haran to Egypt and then on to the Negev. At some point, both men grew in wealth and decided to part ways. Abraham gave Lot the choice of land, and Lot choice the plain of Jordan to the East, well-watered, and dotted with large cities (among them Sodom and Gomorrah).

With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.” . . . He [the angel] said to him [Lot], “Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town [Zoar] you speak of. But flee there quickly, . . .  Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave.  [Genesis 19:15, 21-22, 30]

Freed by the angels of God, generally negotiated by Uncle Abraham, Lot and his family are given the opportunity to start over. But Lot was a bit of a selfish man and appears to look for the easier way. He chooses the better land when he and his uncle part ways, he chooses to live in the city, he chooses to flee to a closer place than the mountains, and in the end, he even looks the other way when his daughters are impregnated by his drunken self. Moab and Bel-Ammi, are the children born by this incest and they become the ancestors of the Moabites and the Ammonites whose story is intertwined with Abraham’s line through Israel and Judah, but generally it’s a bitter relationship dotted with bloodshed.

This, because of Lot’s choices or passivity. This, because Lot took the way that seemed right to him alone.

From one story after another, whether fairy tale or movie or book, we are reminded that any one of our choices can set huge events in motion. In chaos theory, it is called the Butterfly Effect. But it’s not that hard to look at our own individual lives, so many left and right turns, families made and lost, love seeded and buried, by a single choice, a single conversation, a single word (yes or no).

I wonder if this hasn’t bred the meteoric rise of interest in genealogy. Why, we even have reality television traveling back into the lives of celebrities, church denominations building ancient libraries of such histories, and websites dedicated to helping people go back in time.

How did I get here? We want to know.

I supposed that’s all find and good. But I can’t help but wonder if we shouldn’t be putting more energy into the now. For whatever happened before we are living it. We cannot go back, only forward.

It is for us to respond, to act, to embrace. Whether it was our choices or the choices of our parents or grandparents or great-greats, this is where we have landed. This is where I am, with this family, with these gifts, with this personality, with this day.

And God is here with me. And anything can happen next.

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Looking for something to consider and meditate upon in the first twenty verses or so of Matthew is not easy. Many years ago, I created a performance piece that illustrated the lives of the five women of this genealogy, but it is only now that I discover that there is controversy over this list. In other places in scripture and Jewish history, the generations are not equally fourteen by fourteen by fourteen. What gives?

Matthew 1:17
Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.

If anyone is interested in a discussion of this discrepancy, there is a good (although somewhat dense) article in the Harvard Theological Review by George F. Moore. Most of it appears to be the need for synchronicity in the expectation of the coming Messiah. It’s a case of cycles. In a world where cycles were seen each year and marked with feasts and worshipful sacrifices, they were critical. We experience cycles in our own world, but, perhaps more dependent on one’s lifestyle or geography. After all, not every area of our country or world experiences the four seasons, some only have three (cold, hot, and rain). Others maybe two, warm and snow. Or what about the other cycles we’ve arbitrarily created? How many of us, because of the beginning of school in the fall, start something new at that same time of year? And there are those who follow the church calendar, another kind of cycle. And still others, follow the monthly cycles of their bodies.

Cycles help us give meaning to the changes in our lives. It is a wheel of time, if you will. I believe time is the most critical of all dimensions for human. We can do nothing to change the march of time (although there may be some extraordinary humans who have discovered a way to break the skin of time and have entered another dimension . . . and still others who have traveled space and played tricks with time). But most of us are slaves to cycles of time.

Even now, I keep glancing at the clock in the lower right hand corner of my screen. Time is marching and I must go to work. I’m late.

In recent years, many people have hungered for knowledge of their personal genealogies. They are looking back. They want to count their generations. Where are each one of us in the cycle of our generations? Where is the beginning point? And where might we be heading?

I am the accumulation of my generations past. I am a contributor to the generations of my future, whether biological or not. I am a point in time. Or an exclamation mark. Or a question. I am a breath. I am a color, a sound, a mark.

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