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Posts Tagged ‘Pente’

This is one of those chapters that lists a bunch of names. In Matthew, it used to be known as the “begats” a King James word for breed, multiply, or father (as a verb). It was a list of descendants, who were in the line of Noah. Whereas Matthew’s genealogy [1:1-16] recites the names from Abraham to Jesus (through Mary), Luke’s genealogy [3:23-38] goes through Joseph.

Genesis 10:32
These are the clans of Noah’s sons, according to their lines of descent, within their nations. From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood.

It is Matthew’s genealogy that lists not only the men, but five unique and controversial women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. They are suspect either by birth or by circumstances, Rahab who seduced her father-in-law; Rahab, a traitor, who helped the Israelites; Ruth, a Moabitess (a heathen religion that practiced human sacrifice); Bathsheba, an adulteress; and finally Mary, though holy to us, from the perspective of those around her, was pregnant out of wedlock. I discovered the richness of these stories many years ago and had a one-woman performance piece called Pente that I toured in Georgia and Mid-Atlantic for many years.

It is often difficult to discover something worthwhile in the seemingly didactic lists.

But in these I found some information through a commentary that I did not know before. Specifically, I didn’t know that the word “sons” as in the “sons of Shem, Ham & Japheth” could also be translated as “nations.” Therefore, the individual names listed could represent people groups. It’s a much bigger story then. This was the distribution of a civilization, a second time around, a re-do. And yet, this version was equally fraught with error through human foibles (the story of Noah being sexually exposed and mocked by his son, Ham). Eventually, it is the descendants of Ham who begat the notorious cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

One of Newton’s laws of physics was that “every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” Like sowing and reaping, our actions produce reactions. The Bible takes it one step further to state that an action may have more than an equal reaction, but a 30, 60, or even a 100 times the initial action: not equal but multiplied.

My actions create a ripple effect in my children and undoubtedly in my children’s children.

I am living in many ways in response to my parents’ choices, attitudes, and influence. Some good and valuable: some not. I am still eating their fruit on one level or another. I am growing and producing fruit as well. A cycle. A genealogy. A table of nations, just as surely as Noah.

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On Easter morning, we need to consider this detail: women played a key role as messengers of truth. In fact, from the visits to Bethany through Jesus’s Paschal journey and on into the days and weeks after the resurrection, women were players: devoted, faithful and strong. They still are.

Romans 16:1-2, 6, 12-13, 15 and more
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church . . . Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus . . . Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you. . . . Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. . . . Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman . . . Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.

At first blush, Romans 16 appears as boring as Matthew’s genealogy used to be for me. But a closer examination reveals the same mystery: the powerful women! There are lots and lots of women mentioned here and in most cases, they are clearly cherished by Paul.

The genealogy in Matthew 1:1-16 was such a sleeper for me until I experienced an epiphany and saw the reason behind mentioning the women in those verses (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary). They had a message for me: if God could use them, he could use me. And out of that revelation, I created a one-woman show that I toured for several years called Pente.

Now, in this chapter, I see another group of women with very little story to illuminate their place in the timeline, and yet, they are there: Phoebe, Priscilla, another Mary, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis, Rufus’s mother, and countless unnamed ones since households were listed by the head of house alone. But women were there, serving, loving, praying, and working in tandem with their families to illustrate the message of Jesus.

Scholars assume Phoebe actually carried the letter of Paul to the Romans. Was she allowed to read it? Did she travel from church to church (there were many house churches) in that great city? Did she carry additional personal messages from Paul? She was from a coastal city of Corinth, at least 600 miles from Rome. That was no gentle expedition. I’m not saying she was the Pony Express, but it’s amazing for that time period for a woman to travel with this type of a mission.

I know, there are other places where Paul seems to give women the back seat. I struggle with these sections too. But as I study those areas along my New Testament trek, I want to remember this Paul, who sent Phoebe with a critical letter to the gentile believers in Rome.

All of the women to whom Paul is sending greetings are commended for their “work.” I doubt he means “woman’s work” either. He is talking about the same work that all of us are called to do: being a witness in word and action: fulfilling the call of Christ in our lives, equally distributed by grace.

Oh yes, this is a day to remember and celebrate that Jesus’s work on the cross included a great emancipation for women of faith. Amen.

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