Names, Not Numbers

An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 
Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers . . . (Matthew 1:1-17)

My cousins are using the stay-at-home social distancing time to mine material they are finding about our families through Ancestry.com. Some of it is new, such as the location of places where our great-great grandparents began their journeys to America. In some cases, they have found photographs of the cemetery memorials of loved ones.

Matthew’s Gospel begins with 17 verses of hard-to-pronounce names.

When I was given my first Bible at confirmation, my pastor suggested that we avoid the long lists of names. It reminds me of a walk through a cemetery. Each memorial marks a name and relationship of those who came before us. Some of the memorials are ornate and grand, while others are plain and small. Each one displays the dignity of its time.

One Sunday morning, as my wife and children were scrambling to the car to leave for church, I answered the phone. On the other end a voice asked if “this is Rich Kirschner?” I said yes. The voice replied “I am John Kirschner.” I have a brother John and I knew this was not him. As I needed to leave for church I asked what the call was about. This John was a patient at the local VA hospital about 100 miles from his home. In his boredom and convalescence he simply read the nearby phone book and found his family name, and called.

Later that afternoon I visited John at the VA hospital. When I introduced myself he gathered all his strength to say, “Hi cousin!”

John and I did not find a common thread in the family tree, but we agreed it must come from somewhere.

I lost track of John after he returned home. A few years later the VA sent a cemetery memorial plaque with John’s name, dates, and time of service. I saw to it that his marker was placed in the cemetery where he was buried. I said, “rest well, cousin.” When I looked at his name I realized that my pastor years ago was wrong. The list of names in Matthew should not be avoided, they should be read. Just like John’s. We are related.

These names are the people who brought us to this place we live, all of us.

In a time of COVID cases and deaths, let us recall that these are not numbers but names. Each name contains the genealogy of God’s family.

Rev. Rich Kirschner is a retired minister and member of Naples UCC since 2017. He is graciously leading New Chapters Men’s Spirituality Group, which meets every on Wednesdays, 10:30-11:30 a.m. via Zoom. If you are interested in attending, be sure to check the Wednesday e-blast for the Zoom link.

Prayer Focus:
For our extended global family

Angels and shepherds declare the birth of a baby:
A son, sent to us to light the way, to bring us joy.
Lord God, we rejoice that Jesus is our brother and that
We are all part of your family. Amen.