Imagine an ancient family sitting around a campfire as the sun sets and darkness comes on. Still awake, the kids are asking questions. They want to know where we came from. How did we get here? The family storyteller tells the story in summary form. Once upon a time….. This is how to read these verses from the book of Deuteronomy. ‘Once upon a time, there was an ancestor of ours from Aram, or you might call him an Aramean.’ It summarizes the origin story of the people of Israel. It tells how they became slaves and how God liberated them from slavery. It tells how they went from no place to this current place, their new homeland.
Origin stories are important for everyone. They are a way to set a course for the future, after you get the past set straight. If we are headed to a better time, it is because we once had a worse time and we are making progress along the way.
In my childhood, the Great Depression was part of the origin story. Once upon a time, there was a great depression and everyone was hurting for money. In those days everyone had to make each dollar go as far as possible. Even if times are bad now, they are far better than they were back then. My parents were very frugal until the day they died because they remembered those tough times in the Depression.
What story would you tell about the origin of your family? Once upon a time… what happened to you and yours?
As you tell your origin story, like the folks of ancient Israel, look for the hand of God in how you got from there to here. Origin stories don’t shy from the hard times of the past. What would you tell about hard times in your past?
My parents told the story of the World War II as a way out of the Great Depression. But they also spoke of two of my uncles who died in that war. They were people grateful for their family, because they had known challenges to families.
Scripture: “You shall make this response before the Lord your God: ‘A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” Deuteronomy 26:5-9
Prayer focus: Reflect on how God has led you from your origin to this day. Give thanks for God’s steady hand along the way.
Prayer: God of beginnings, we give you thanks for your presence and power in our lives. We give thanks for the way we have come a very long way. We give thanks that we enjoy the blessings of today and have hope for tomorrow. When the troubles have come in the past, you have been beside us. When troubles come tomorrow, we trust you will be with us again. Amen.