I met a man in Jerusalem whose family has been doing the same job since the 5th century. It has been passed down from generation to generation, father to son. It is a sacred obligation and is taken extremely seriously. Imagine! Being able to trace your family back to the 5th century—to know where they lived and worked, and the particulars of what they did for a living.
In case you are curious, the job that has belonged to this family for all these years, is “Keeper of the Key” to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The church was founded in the 4th century by Helena, mother of Constantine. She believed it to be the site upon which Jesus had been crucified, was buried and arose. Over the centuries it was razed and rebuilt, fought over and held dear. Eventually, there were five different Christian sects that came to share this holy space—which is likely why, the key has always been held by a Muslim family. Even hundreds of years ago, Christian leaders didn’t trust each other to share.
I can’t trace my “people” back that far. I know who my grandparents were, and even had the chance to meet my great grandparents on my mother’s side, but other than that…my “people” are just names and dates on a document one of my distant relatives put together.
The stories we are following for the next several weeks are about how the Jewish people understand who they were as people—before they were a people. Dozens of times in scripture, we read the phrase: The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. God is our God, because God was their God. The beginning story of the God of the Patriarch and the Matriarchs gives a task to God’s People—they were, and are, to be a light to the nations—to bring blessing to all the world.
I have always loved these stories. These people are our people. The stories of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob are equally the stories of Sarah, Hagar, Rebekah, Rachel, Leah (and so on and so on and so on…) The characters are flawed. The make huge mistakes. They can be strong, powerful, faithful—and then turn around to be weak, powerless and manipulative. They can even be pretty funny. These are people we need to know, if we are going to understand who we are as the people of God in this place and time. And there is something comforting in knowing that God can use all of us—even in our failure, our betrayals and disastrous choices.
So, bring your Bibles—we are in for a whirlwind tour of our founders of the faith.
Blessings and peace, Pastor Nancy