October 11, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Matthew 1:1, 1:16 (NRSV)
An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham…and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.
When I study Jesus’ genealogy, I am fascinated by the Spirit’s careful detail through the gospel writer to tell us the names of Jesus’ ancestors. Each name is a story grounded in place, in land, in languages, and in peoples. From the prophetic disruption and inclusion of women’s names that were not traditionally included in genealogies all the way to forced migration, Jesus’ story has scandal and sassy protagonists. His story includes land displacement and multiple languages as much as rootedness and identity.
This month is Latinx Heritage Month. As a Nicaraguan, I am just one person in a sea of histories where one label cannot fully encompass the diversity of our Latin American history and experiences. I use the label Latina because it says something about me, but it does not say everything. The label is too general, but the Spirit works in the particular. Labels are limiting, but love listens.
When I study Jesus’ genealogy, I am fascinated by the Spirit’s careful detail through the gospel writer to tell us the names of Jesus’ ancestors and his personhood. Each name is a story grounded in place, in land, in languages, and in peoples. From the prophetic disruption and inclusion of women’s names that were not traditionally included in genealogies all the way to forced migration, Jesus’ story has scandal and sassy protagonists. His story includes land displacement and multiple languages as much as rootedness and identity.
To study the names of our ancestors, to know their highs and lows, should be a human practice as much as a spiritual one. When it comes to these history/heritage months, one thing that has struck me is how much I want to be known for the particularities of my story. Labels can so easily lump everyone into one long stereotype, but in Jesus’ genealogy we know his abuelita’s name and also his abuelito’s.
Labels are limiting, but love listens. Leaders listen.
So, what label do I prefer? Latina? Latinx? Hispanic?
What if we changed the question?
Ask me my name.
Ask me my story.
Ask me about my roots.
Ask me my abuelito’s name. My abuelita’s.
Ask me about my grandfather Luis who was a pastor and a tailor.
My abuelita Sara who was a schoolteacher who never went to college, but had a master’s in adversity and a PhD in prayer.
I find that if you start with those questions, someone just might invite you to sit a while over cafecito and tell you their own version of Matthew 1 in their life. You just might see the highs and lows, the faithfulness of God, the questions and the doubts, the joys and the pain. These curious questions invite you to lean into the beautiful colors of a wild canopy and the soft textures of someone’s tears.
I love how human our divine Messiah was. I love how we know his uncles and aunties, his abuelitos and great-abuelitas. The story of God includes your whole entire story as well. The story of your roots is sacred ground for redemption. Do not underestimate it. Water that holy ground.
Who is an ancestor of yours that you wish you could have met in real life? What do you know about them? How have they shaped who you are today?
Take advantage of all the incredible ways Latinx voices and stories get amplified this month. Grab a book of poetry and listen to a new podcast. Ask curious and open-ended questions after you have done your homework.
God of our ancestors, we thank you for the ways you were with those spiritual and/or biological ancestors that came before us. We thank you for giving us the stories and names of many of Jesus’ ancestors. We thank you for the ways they secured the coming of the long-awaited Messiah through courageous faith. God, faith in us is an ancestral faith that will multiply for generations to come, that we ourselves would become spiritual ancestors to those coming after us. By your Spirit, may we be carriers of your grace. Amén.
Banner image by Eilis Garvey on Unsplash.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project’s online commentary. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Jesus the Messiah (Matthew 1-2).
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