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Summary: God uses all kinds of people to accomplish his purposes.

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The first 16 verses of Matthew might seem like a Biblical wasteland for some of you. Some of the names might not be familiar to you and they are hard to pronounce. For those of you who read the Bible through, I don’t know how long it takes you to read these verses. And if you don’t know the Bible well and someone tells you to just start reading in the New Testament, what do you do with these verses? Do your eyes glaze over when you see them? To some people, they make about as much sense as the DaVinci Code.

Until a few years ago, I just eye-balled these verses like a photograph in the newspaper, not really reading them. Then I realized that every name in this genealogy is there for a purpose and that without these names we would be missing out on a lot of important information.

Let’s take a moment to check out just a few of these names.

(Responses from congregation)

Abraham. What do you think of when you hear his name? Faith, covenant..

Isaac. What word comes to mind? Sacrifice.

Jacob. Israel/schemer.

David. Adulterer, Goliath

Josiah. Godly king of Judah

As typical in such lists, the names are mostly men, but not all….

Tamar. Canaanite woman - had a child by her father-in-law. (Non-Jew)

Rahab. Heroine from Jericho who helped the spies. (Non-Jew)

Ruth. Woman from Moab who married Boaz (Non-Jew)

Wife of Uriah – (Wife of a Hittite) Do you know her name? How get in this list?

Mary. Mother of Jesus

Why this list?

1. This list connects us with God’s purpose from the beginning. Through these names we can track the steps God took and the people he called to carry out his plan of salvation. On the first day of a new year you may wonder if history makes sense, if time has order, if your life has a purpose. The answer is: Absolutely. Since we live in a world with so much uncertainty, it is comforting to know that God has not abandoned us. He wants to guide us.

2. In this list we can see that God uses all kinds of people to accomplish his purposes: men/women, weak/strong, obedient/disobedient. It doesn’t matter. Yet God incorporated them into his family and used them. You may wonder if you can be any good to God. You think you don’t fit the typical portrait of a religious person. You haven’t given God the time of day for years. You have done illegal, immoral, and stupid things. You wonder if God can accept you and use you. The answer is: Absolutely. This list is comforting because if you look around you this morning, you will find a lot of company.

Some of you know that my parents, now in their late 80s, have moved to an assisted living facility. As a result, they had to get rid of a lot of things that would no longer be useful to them. So when we returned from our visit to Iowa last Thanksgiving, we brought with us a slide projector and some slides my dad had collected. One tray consisted of pictures he took when my parents visited us in Japan in 1974. At Christmas time, our grandchildren enjoyed seeing what their parents looked like when they were children.

Another tray recorded my dad’s trip when he visited Israel.

But there was a third tray, completely different from the other two. It contained pictures of people unrelated to each other except for one thing: they were all part of the same church. The title on the box said “Every family of the church” and was dated 1970. (Begin slides while I talk.) And sure enough, slide after slide shows older/younger people, single/married, working/retired, without whom that congregation would not have existed. They didn’t have any special qualifications; they were just common, ordinary people from SE Iowa.

To understand that church, you need to go back to its beginning, when my parents and Sue’s parents and a handful of others, felt called by God to plant a new Mennonite church in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, about 20 miles away from home. They had a vision. This was back in the 50s when Sue and I were still in high school. And it was exciting.

The first five families were farmers and they all committed themselves to this mission project. They drove many miles back and forth. They got involved in the lives of people they would have never met otherwise. They gave generous offerings to meet needs and eventually to build a small church building.

• Sue’s dad was treasurer for many years; Sue’s mother taught Sunday school.

• Another couple, Earl & Mary showed compassion in many ways. She was a great quilter. They were wonderful, humble people, but the pain in their hearts came from one of their sons. Max was a wild guy. We all knew stories about how he outwitted the highway patrol. But he was unable to outwit the demon of alcohol and eventually died from cirrhosis of the liver.

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