Friday, January 24, 2014 – Week of 2 Epiphany, Year Two
[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 31 (morning) // 35 (evening)
Being in a reproductive stage of life, I’ve become curious about all of the information encoded in our DNA. I’ve had a few friends send their DNA samples to various companies that can analyze genetic material and give you a fascinating report about your ancestry. I talked this over with my dad, but the whole concept struck him as anti-American: “The great thing about America is that it doesn’t matter where you come from. It just matters who you are now.”
I’d still be interested to know what my DNA could tell me, but my dad’s comment has given me enough pause to hold back, and our second reading for this morning also discourages us from looking into these matters. This dense passage from the letter to the Hebrews contrasts the Levitical priesthood, which is inherited through “physical descent,” with the priesthood held by Melchizedek, an odd character who appears out of nowhere in the book of Genesis.
The author reminds us that Melchizedek appears “Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life.” In this way he resembles the Son of God and “remains a priest forever.”
Ironically, some gospel writers tried to add to Jesus’ life story the very things that the letter to the Hebrews sees lacking: a father, a mother, a genealogy, a beginning of life, and an end of life. The earliest documents related to Christ’s life seem to include primarily his teachings about the kingdom of heaven. Mark, the earliest gospel, includes no birth narrative, and its original ending announces that Christ has been raised but doesn’t include any post-resurrection appearances. In the gospels of Matthew and Luke, we find a full genealogy and more vivid stories about Christ’s nativity. Later gospel material also tells the story of Christ’s clear exit from the world through his ascension.
For the author of the letter to the Hebrews, however, it is important for us not to know much about Jesus’ family line or his parentage, about his birth or about the way that his body left our world. The most important thing about Jesus is that he holds his eternal priesthood not as an inheritance from one genetic line, but “through the power of an indestructible life.”
What is really important for us to know about Jesus? What is essential for us to know about ourselves? Family history and genetic profiles are certainly interesting, but what seems to matter most is how we participate in that indestructible life that God offers to the world through Christ. This is the life that Christ extends to the woman at the well, who points out the difference between their backgrounds: “Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus tells her that soon they won’t worship God on the mountain or in Jerusalem, but “in spirit and truth.”
Today, perhaps we can find ways to choose spirit and truth over ancestral identity. Perhaps we can choose an indestructible life over a life with a clear beginning or a firm ending. God is with us today and always, offering us a life that is given for the sake of the world and that can never be taken away.
Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.