“We hurt the ones we love the most.”
What a weird phenomenon. If I’m honest, I don’t understand it. I know it’s true, but I think we can change it.
When I was a teenager, I quizzed over the gospel of Matthew. I learned the genealogy of Jesus, all the way back to Abraham, and I could quote it forward and backward in 30 seconds flat, which was the requirement for earning 20 points if I happened to jump on a question, cut off at, “Who was the father of…” I only did this once in competition, but it was a significantly awesome moment. I would like to admit that even though this was 20 years ago, I can still do it. Long term memory is also a weird phenomenon.
This year at the national quiz, I watched as my oldest daughter quoted the entire genealogy of Jesus, all the way back to Adam, found in Luke, forward and backward, in those same 30 seconds. It’s more impressive than my feat. But family legacy... weird, too…
Yay us! We could be auctioneers… or something…
In today’s reading, we come to the sons of Ishmael. I don’t know anyone who has ever memorized this or had any reason to speak these names out loud. As pastors, we often skip genealogical passages, altogether, when preaching or even reading Scripture. We say something like, “and then there’s a big, long list of names…” Everyone laughs, and we move on with the things we think matter more.
But these names represent people.
Genesis 25: 13-15, “These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, listed in the order of their birth: Nebaioth the firstborn of Ishmael, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah” (NIV).
Twelve sons. Twelve tribes. And we don’t even know who they are. (At least, I don’t.)
Ishmael dies and is “gathered to his people” (v.17), because regardless of how difficult the people we love may be; this is what we do.
And his descendents “lived in hostility toward all the tribes related to them” (v.18). This should break us.
Names matter. People matter. Stories matter. May we not forget that this is true, even of those who do not rank as the ‘most important’ within (or outside of) our circles. And may we also not forget that it begins with family, because we are to be known by our love… not our damaging treatment of one another. When we don’t get this right, everything (and everyone) is intentionally forgotten by the wider community. Who would ever choose to be a part of that?