Keith Underhill: July 2015
Son my Father
Preached by Revd Keith Underhill 12th July 2015
Among the first records that I remember buying as a 45 single was Son of my father by Chicory Tip back in 1972
Mama said to me we gotta have your life run right
Off you got to school
Where you can learn the rules there right
Be just like your dad lad
Follow in the same tradition
Never go astray and stay an honest lovin' son
Son of my father
Molded, I was folded, I was preform-packed
Son of my father
Commanded, I was branded in a plastic vac'
Surrounded and confounded by statistic facts
If you read Matthew's Gospel starting at the beginning, you find yourself plunged into that long list of names that forms the genealogy of Jesus — beginning with Abraham we then eventually end up with Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus.
Luke's genealogy is similar but different — he starts with Joseph and ends up with Adam — in Luke it is always the name of the person followed by those three little words — the son of.
In Matthew it is the name of the person and then the postscript (the father of)
Time and time again in the Old Testament — we are given the name of someone, a character in a story, someone we have not encountered before and then almost without fail, that postscript, the son of..........
So from Nehemiah 3:23-25,
"Beyond them, Benjamin and Hasshub made repairs in front of their house; and next to them, Azariah son of Maaseiah, the son of Ananiah, made repairs beside his house. 24 Next to him, Binnui son of Henadad repaired another section, from Azariah's house to the angle and the corner, 25 and Palal son of Uzai worked opposite the angle and the tower projecting from the upper palace near the court of the guard. Next to him, Pedaiah son of Parosh."
Or Judges 3:31, "After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel"
And also 2 Samuel 10:2, "David thought, "I will show kindness to Hanun son of Nahash, just as his father showed kindness to me." So David sent a delegation to express his sympathy to Hanun concerning his father"
By doing such as this, not only were people being recognized as to who they were, but they were also being rooted within time and space. For the addition of the father's name, gave them their place and historical setting within their nation and culture.
It was a way of acknowledging and celebrating their standing within their common and shared experience of life and humanity. It was a way of recognizing continuity, heritage and a shared past.
It pinpoints someone's life in the real world in which we live and they lived. It says who you are and whose you are and where you have come from.
We understand that, because in one way or another that practice still continues.
Many of the conversations I have with my parents go along the lines of... "You remember so and so?" No, I truthfully reply. Yes you do, you remember them, of course you do, so and so's parents"
And even if I do not know who on earth they are talking about, I've found that it is easier to simply say yes — and normally they are only telling me this because that person has been taken ill or has died.
But by placing someone within a family situation, within a genealogical setting — they are more deeply rooted within the world, within the pages of our common and shared experience of life.
In these verses at the beginning of Mark 6 — the Gospel writer gives us a cameo of this happening.
Jesus is teaching in the synagogue — as was his want, teaching with great authority and power, with wisdom clarity and insight — he was performing miracles amazing those he saw and followed him.
And then we read those telling words in verse three; "Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him"
Jesus is being placed within time and space, history and culture. He is being rooted and grounded in the real world — the world we all know and inhabit.
Whilst there is no mention of Joseph and it is clearly Mary who anchors all of this, the cry of identification that comes from those in the crowds who know him — offer us two important insights into who this Jesus is.
The first thing to note is that he is of this world, he is the flesh of our flesh and the bone of our bones. Jesus shares our common humanity, "born of one of us, Mary's son", to quote from the hymn writer.
"Isn't this the carpenter?" they exclaim? Reminding us that Jesus knows what it is like to follow in the footsteps of his father! Like Joseph before him, Jesus earned his living by the sweat of his brow — Jesus knew the pain and pleasure of work, of effort, of being paid for doing a job.
Those hands which as a baby reached out and touched the rough wood of the manger, were used to working in that medium, and throughout his working life would have felt the grain as he put to use his carpentry skills.
Whilst we know very little about the life of Jesus between the events of that very first Christmas and his call to public ministry, (apart from that time when he managed to get left behind on the family visit to Jerusalem and that he grew in wisdom and stature, these few words from the crowd, indicate that what we do not know, they did, they the gaps that we can only guess at.
"Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?"
These words remind us of our theology and understanding of the nature of Jesus, that he was fully and completely human — one of us.
Son of his father, a carpenter with family and those who knew and loved him, one who was very much rooted in the everyday world that you and I inhabit.
Yet the words of those who were witnessing him teaching in the synagogue and cry out, "Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him" also get it very wrong as well!
For they do not see Jesus as one who follows in his father's footsteps, the one who is the son of his father.
They neither see nor understand the truth of the other side of the theological coin of the nature of Jesus, that he is also 100% divine. The son of his heavenly father!
That is why he was able to amaze so many people — that was why Jesus was able to teach with such authority and power and that was why he was able to perform miracles — for Jesus was demonstrating and exhibiting those things of God.
As God's son, this was hardly surprising, it wasn't rocket science — of course he would be able to do those things and to say those things, for he was a chip off the old block — he was his father's son!
As stationing for 2016 comes ever closer it would be a mistake for me to end up looking after Leigh Wesley Methodist Church in Essex. For there would still be those there that would remember me as Doreen and Doug's son.
They would still be asking, did he leave Sunday School when he was around eight, or did her get thrown out for disrupting Sunday school classes? Did he jump or was he pushed they would discuss. Do you remember the time when he was pageboy for the Sunday School Queen? I'm sure I have a photo of him in that golden tunic with black tights somewhere amongst all my other photos.
There will be those who would remember me as a teenager, reconciled to God and Church and part of the Sunday night youth group that would go off to Hildenborough Hall and Greenbelt — enthusiastic but often naive.
If I ended up there, whilst there would be many who did not know my back story, there would be those who would only see that which was so long ago.
Jesus knew that only too well as he declares that a prophet in his own town is indeed without honour.
Our theology tells us that Jesus was 100% like us that he shared in our lives and all that it means to be fully human. That in stating that, we are reminded that there is nothing that we are, were or will face or confronting that he does not understand or has not been through.
Jesus has been there, done that and got the tee shirt. From birth to death, from the shouts of acclamation and celebration to the tears of tragedy and the valleys of suffering, he knows it all. We are not alone for he is with us and travels alongside us.
Our theology tells us that Jesus was 100% divine — that he was the son of his heavenly father and him was invested the powers of God himself. Which is why a couple of chapters earlier in Mark's Gospel, he could shout and the wind and the waves to be still and be quiet and they immediately responded and obeyed — allowing those on the boat to say in fear who is this that even the wind and waves obey him?
From cleansing the leper to raising the dead, via feeding the 5,000 the actions and power of Jesus, the one who was the carpenter, show us that he his father's son.
Of course theology also tells us and this is where we find it difficult to fully comprehend and grasp and it makes our brains ache — that Jesus is 100% fully human and fully divine at the same time!
He is the son of Joseph, the husband of Mary, the one who brought him into the world, but he is also the son of the Lord and creator of all that is, of the God of Abraham Isaac, Jacob and Joseph,
As we declare who and whose we are, we see Jesus, the one we seek to follow, straddling both worlds, the human and the divine.
With a foot in both camps, the eternal and the temporal — Jesus enables us to know him more fully and completely, becoming like us that in the end we might become like him!
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