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Ted Schroder
January 4, 04

Last week I received a letter addressed to the churches of Amelia
Island Ministerial Association from Claudia Sovilla, of the Amelia
Island Genealogical Society. She was extending an invitation to the
members of the churches, who are interested in genealogy and history to
attend the Genealogy Course and Mary Fears program in January. She
wrote, "The Churches have great resources for information and members
with stories of their ancestors. This area is rich in history. Tracing
roots has transformed genealogy from a methodical past-time to a raging
passion for mill ions of Americans. Wondering who am I, where I came
from, and a missing link to the past and heritage." Joan Hackett and
Mary Nelson will be instructors.

My parents were not much interested in their antecedents. When I
Asked them questions about the family they gave vague answers that
obscured rather than illuminated. It made me wonder whether I was
descended from a long line of undesirables! But I doubt whether they
were that interesting.

I have cousins on both sides of my family who are the keepers of
the family histories. They supply me with information when I need it. I
am gathering material to write a fictionalized account of four
generations of my family. In discovering what might have happened to
them I understand better what formed my parents and grandparents, and
influenced me.

Some years ago I participated in a continuing education program
on Family Systems Theory, which explored how the dynamics of family
histories can repeat themselves in the lives of each generation. The
exercise of drawing up a genogram of your family history, which
identifies the patterns of marriage, children, divorce, births and
deaths, can throw considerable light on your own experience.

None of us is self-made. None of us is a stand alone. Each of us
Comes from somewhere. We have continuity to the past. We are the product
of generations and our own choices. Erik Erikson describes the stage of
Integrity in the Life Cycle as "the acceptance of one's own and only
life cycle and of the people who have become significant to it as
something that had to be and that, by necessity, permitted of no
substitutions. It thus means a new different love of one's parents, free
of the wish that they should have been different, and an acceptance of
the fact that one's own life is one's own responsibility. It is a sense
of comradeship with men and women of distant times and of different
pursuits, who have created orders and objects and sayings conveying human
dignity and love." (Identity and the life Cycle, p.104) Erikson placed
Integrity as the last stage in the life cycle.

I am presently reading The Hornet's Nest, a novel of the American
revolutionary war in
Georgia and the Carolinas, by Jimmy Carter. In writing about those times
former President Carter is also trying to understand his continuity with
his family members who settled in Georgia. By writing about that period
he is getting in touch with what it must have been like for his
ancestors. Some of the characters are based on them. He said that he
began to study his family history in 1998. It was the 100th birthday of
his ancestor who moved to southwest Georgia. As he started study the
history he got interested in the period .

In Matthew's account of the early childhood of Jesus (Matt.2:13-
23) we find that Jesus experienced this continuity with the past. Like
his ancestor Joseph he was taken to Egypt. Jesus recapitulated the
history of Israel by his sojourn in Egypt. Like Moses he was saved from
certain death at the hand of the king of his day. When the time was come
to return, the holy family left Egypt and traveled to Nazareth. Israel
discovered its identity in Egypt , and the exodus from Egypt was the
central point in the history of the nation.

Pharoah tried to destroy the people in Egypt, but Moses brought
them out into the land of promise. Just as Pharoah failed to kill Moses,
Herod, the new Pharoah, failed to kill the Savior. Eventually, Moses
brought the children of Israel out of the land of bondage and death, and
Moses' successor was to bring the people out of a worse bondage and a
worse death, the death of sin. Jesus is seen as the successor of Moses:
he came to save his people from their sins. Jesus is going to rescue us.
He is going to usher in the new exodus.

Matthew sees Jesus as fulfilling the Old Testament's predictions.
The history of God's children is recapitulated in the history of God's
Son. As Israel of long ago was led down to Egypt, so was Jesus. As
Israel came out, so did Jesus. He embodies and fulfils the history of
the people of God in his own person.

Michael Green, in writing about these stories about Jesus'
childhood, concludes:
"Matthew makes it plain that God works through both surprise and
continuity to bring about his purposes. The story of Jesus is utterly
continuous with Abraham, with David and with the whole history of the
chosen people. Bu t it also bristles with surprises. Perhaps this is to
encourage us to expect God to be working in our lives steadily and
continuously, making sense of our past history, but also to be on the
lookout for God's surprises in our lives, ready to grasp them and follow
through their implications when
they come." (The Message of Matthew, p.74)

Joseph was surprised by the angel of the Lord appearing to him in a
dream and directing him to escape to Egypt. Yet in so doing he fulfilled
the prophecies, and repeated the history of his family. When Herod
ordered the mass acre of the boys under two years old he didn't realize
that he was repeating the sin of the Pharoah who opposed Moses. At the
right time the angel directed Joseph and Mary back to the land of
Israel. There they were warned in a dream not to settle in Judaea but to
go to Galilee.

How often do we repeat the history of our ancestors? Sometimes we
slip into committing the same sins as they did. Joseph was enabled to
survive and flourish, to take care of his family, and to move on toward
fulfilling divine destiny because he obeyed the guidance that was given him.

God is working in our lives steadily and continuously. He
encourages u s to make sense of our family histories, to discover
patterns of behavior that are to be either avoided or embraced. We are
also meant to be on the look out for God's surprises in our lives, and
be willing to grasp them and follow through on their implications when
they come.

What surprises will God have in store for you this coming year?
Whatever they are, they are meant to be for your good. When you respond
to them positively you will find that you will be fulfilling your divine

The Rev. Schroder is the rector of the chapel on Amelia Island
Plantation. He is an Episcopal priest.


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