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Generations

Family TreeYesterday, I listened to the story of two brothers, both in their eighties, who were finding a way to reconcile after years of estrangement. It was a bittersweet story, with hope for a better future - for a little while, anyway - but grief for the lost years. The root of their troubles lay way back in the past, and a generation earlier. It’s a familiar dynamic: the woes of our ancestors so often spread their fingers into our present day.

The book of Genesis is built around a refrain: ‘these are the generations’ is the literal translation, which we find as ‘this is the account’ in places like Genesis 37:2. It’s a device that pushes the larger narrative into its next phase, but it’s a telling one.

As we’ve read through Genesis, we’ve seen the patterns emerge. Spousal and sibling rivalry has propagated through Abraham’s family tree (or is it through Adam’s, perhaps?). Each generation seems to make the same bizarre mistakes. I suspect they might accuse us of the same thing, were they reading our story.

The story of Joseph leaves him in an Egyptian coffin at the end of the book. That seems like a bleak finish, but it is just the opposite. It’s an expression of hope: Joseph is so confident that God will keep his promises that he binds his descendants to take his bones with them.

That’s the solution to the curse of generations: God’s entry into our family tree, which creates a truly new humanity. And the dry bones of generations past and present will live again, at last.

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