For I am but a sojourner with you, a wayfarer, as all my forebears were. (Psalm 39:14)
Rodger and Lindsay are the names of both of my grandfathers and my father.
My grandfather Rodger was an Episcopal priest in the Dioceses of Springfield and Chicago, my father Lindsay in the Dioceses of Central Florida, Albany, Springfield, Western Louisiana, and Florida. I was ordained a deacon in the Diocese of Chicago and have served in the Dioceses of Milwaukee and Fond du Lac.
I have been part of the “family business,”so to speak, in Winter Haven, Orlando, and Auburndale, Florida; Unadilla and Latham, New York; Charleston and Park Ridge, Illinois; and Lake Geneva, Walworth, and Appleton, Wisconsin.
But Jesus reminds us in tonight’s Gospel reading that ancestry is a tricky thing.
“If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did” (John 8:33-47).
Each of us must take care of our own business, so to speak, in matters of the spirit. We cannot simply rest on our ancestry; we must also do what our ancestors did.
More importantly, we are called to do better than our ancestors did. Earlier in the Gospel, Jesus says “your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, and they died. But those who eat my flesh will live forever.”
This blog, the Daily Office Anchor Society, honors one legacy of my grandfather Rodger, whose 1928 Prayer Book and King James Bible combination bears the stains of the oil on his fingers on the pages of the Daily Office and the Psalter. I treasure that volume as an example of his practice of daily prayer.
Another legacy of his, however, bears deeper stains. Rodger was an excellent priest and a flawed man, whose inappropriate behavior led to his being deposed from the priesthood. My grandmother never darkened the door of a church after he died just a year after that judgment.
Before I even knew of that family legacy, I had been called to teach about preventing sexual misconduct in the church, a ministry I worked at in Chicago and Milwaukee for a dozen years. Having learned of that family legacy, I am still working to understand our silences, our sighs too deep for words, and my own conflicted longings.
I am a wayfarer, just as all my forebears were. I write this post from 30,000 feet, which most of the time is my normal habitat.
God grant that, while my heart will always treasure the legacy I have inherited, I may not rest on my ancestors’ accomplishments but rather seek to follow Jesus’ example and do the will of my true Father in my own time.