Exceedingly odd

Today's Gospel reading is Jesus' genealogy in the Gospel of Matthew, and as a result I've had snatches of a poem going around in my head. Written by a biblical scholar, Michael Goulder, it concerns the handful of women mentioned in the roll call of men begetting more men: women who in different ways didn't conform and fit into the moral, religious and societal mould of their time - but nonetheless all women from whose line the true light was to shine. A reminder that, in Jesus' lineage, alongside godliness and wisdom, existed incest and adultery, murder and marginalisation. And a reminder, too, that in each of us there lies a murky shadow side, not only in our family trees, but also within ourselves.

And of course a reminder that God sees things somewhat differently to us; that so often there is an exceeding oddness in God's choices and calls, and in how he works through people and circumstances. Time and again God chooses the least obvious, the weakest and least promising as those through whom he will display his holiness. After all, as God said to Samuel, concerning his choice not of the strongest and best looking but of David, the youngest son: the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. (I Sam 16.7)

And here's the poem, to help us remember all that murkiness, which is never so dark that it cannot be redeemed by the true light...

Exceedingly odd,
Is the means by which God
Has provided our path to the heavenly shore:

Of the girls from whose line
The true light was to shine
There was one an adulteress, one was a whore.

There was Tamar who bore –
What we all should deplore –
A fine pair of twins to her father-in-law;

And Rahab the harlot,
her sins were as scarlet,
As red as the thread which she hung from the door;

Yet alone of her nation
She came to salvation,
And lived to be mother of Boaz of yore;

And he married Ruth,
A Gentile uncouth,
In a manner quite counter to biblical law;

And of her there did spring
Blessed David the King
who walked on his palace one evening,

and saw
The wife of Uriah,
From whom he did sire
A baby that died, oh, and princes a score.

And a mother unmarried
It was too that carried
God’s son, and him laid in a cradle of straw;

That the moral might wait
At the heavenly gate
While the sinners and publicans go in before,

Who have not earned their place
But received it by grace,
And have found them a righteousness not of the law.