During the lectionary of the worship service this past Sunday I was inspired to write the following:
Ancestors, and more immediately our parents are our root and source and our debt to them should be acknowledged. We should honor them, because beyond being our biological root, and the primary influence of our socialization and development, in them we honor God who designed the whole process of human generation. We honor God’s wisdom and beauty in the creation and perpetuation of humanity. To honor parents is to sacramentally honor God.
Now, from a religious perspective I get that this is no crashing insight. The inspiration I received was more of an intuition about the whole phenomena of ancestry and honor, and the words I wrote was the product of me trying to make sense of this intuition. The thing that prompts me to share this with you, however, was that later in the service, instead of a sermon from our priest, we had a visiting missionary give us a report about his work among the Soninke people in west Africa. At the end of his testimony, he wrapped up with a bit of divine irony by telling us about the frustration he experienced when he sensed that he should go home for a brief season to take care of his parents just when things were beginning to develop regarding the response of the Soninke to the Gospel. Upon returning to west Africa, however, he discovered that his leaving was just what was needed, as the Soninke that he had been ministering to gained a profound respect for the man who, against the western norm of putting his parents in an “old folks” home, decided to go home and take care of them himself. In doing this, they began to see him as more than just a westerner who taught them about the prophet Jesus, and who did some good deeds, but as one who was truly human, and worthy of being heard.
So, was this a coincidence? Synchronicity? There was nothing thematic in the lectionary or in the service prior to this missionary’s testimony that dealt with parenthood or ancestry. I will say, however, that before the service I had a conversation with a couple of parishioners about Leanne Payne, the doctrine of recapitulation, and healing, which could have put the general idea of parental influence into my consciousness, but still the aptness between what I wrote, and what the missionary shared seemed like something more than a loose conceptual connection. It’s just too fitting.