“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
We’re now capable of searching for ancestors through our DNA for the first time in history. Even casual interest in the family tree has turned part time hobbies in genealogy into full-time obsession for many.
We see cute ads on television showing a man changing his ancestral clothing from lederhosen to kilt upon discovering that he’s Scottish rather than German. My husband recently learned that his ancestral family came to Maine in 1748, which means that we’re no longer from away. Or at least he isn’t.
Imagine the surprise of racists who discover a person of color in their ancestral family tree. While this might be cause for dismay given their particular beliefs, most of us would receive the news as cause for joy. For example, our family has long believed we share Native American heritage, and the mysterious generational stories fill us with curiosity. We’ll know for sure when one of our clan takes the test, but until then our past remains in the realm of imagination.
Whatever our DNA, we are all tribal people. On one level, a tribe is a collection of families descending from one ancestor. For example, the twelve tribes of the Hebrew people from the Old Testament sprang from the sons of our religious ancestor Jacob.
In the New Testament, tribe took on wider significance, representing the spiritual family of God. For those of us who claim the tribal name Christian, we are all grafted onto that tree through faith, not birth, by the invitation to belong extended by God.
Recent studies indicate that the happiest people are those who belong to a healthy tribe. This tribe may consist of healthy relationships with extended family, with our faith community, close-knit neighbors or circle of friends. In this instance, our vitality depends on living among others who know us, value us, and care for us. Mutually, we commit our energies to knowing, valuing and caring for them. Isn’t this the definition of church, after all? Aren’t we a tribe of God bound together by mutual commitment to follow the way of Jesus, loving as he taught us?
Jesus gives all of us a new tribal name. You may be Irish or German or Jewish or Italian or Native American or Latino, but the next time someone asks you about it, just tell them you come from a long line of Love.
Prayer: Holy One, when we witness the great tragedies of the world, we share their suffering. When one tribe is wounded, we all mourn. Thank you for those persons in our circle of care, those for whom we care through times of triumph and sorrow. And thank you for giving us people who stand by us, a glimpse of your love on earth as in heaven.
God’s grace, mercy and peace,
Rev. Dr. Anna V. Copeland
Senior Minister, The Community Church of Vero Beach