I was at the college recently chatting with my colleague Jimmy and his English class. I don’t recall the specifics, but he commented something jokingly to the class about Dr. Rizzo’s great-great grandfather. Knowing I’m something of a family historian, he confessed he was trying to stump me. So I rattled off about two hundred fifty years of one of my family lines: my father Fredrick “Bucky” Rizzo, his dad Fred, his Nicolo, his Matteo, his yet another Nicolo, and his yet another Matteo, and finally back to the 1700s to Calogero Rezza in Contessa Entellina, a small village in the mountains of Sicily that was settled in the mid 1400s by Albanian refugees fleeing Islamic armies. (Like I said, I’m the family historian.)
But the significance of generations struck me in a different way last Sunday when I saw two smiling faces singing during the altar service.
My pastor, Victor Massey, had preached from the book of Ruth. (Incidentally, if you’ve never heard my pastor preach, you should. He’s good.) In the closing of his sermon, he referenced Ruth 4:21 & 22: “And Salmon begat Boaz, and Boaz begat Obed, and Obed begat Jesse, and Jesse begat David.”
The David mentioned is King David, who was the first king of Israel and the ancestor of Jesus. But there’s much more to unpack. Salmon’s wife was Rahab, the woman who hid the Israelite spies in Jericho and in doing so saved herself and her family. Of course, Ruth was the wife of Boaz. She was a Moabite, descended from the incestuous relationship of Lot and one of his daughters, yet because of her faithfulness to her mother-in-law after her father-in-law and husband died, she ultimately became the wife of Boaz. Both women, who otherwise were outside of the covenant between God and Israel, nonetheless, became ancestors of Jesus the Messiah. Their actions not only affected their lives, but their families and successive generations.
L’dor V’dor is the Hebrew term that translates “generation to generation.” As Pastor Massey expounded on the passage, I couldn’t help but think about the idea of generation to generation, particularly as I noticed those two smiling faces singing together. The two smiling faces belonged to my son Nick and my cousin’s daughter Ashlyn. Both Nick and Ashlyn do, indeed, have beautiful smiles. Both have also dedicated their lives to serving the Lord, leading worship in song each week at the Sumiton Church of God. In that moment in my mind’s eye, however, I saw not only their smiles but envisioned the generations that came before, all a part of this one congregation.
Nick and Ashlyn share great-great grandparents Travis and Gladys Burton, who were members of the Sumiton Church and served faithfully some seventy plus years ago, which is a conservable part of the congregation’s history of just under one hundred years. Counting Ashlyn’s beautiful kiddos, there are now six generations of my family who have been part of this congregation – L’dor V’dor! Of course, you can’t bequeath salvation like you can a farm or a car. Still, it is each generation’s responsibility to pass on the faith, to live an example, to teach the scripture, from generation to generation.
What would have happened if one generation had failed in the charge? That’s something, frankly, I don’t want to think about because the potential consequences are too disconcerting. At the risk of invoking syrupy echoes of “Will the Circle be Unbroken,” I cannot emphasize too much how this is a charge that is our responsibility to the next generation, whether family or friend.
So from Boaz, to Obed, to Jesse, to David…
Or the Apostle John, to Polycarp, to Irenaeus…
Or from Travis and Gladys, to my Grandfather Buel and his brother Lowell, to my mother and her cousin June, to my cousin Kevin and me, to our children and grandchildren and generations to come…