I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
The last bit of this reading really doesn’t seem fair. Surely God doesn’t punish children for the sins of their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents? As Christians surely we don’t believe in that kind of damning inherited karma?
Researching family history is a very popular occupation. It’s amazing just how far back a researcher can go using old censuses, newspapers, and other written material easily accessed online. And there’s the fascination of programmes like ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ Celebrities discover ancestors of varying types and react, some with tears, others with pride….
We each have a backstory and some of us will have a backstory of folk who were more sinners than saints, folk who may indeed have rejected God. But that does not force us to reject God in our own turn. Their influence down the ages might have been less than helpful, a punishment in itself, but we each have our choice of the way we will take – and as a result, the influence our lives and choices will have on the generations that come after us.
I cling to a belief in a God of new beginnings, the one who not only has an ever-open door but comes running out to embrace us at the first sight of a step back towards him.
Open our eyes to our responsibilities to the generations that will follow us – both physically in terms of our responsibility for the environment we hand on to them, but also spiritually, that they might enjoy the loving relationship with God that he so desires, through his son, Jesus Christ. Amen.