In Icelandic culture, the first question asked as we meet people is “whose are you?” and our naming tradition reflects that. My name is Halldor Gudmundsson, or Halldor son of Gudmund(ur). My children are Tomas Halldorsson, or Tomas son of Halldor, and Anna Halldorsdottir, or Anna daughter (dóttir) of Halldor. I come from a culture that is fascinated with genealogy. I have access to a database, where I can trace my lineage back centuries.
We see similar fascination in the Bible with genealogy. The first chapter of Matthew’s gospel explains how Jesus is a descendant of Abraham. It is an attempt to answer the question “Who(se) are you?” and is based on the notion that we are for better and for worse the product of our upbringing, no one is self made.
Genealogy can be selective. The writer of Matthew’s gospel sees fit to add three women on the list of Jesus’ ancestors, Tamar, Ruth, and Bathsheba. In doing so, the writer connects Jesus ancestry with stories of immigration, sexual exploitation, and violence. Bad things happened even in Jesus’ family. The intention seems to be to remind the readers that even the son of God has a family of origin with issues.
As we explore the Bible in worship and Bible studies over the coming year, we will encounter some stories that are not beautiful and peaceful. We will learn about exploitation of power towards Bathsheba. We will hear about mistreatment of foreigners and learn a thing or two about some of Jesus’ ancestors, both good and bad. Those stories are shared for a reason, and hopefully we will be able to see God’s grace, hope and love even in the midst of them.
However, the real reason I am writing about this today is a small assignment I have for all of you. I would like you to figure out your Icelandic last name.
It only has three steps:
- Chose either your father’s or mother’s first name.
- Add a suffix to your parent first name
a. -dottir if you identify as a female.
b. -son if you identify as a male.
c. -barn (child) if you identify as a gender non-conforming, a non-binary, and/or a gender fluid.
- Add your new last name after your own first name, and now you are Icelandic. 🙂
This is the cost of having an Icelandic pastor, you will get to know more about Iceland than you ever wanted :-).
On Sunday I am preaching about two fishes and five loaves of bread. A narrative many of you are familiar with. The narrative appears in all the gospels, but I will be using John 6:1-14. You can also find it in Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:32-33, and Luke 9:10-17. A slightly different version of the narrative appears in Matthew 15:32-39, and Mark 8:1-10.
Peace, Justice, and Joy,
Pastor Halldor Gudmundsson
P.s. I might add that few of my son’s friends, have pointed out that because they know my son better than me, and Tomas is the reference point to my family, my name should be Halldor Tomasdad, and my wife would be Jenny Tomasmom, but that is a bit controversial.
P.p.s. In case you are wondering. The first woman of European descent to give birth to a child in North America was Guðríður Þorbjarnardóttir. Her son Snorri Þorfinnsson was born on this continent the year 1004, when Guðríður was 24 years old. Guðríður was a fascinating woman and I can trace my lineage directly to her.
Guðríður Þorbjarnardóttir (980) had Þorbjörn, Þorbjörn had Steinunn, Steinunn had Ketill, Ketill had Þorlákur, Þorlákur had Ketill, Ketill had Valgerður, Valgerður had Snorri, Snorri had Ormur, Ormur had Guðmundur, Guðmundur had Þorbjörg, Þorbjörg had Snælaug, Snælaug had Kristín, Kristín had Jón „ríki“, Jón „ríki“ had Sigurður, Sigurður had Jón, Jón had Hallgrímur, Hallgrímur had Jón, Jón had Þórunn, Þórunn had Jón „eldri“, Jón „eldri“ had Jón, Jón had Helga, Helga had Stefanía, Stefanía had Jónína, Jónína had Laufey, Laufey had Gudmundur, Gudmundur had Halldór.