Rev. Katherine Todd
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew.
…for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.
Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it.
Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
“So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay. You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me—you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.’
“You can see for yourselves, and so can my brother Benjamin, that it is really I who am speaking to you. Tell my father about all the honor accorded me in Egypt and about everything you have seen. And bring my father down here quickly.”
Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him.
What goodness can follow atrocity. What healing can come after grave injury. What morning light can dawn after fierce storms.
Here we witness the reunion of these brothers, from one Father and several different mothers. It is a reunion none of them saw coming…or not exactly. These brothers had betrayed their own humanity, selling their own brother Joseph to traders to be a slave. But in a strange and twisted yet truthful kind of way, we can be grateful that they brothers had chosen to sell him over killing him, which was their first instinct.
You see they hated him. He said things. Unwise things.
God filled young Joseph with dreams and visions. And naïve or unfiltered or autistic or perhaps boastful as he was (…we do not know why), he spoke these dreams aloud, no filter, sharing them with his family. And they did not take kindly to these visions – for Joseph dreamed that he would rule over his brothers and whole family.
It was unsettling.
I have wished he’d paused a moment to assess and to reconsider sharing these dreams. I wonder if he even perceived how it would be taken by his siblings. Did he sense their anger and resentment? Did he not anticipate their jealousy over the favor his father showed him?
And why did Joseph share the 2nd time? He shared one time, and I imagine that couldn’t have gone well. So when he had yet another of these dreams, why did he share it yet again?
I do not know.
My heart breaks for him.
Can you imagine the emotional trauma? Talk about post-traumatic-stress!
Can you imagine the betrayal? Can you imagine the sense of abandonment?
What scars Joseph must have carried. What fears he must have had to live with.
He was a good worker and advanced in his servant role to a man named Potiphar, but alas, Potiphar’s wife took interest in him, and when her advances were shunned she decided to slander Joseph – accusing him of violating her.
And thus, Joseph is thrown into yet another hole. This time it isn’t an abandoned well – meant to hold him until his murder by family. It isn’t the abandoned well that ended up being his holding cell before being sold to strangers and taken away from all he knew and everyone he held dear. No, this time it was an actual cell, the hole of prison, and he stayed there for a long, long time, falsely accused, with no justice.
Some among us truly endure far more pain and loss than others of us. Some of us FEEL more pain in our experiences than others. And some have hardened the walls of their hearts to protect them from these painful moments, years, and lifetimes.
Joseph was one who endured more than he ever should have had to.
Even if he was boastful or proud, sharing his dreams and visions…
Even though his father favored him above the others…
Even if he was unwise in sharing his dreams…
It doesn’t matter. None of this should have stripped him of home and family and freedom.
…and for SO long.
Yet this is Joseph’s story.
And when his brothers begin journeying to Egypt to buy grain – after Joseph’s interpretation of dreams has finally freed him from prison and placed him even over Pharaoh’s entire household that he might lead the nation in surviving the coming years of great famine – these brothers have no idea they will see their brother. They have no idea where he is. They do not know whether he is dead or alive. He was probably the last person they ever expected to see again.
And can you imagine Joseph’s feelings upon seeing them?
You’ll see he first tests his brothers. He puts them in compromised situations in order to see how they will handle themselves. He wants to be sure that his younger brother Benjamin – his only full-blooded brother – is not being mistreated as well. He wants to know who his brothers have become.
And when he experiences their changed hearts, he is broken open with grief released and gladness. He is overcome, such that he can no longer hold back, but weeps so loudly that all of Pharaoh’s house hear it.
I have long loved this story. It may be my favorite in the Bible. But what I am moved by today is Joseph’s release. He can no longer hold in his feelings. They all come tumbling out. Finally.
And furthermore, I wonder if his dreams came back to mind. Did he remember his celestial dream, where his family bowed before him, …now that they are all bowing before him? Could any of them have foreseen the path Joseph would walk to get to this point? Could any of them have foreseen how their own actions would be woven by God into a tapestry of goodness and life? Could any have imagined how, what was intended for evil, God used for great good? And here Joseph is, choosing to see his life, not as a victim but as a messenger, sent ahead of them by God, to save lives.
I tend to have visions of an end but no idea as to how to get there. Like Joseph, I am left wondering what it all means, as none of it yet seems true. And I’ve long wondered why God does this. Why does God give me vision?
Sometimes, especially when I am in the pits of life, I can resent these visions because they seem so far-fetched. I can get discouraged.
But God is faithful.
Whatever God says, is true.
If God says something will be, then it will be. And God can use whatever comes, to get there. We can work with God or against God. Those are our choices.
Joseph chose to trust his dreams and visions. God showed him, over and over again that they were true. He was leading an entire nation in preparing for a major time of famine – based solely on a dream…a dream.
And yet, to this point, he had not yet seen his earliest dreams come true…
God speaks to each one of us, in different ways.
Some dream dreams.
Some have visions.
Some perceive the end.
Some perceive the path.
But God is speaking.
And God is trustworthy.
May we have the courage and audacity
To follow our dreams – the visions God plants in our hearts –
And to believe that God is indeed working ALL things for good
For those who love God
And are called according to God’s purposes.
For God is the primary actor in this play.
God is using it all to save lives.
God is working God’s purposes out.
Will we trust God’s call,
and join in the work?
(Iona Abby WB)
Creator Spirit, wellspring of our lives,
as the refreshing rain falls on the just and unjust alike
refresh us with your mercy, who knows our own injustice.
As the stream flows steadily on, defying all the odds of stone and water,
flow over every boundary and border that separates us from each other.
As the waters of our baptism washed us and welcomed us
renew us now in newness of life and unity of love.
As we were once held in the waters of our mother’s womb,
hold us now in the power and peace of your abiding presence.
(Richard J. Foster)
Today I accept your acceptance of me.
I confess that you are always with me and always for me.
I receive into my spirit your grace, your mercy, your care.
I rest in your love, O Lord. I rest in your love.
BLESSING (Vienna Cobb Anderson)
The blessing of God,
whose love reconciles all who are divided,
be with you
as you seek to heal the brokenness