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Saint John's Pulpit (August 16th, Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost) –
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Saint John's Pulpit (August 10th, Tenth Sunday after Pentecost) –
Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, "Send everyone away from me." So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. Joseph said to his brothers, "I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?" But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.
Then Joseph said to his brothers, "Come closer to me." And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, 'Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children's children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. I will provide for you there—since there are five more years of famine to come—so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.' And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father how greatly I am honored in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here." Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin's neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.
You may remember that I mentioned this before. “Families in the Book of Genesis were dysfunctional.” From Adam and Eve… through Abraham’s family… to Jacob’s family… they had their own scars and scratches. In most cases, reconciling between / among brothers was very tough. Cain killed his brother Abel. Isaac and Ishmael were uneasy brothers. Jacob deceived his brother Esau. Before Joseph, all these brothers did not have a moment of reconciliation. Although Jacob and Esau met each other and made a reconciliation, but it was not the same as the case of Joseph’s reconciliation in the story today. Before meeting Esau, Jacob was very stressful and fearful.
Deliver me, please, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I am afraid of him; he may come and kill us all, the mothers with the children. Yet you have said, 'I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted because of their number.' Genesis 32:11-12 NRSV
However, the text today shows Joseph’s way of reconciliation. Joseph became the second power man after the Pharaoh not only in Egypt but also in the Ancient Near Eastern. But what about his brothers? They are in Egypt to get some provisions from Joseph because of the serious famine. Jacob was very stressful when he was going to meet his brother, but Joseph did not have to be stressful because he had power. When Jacob met Esau, Esau had his own power, money, and his private soldiers. However, Joseph’s brothers had no power. So, depending on Joseph’s decision, his brothers’ destiny would be like a pendulum.
We often call Abraham a father of all nations. But without Joseph, Abraham could have been remembered as one of ancestors in a history of Israel. Have you ever imagined Israel without Joseph? Or have you ever thought that why Joseph’s reconciliation was so important? Joseph is now in Egypt. I have no idea how many Israel people were in Egypt at that time. But it seems that Joseph was the only one in Egypt. He married in Egypt. If Joseph did not reconcile with his brothers, presumably, his life would be ended in Egypt by himself. His name might be listed in a single page of a very thick Egyptian history book. No impact, no connection and no more stories with Israel. If so, the Exodus could not happen in the Bible!
From Reconciliation to Vision
As we know, Joseph had a very hard time by his brothers. Being thrown into a pit, sold, and traded. His brothers should be credited for Joseph’s messed-up life. One thing we should note is this. Joseph never blamed on his brothers in this story. No harsh comments, complains, criticism, and grumbling… Joseph is telling his brothers that all things were from God’s plan!
And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. Genesis 45:5 NRSV
God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. Genesis 45:7 NRSV
So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Genesis 45:8 NRSV
Isn't it amazing? Joseph mentioned God’s name so many times and asked his brothers not to be guilty for what they did in the past! Joseph understood that his pit was God’s plan. His prison was from God’s plan. Even his palace from God’s plan. Yes, Joseph had a filter to see his life. It was faith. Joseph had a lens to speculate his life. It was faith. Instead of being discouraged by all happenings in his life, Joseph was encouraged to see the vision of God and plan the next goal for his people. Finally, Joseph offered his brothers to move to Egypt and keep their identity and culture in Egypt.
Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, 'Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children's children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. I will provide for you there—since there are five more years of famine to come—so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.' Genesis 45:9-11 NRSV
When we forgive someone, we often think that we forgive the person by ourselves. But in the story today, Joseph’s forgiveness shows a different dimension of forgiveness. Joseph wanted to do it by the heart of God. He wanted to see all things in his life in terms of God’s plan. He firmly believed that God would take care of his life and even his people. His trust in God made him prepare for the next plan after the reconciliation with his brothers. Joseph’s forgiveness was not his plan, but God’s plan. When we realize that we are the ones who need God’s forgiveness, then we forgive others with the heart of God.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 NIV
These days, we see lots of conflicts, blames and criticism in our society. To meet Joseph in the story today would inspire us to find our mission today.