2016-09-25 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato – First Baptist Church Edmonton
“We Cannot Escape the Provision of God’s Grace”
Genesis 37, 50
Joseph was destined to be an entitled, spoiled brat.
The first sentence in today’s story sets the stage for us…
“Now Israel LOVED Joseph more than any other of his children…”
Can’t see that going wrong in any way!!??
Joseph, the pimply but handsome youngest child (in a family of 11 boys)…17 years old, wearing the robe hand-made by his Dad…imported golden threads, with special colored beads and sequins, carefully woven into the different layers of dyed fabrics. His father loved him more, because he loved his mother more…this multi-mother family had a hierarchy, and wife #1 Rachel gave Jacob adoreable, optimistic, Joseph.
[can you remember when you were 17? Pompous, proud…annoyingly confident]
Running to his brothers as they toiled in the fields, he jumps on a rock and cries out:
“Listen! I had a dream…we were making haybales, and my haybale stood upright and all of your haybales bowed down to mine! Cool huh?”
…And Joseph’s brothers hate him because of his dreams and his words.
And they conspire to kill him…
Six months later, Joseph is again running through the fields to enlighten his brothers with “youngest child revelations” but this time he doesn’t get to the punchline…
During mid-day lunch break, he’s ambushed by his brothers, a sackcloth over his head, a strip of linen cloth stuffed in his mouth and hands bound behind his back. He’s on the back of a hay wagon, disoriented and in shock.
After what seems like hours, he’s lowered into a musty, cold cavern. He cries out, “Rueben, Judah? Where are you!? Help!”
For hours…silence…it feels dark and cold…and then suddenly he hears the cover of the cavern scraping against the dirt and the rubble…
He’s lifted out of the cave and whimpers…he pleads for help…but again, his brothers don’t speak a word…instead, it’s the language of Midianite traders who swear and tease in sinister tones. Joseph is manhandled…pushed and prodded into another transport cart…and his life would never be the same…and his teenage optimism turns to fear and despondence. The prized son, is now a slave and an exile.
* * * * *
Fast forward 13 years…a lot has happened in 13 years…Joseph uses his charm and poise and finds favour in Potiphar’s house. He’s a servant in the captain’s quarters, quickly getting promoted to chief of security. But in a stunning turn of events, the captain’s wife declares Joseph a sexual deviant and Joseph gets tossed into Pharoah’s prison.
More captivity, more dark days in isolation…but even in prison, God…
who is the real protagonist of today’s story…cannot be stopped.
And Joseph’s dream-revelation-interpretating ways cannot be stopped.
He impresses his prison mates, and rumours of his sooth-saying utterances find their way to the ear of Pharoah who’s having a string of nightmare-ish, sleepless nights.
Pharoah recognizes God’s favour is with Joseph…he frees the discerning and wise prisoner and exclaims: “God has shown him all this!” (41:39)
And incredibly…at 30 years old…Joseph is 2nd in command in all of Egypt.
It’s a rags to riches story…but that’s not all!
As famine ravages the land, Jacob’s family becomes desperate and ends up in the Pharoah’s courts, seeking to buy grain to stay alive. They grovel before Joseph, and can’t recognize him for all his king-like garb, Egyptian accent, make-up & accessories, and through a series of tests, trickery and confrontations, it’s finally revealed that Joseph is who he is…and the brothers no longer grovel…
they repent for their wicked ways…
We read in chapter 45:
“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….
….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.”
* * * * *
Fast-forward 17 more years…to the final piece of today’s reading from chapter 50.
Joseph is almost 60…Daddy Jacob, the patriarch who’s kept this dysfunctional family together for decades dies. And in the wake of Jacob’s passing, the older brothers gasp in fear…we know what we did when Daddy wasn’t looking…gulp…
“What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?”
But Joseph forgives them once more, and again, they all fall into each others’ arms and weep.
Joseph sobs in a tender voice…
“Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today.”
* * * * *
There’s a prayer, related to today’s story, that I found this week…I’d like us to reflect on and embrace it as we live into & out of today’s text…
“Though we cannot escape the inwardness of our hearts, thanks be to God,
we cannot escape the provision of God’s grace…”
Today is a day of celebration… we are embarking on another season of church together…we’re celebrating renewal…61 years for our church organ, now refurbished and ready to serve for another 50 years of music,
[did you know that we are 2/175 CBWC churches that primarily use an organ in worship?] [crazy or unique?]
Our organ is essential to our worship, and empowering our sacred songs and sacred stories…
and for FBC Edmonton, it’s part of our identity, our 123 year journey as we seek the peace and well-being of the city…
>> last week we acknowledged that we are under the same stars as Father Abraham…we are the twinkle in Father Abraham’s eye…and we continue to shine forth in darkness, following the Light of the World…
And in this week’s story, we acknowledge that we fulfill the promise of a “preserved numerous people”…
The promise is proclaimed to us: “Do not be afraid!…Even though we are in a world that is filled with dangers, toils and snares…what others (and sometimes what “we”) intend for harm, God intends it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people…and God is still doing it today.”
Will you pray the prayer with me once more?
— “Though we cannot escape the inwardness of our hearts, thanks be to God,
we cannot escape the provision of God’s grace…”
THAT – – is good news for each one of us…and that, Friends of FBC, is good news for all the world.
Fearful and wounded hearts are being comforted and healed…
And God’s grace is preserving us and propelling us forth as a people of forgiveness and reconciliation.
God of dreams and hope, work in us and through us, Amen.