Our journey through Genesis continues. Origin stories continue. How we become who we become are wrapped into these stories. These stories are our stories. We are at once the willing Abrams and Saris who will go wherever God sends us as well as the brothers of Joseph’s annoyed at his self-righteousness. These are our stories and today, we continue telling our stories.
Did you know there was tennis in the Bible? Joseph served Pharaoh’s court. (That one is courtesy of my neurologist)
Flash forward from Jacob and Esau who we left last week burying their father and hopefully some of their painful distrust of one another to Jacob’s youngest son. Jacob’s son, you know the best – the youngest son – Joseph.
Joseph got his own musical in our popular culture, perhaps, you remember it with Donny Osmond? Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. With creative license, it is the telling of Genesis 37-50. Complete with intrigue, selling off to Ishmaelites, regret, and sexual tension, adventure, and begging, the full story of Joseph unfolds before your eyes in these chapters of Genesis.
Today, we focus in past Joseph being sold by his brothers and past this boss’s wife trying to seduce him. We move past his time in prison to his skillful rise with the integrity and gifts that God has given him in interpreting dreams and living a life of integrity.
Joseph found himself in prison falsely accused of seducing his boss’s wife. He has no recourse, only time on his hands. He could have responded with anger and revenge. Instead, Joseph embraced the opportunities before him. When the cupbearer and the baker came to him with dreamers, he listened and shared the interpretations earnestly. With integrity, he did not sugarcoat the hard answers, nor over glorify the easy ones.
Integrity allowed Joseph to live each and every day in the moment satisfied about each encounter. When the baker and the cupbearer shared their dreams with Joseph, he interpreted them fully and with honesty. He approached the challenge with openness to what God would provide for him. Both officials were imprisoned for some reason or another. The previous chapter merely states that Pharaohs was angry with them. This does not sound like just punishment. However, cupbearer and baker in prison and concerned about what comes next when they both receive dreams.
Now, it is good of us to remember that God moves in dreams. God speaks in dreams. God who does not abandon us – speaks in dreams. Abraham, Job, Jacob, Moses, Gideon, Samuel, Daniel, Magi, Paul, Ananias, Joseph (husband of Mary), Pilate’s wife. To name a few. Join Pharaoh, the cupbearer, and the baker in dreaming. God also supplies the interpreter in dreams. Here are Joseph’s skills and gifts for just a time like time.
With each dream, Joseph is not confident to be a freelancer, reading the tea leaves on his own and giving the answers that he thinks – No! Joseph points to God. When Pharaoh asks for the interpretation, Joseph knows that he is the vessel and that God works through him. He directs Pharaoh and listens to God, even as the dream and the interpretation comes from God.
Joseph, who has been the dreamer as a boy, understands the importance of dreams. It was Joseph who dreamt of the stars that would bow down him. And then the sheaves of wheat would bow before him. He knew from dreams of his rise to power. God spoke to him in dreams, just as God was now speaking to the cupbearer, the baker, and the Pharaoh about what was to come. Remember that Joseph sharing his dreams was the catalyst for his brother’s anger.
Pain, resentment, anger, disappointment, false allegations, loss of a dream, grief, betrayal can lead us to become hardened. We can quickly become those who would rather name enemies than redeem others as friends. For everyone who has every struggled with chronic pain, you understand the uphill battle it is to see hope and offer kindness in the most of basic of encounters. The compounding of resentment and anger lead us places where it is easier to give in, than to the seemingly impossible work that Luke’s gospel proclaims, and Joseph’s life declares.
We would not have known Joseph’s story if he would have chosen the path of least resistance, and given in. What makes Joseph a patriarch of the faith is not perfection – it is integrity. Rising Star often means doing anything to achieve the ends. Joseph reminds us that with God. The way with do it – our integrity matters as much as how we do it.
Living a life of faith is specific and repetitive. It is choosing and again and again to live integrity over giving into the easier ways. Do good to those who speak ill of you. The boss who irritates you. The employee who pushes your buttons. The neighbor who drives you crazy. Your spouse who you are not sure how you will take it anymore. Do good. Choose good. This is radical and counterintuitive.
Be compassionate to those who take advantage of you. Do not stop offer generosity because someone is taking advantage of you. Your integrity is more than their response.
Joseph was afforded the opportunity to speak hope into the future of Egypt. His integrity, his skills, his commitment to living a life of faith paid off and through which he ultimately saves the people of Egypt from starvation, re-unites with his family, and gets to share God’s way in a foreign land. That rewards for living with consistent integrity – living godly in the world – are huge!
How about for you? What does this mean for you? As you struggle day by day with a spouse who has lost sight of the importance of centering their life in faith. As you worry night after night about the boss who demands unreasonable expectations of you. As you watch your neighbors throw their lives away in wasteful living. How do you keep living in integrity? What are you being called to do- you dreamer?
Do what Joseph the Rising Star did:
1. Call on God
Each and every time, ask God to direct you. Let God’s words and ways be yours.
2. Hang onto your integrity with a tight grip
Be Godly and upstanding. Do not let your anger and exhaustion, your frustration and confusion, the situation and circumstances wear you out in God’s ways.
3. Speak boldly of God’s Way
Joseph told Pharaoh not only of plenty, but of famine. He spoke with truth and honesty in bold ways. Boldness was ultimately the balm needed. We, too must be bold to remain godly.
This is the Gospel of the Jesus.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
Old Testament Lesson: Genesis 41: 15-40
And Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.’ Joseph answered Pharaoh, ‘It is not I; God will give Pharaoh a favourable answer.’ Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘In my dream I was standing on the banks of the Nile; and seven cows, fat and sleek, came up out of the Nile and fed in the reed grass. Then seven other cows came up after them, poor, very ugly, and thin. Never had I seen such ugly ones in all the land of Egypt. The thin and ugly cows ate up the first seven fat cows, but when they had eaten them no one would have known that they had done so, for they were still as ugly as before. Then I awoke. I fell asleep a second time and I saw in my dream seven ears of grain, full and good, growing on one stalk, and seven ears, withered, thin, and blighted by the east wind, sprouting after them; and the thin ears swallowed up the seven good ears. But when I told it to the magicians, there was no one who could explain it to me.’ Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, ‘Pharaoh’s dreams are one and the same; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one. The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, as are the seven empty ears blighted by the east wind. They are seven years of famine. It is as I told Pharaoh; God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do. There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt. After them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt; the famine will consume the land. The plenty will no longer be known in the land because of the famine that will follow, for it will be very grievous. And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about. Now therefore let Pharaoh select a man who is discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land, and take one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plenteous years. Let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and lay up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to befall the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.’ The proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants. Pharaoh said to his servants, ‘Can we find anyone else like this—one in whom is the spirit of God?’ So Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has shown you all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command; only with regard to the throne will I be greater than you.’
Gospel Lesson: Luke 6: 27-38
‘But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.’
‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.’
Meditations: November 12-November18
Sunday: “Joseph answered Pharaoh, ‘It is not I; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.’” Genesis 41: 16. God works through us as God worked through Jospeh. Open yourself to how God will move through you.
Monday: “Pharaoh said to his servants, ‘Can we find anyone else like this—one in whom is the spirit of God?’” Genesis 41: 38. Even those, who do not know God, seek out those who know the spirit of God. Open yourself to where you might show the spirit of God to others.
Tuesday: “So Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has shown you all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command; only with regard to the throne will I be greater than you.” Genesis 41:39-40. Following the way of God is seen even by those who do not know God. Stay committed to the way of God.
Wednesday: ‘But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” Luke 6: 27. Who should you pray for today? Who should you bless today? Who should you do good to today?
Thursday: ‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.” Luke 6: 32. God’s love is not just for those you cherish. Where can you share God’s love with someone you do not cherish?
Friday: “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.” Luke 6: 35. Jesus has a lot to say about those we do not like. Jesus calls us to step outside of our comfort zone and into awkward spaces of love and good.
Saturday: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6: 36. Mercy is how you treat those who deserve something different. Mercy is kindness when someone should been treated with anger. Prayerfully ask God to show you how to show mercy.