This morning’s Scripture from Genesis 45 is one of great wonder. Why were his brothers so dismayed to see Joseph? Verse 3 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. Joseph was sobbing while he said these things. It had been years since he had been seen by his brothers, the rascals who threw him in a pit so many years ago. What was it like for them to see him again? Were they simply “dismayed” or was it remorse? Did they feel guilty? They certainly should have. Were they frustrated as if to say, can’t we ever get rid of this guy? Don’t you wonder what gave Joseph the resolve to approach his brothers after all they had done to him?
I can tell you, I have tried to be caring and sympathetic with one vindictive family member many a time and to tell you the truth, I have given up. Not on the person, but on trying to make peace with that person. Maybe my not trying so hard is making peace with the relationship. Peaceful détente has a sacred place in our volatile world. Joseph however, is a very big man. He has found a way to accept that he was thrown in the pit and became a slave in Egypt not because of the actions of his creepy, jealous brothers, but because it was exactly where God wanted him. Because of their cruel act, God was able to position Joseph in the driver's seat of power and influence for all of Egypt, which sorely needed his leadership.
You know what really stands out for me here? If it is true, or if you believe that God did position Joseph in this way for just this kind of monumental service, God sure picked the right guy. Joseph was an amazingly patient, forgiving, loving person and I don’t know anyone who would have done as well as he did. He somehow managed to take the terrible, dangerous, heinous things his own brothers did to him and turn his life around to become the ruler of a vast, well managed nation. He made the finest, purest lemonade out of the sourest of lemons AND then, even more importantly, he gave God all the credit. What insurmountable odds have you had to overcome in your life? When and if you did overcome it, were you able to offer thanks to God and accredit God for all that happened? That’s what Joseph did. That’s the kind of guy he was.
Interestingly, turning to the scripture from Matthew today we find that Jesus, was not such a saint in this Gospel, at least not at first in this instance. Jesus was confronted by a Canaanite woman, someone outside of his immediate culture, to aid her possessed child saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” According to the scripture text, Jesus did NOT jump at that opportunity. He actually said, because she was not of his faith tribe that he would not help her out, citing this; Verse 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Wow, Jesus, that’s pretty darn exclusive don’t you think? He was only sent to help the Jews? He was limiting his ministry to only people like him? Is that the way we think of Jesus? His cryptic answer “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs” was meant to be the final word and to put the woman’s pleas to rest. But she, in her desperate love to save her daughter was able to reach deeper into his understanding saying in verse 27 “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table” By way of her quick response, turning the tables on his metaphor, Jesus came to grips with his own short sightedness. Her faith in Jesus and his ability to heal not only her daughter but all old wounds between enemies of the past, Jew and Gentile alike, aroused in him the power to overcome his own prejudices. Through the faith and love of someone clearly outside his own scope of understanding, Jesus was able to tap into the very deepest core of God’s love for all. That, people, is reconciliation which is at the very core of our faith.
Rest assured, Christians did not invent reconciliation and the resulting restoration of hearts and souls. How arrogant to think that would be the case! Our beloved Jesus had to be swayed in his thinking, had to be won over by a so-called “foreigner” in order to tap into his own divine power. Likewise, in the Old Testament, Joseph had to turn his will and resentment over to the overwhelming experience of love, which is what God is – love, in order to reconcile with his brothers and therefore restore and replenish Egypt.
So, let me ask – what do you do when you find yourself in a relationship that cannot be reconciled and/or restored? Seriously, what do you do? I do NOT have all the answers for this one, believe me. We are living through a period of revitalized Anti-Semitism and Racism, that is clear. Reading about Charlottesville and other Nationalists uprisings, no matter where the conversation starts off, it ends up by smearing Jews and Black people. These are the two most hated groups, Blacks and Jews. What are we to make of this kind of blind hatred of a vast population? More importantly, what are we willing to do about it?
My experience tells me that most of us have a hard time not so much with the concept of reconciliation but rather the action and implementation of it. It has been a very stressful week, filled with hate. In light of the vituperative language and physical violence that has occurred recently, I found a Community Resource Guide which may be of help to you in how to cope with the situation we find our country in. I received this from one of the best watchdog groups that I know of, the Southern Poverty Law Center and it is entitled “10 Ways To Fight Hate.” SPLC is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society (Click Here to View the Complete Guide). In this Community Resource Guide, SPLC lays out 10 simple actions anyone can do to help in the struggle against hate. I would like to introduce those to you today.
1. ACT – Do something in the face of hatred, apathy will be interpreted as acceptance. If we don’t take action, hate persists.
2. JOIN FORCES – Reach out to allies & gather a diverse coalition getting ideas from everyone. (Like Jesus did in the Gospel today.)
3. SUPPORT THE VICTIMS – who are especially vulnerable. If you are a victim of a hate crime, report every detail of it while asking for help. Surround other victims with comfort and protection.
4. SPEAK UP – Expose and denounce hate but don’t debate hate group members in a conflict situation. Speak up in ways that deflect away from hate.
5. EDUCATE YOURSELF – Determine if a hate group is involved & research it. Learn to understand the difference between a hate crime & a bias incident.
A hate crime must meet two criteria:
A crime must happen, such as physical assault, intimidation, arson, or vandalism; and the crime must be motivated, in whole or in part, by bias. The list of biases included in state or federal hate crime statutes varies. Most include race, ethnicity, and religion. Some also include sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and/or disability. As you respond to a hate crime, check specific statutes in your area, then consider working to add missing categories, to protect vulnerable community members. A bias incident is conduct, speech, or expression that is motivated by bias or prejudice but doesn’t involve a criminal act.
6. CREATE AN ALTERNATIVE – Hold a unity rally of your own rather than attend a hate rally. A unity rally or parade will draw attention AWAY from hate.
7. PRESSURE LEADERS – elected leaders can be allies but some must overcome reluctance or their own biases before they are able to take a stand.
8. STAY ENGAGED – Promote acceptance BEFORE another hate crime occurs. Expand your comfort zone reaching out to people outside our church walls.
9. TEACH ACCEPTANCE – Bias is learned early at home. Suggest a group here at GPC host a diversity and inclusion day. Reach out to young people who may be susceptible to propaganda and prejudice by hate groups.
10. DIG DEEPER – Go ahead and look deep down inside of yourself more than others for biases and stereotypes. Disrupt hate and intolerance in yourself, at home, school, church and at work. Remind yourself often it begins with me, rather than pointing a finger at someone else.
Let us pray:
Go out into the world in peace.
Hold onto what is good.
Return no one evil for evil.
Strengthen the faint-hearted.
Support the weak.
Help the suffering.
Honor all persons.
Honor all creation.
Love and serve the Lord,
rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.
And may the love of God,
the Light of Christ,
and the power and communion of that Spirit
be with us all.
Go in peace.