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Trinity XI

Let us pray.

ALMIGHTY God, who hast poured upon us the new light of thine incarnate Word; Grant that the same light enkindled in our hearts may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Good morning,

As I considered the readings for this week, I was again surrounded by the sounds, the noises and texture of life with my children back at home from camp.

That return from summer camp was a long one, taking several leisurely hours of driving in two cars from that remote corner of Massachusetts, through the intense green of Vermont back to our little part of New Hampshire.

The return was not only physical, though. As many who have been away from home for any length of time will confess, there is a time of disorientation, of realigning oneself to the realities of being home again. It isn’t always easy to return, as the sons of Israel were about to learn.

At the start of chapter 43 of Genesis, we read that the famine had continued. Israel is asking his sons to return to Egypt, in order to get more food for them. His son Judah notes that the official in Egypt (actually, unbeknownst to them, their brother Joseph) gave them specific instructions to fulfill with their return, which included bringing the youngest brother, Benjamin, with them.

Israel is totally against this, since he is convinced he will lose Benjamin as he lost Joseph.

After some debate, Israel is convinced to send Benjamin. He also suggests sending along twice the amount of money they had originally traveled with, as well as delicacies from Canaan. But why the extra items?

They were scared.

They had an Egyptian official who, somehow, knew the details of their family quite well. Since they were not sure who this man was, they wanted to curry his favor, in order to cover all possibilities of debate and not being able to return with everyone , keeping in mind, Simeon, who was imprisoned there already, and Benjamin, who was singled out as missing by this mysterious official.

However, Israel is still not consoled – He is still despondent and concerned that he may lose even more sons. He allows them to go, but is worried he may not see Benjamin, in particular, again.

In considering the readings for this week, I was also dealing with returning - I kept returning to this particular series of verses. It’s a complicated, but compelling reading, one with lots of background story.

One question that stands out - Joseph did not let them know who he was, and had his family go through all these trials and struggles – But why?

We all read chapters 42-45 with that question nagging at us and that’s what hit me when reading – what was his reason for not telling them who he was?

In our modern era, many would want to ‘get back’ at the brothers that had sent us away, to avenge our pains and trials on their heads. We replay these difficult events over and over in our heads and want to make them pay.

Joseph, being only human, must have done just that, but he had a long time to sit and think, to sit and pray, as he worked as a slave, then during his time in prison. In his conversations with God, his heart was turned away from revenge.

And Joseph was faithful – he knew of God’s provision, how he had provided him with the ability to translate dreams, and of God’s plans for his family. By that faith, Joseph turned away from his revenge and gave his brothers grace.

When he saw them, Joseph himself then returned – to the ‘scene of the crime’.

In his mind, he was young again, and reliving the events that had put him in Egypt to begin with. That return was hard – the raw emotions, the sense of separation from his father, his little brother – he went back reluctantly, once he recognized his brothers.

Then, once there surrounded by those horrible memories of what they had done, he needed to see where his brothers’ hearts were.

What he found was that they were sorry for what they had put their father through when they had made Joseph disappear so long ago. He heard the great lengths they would go to in order to avoid making Israel suffer again.

From their words and actions, Joseph saw how they had changed, and that they valued their father and each other more than when he had been removed from their lives.

From the vantage point of time, he saw the visions of his dreams come to pass. This time, he did not need to boast of them, but I’d imagine he marveled at how they did come true.

Returning can have unexpected results – some good, some not so good.

For my family:

The good: My kids came home to cleaner rooms and less ‘stuff’ – no doubt they will replace it soon enough, but for now, there’s a bit more space.

The not so good: The noise level has returned to its normal ‘dull roar interrupted by shouts’

In Joseph’s case:

The good: the chance to be reconciled to his family after all this time, to his brothers and his beloved father.

The not-so-good: the return to emotional turmoil, having to relive those difficult times, and having to test his brothers’ hearts.

The life of Joseph is many times seen as an allegory to the life of Jesus. That means that his life and the events therein sometimes parallel the life and lessons of the Lord.

I would leave you with two points to that effect.

  • They were both faithful.

They looked to God and they did not waver in their commitment to what God asked them to do. Each was given a difficult path, but remained true.

Jesus’ brothers, his people, like Joseph’s, cast him away and made him suffer.

Both showed grace when they, frankly, would have been justified to not do so.

 

  • Next, consider what Joseph said to his brothers in Genesis 50:20:

But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”

If you consider this scripture, Jesus Himself could have said this. The evil, the torture that they both endured was to be borne to make others safe.

When we return from wherever we go, to camp, to school, to work, wherever, we need to consider that we come back to a lot of different events and experiences, some good and some we’d frankly rather avoid. Handling these things gracefully, well, we pray for that outcome.

As with the example of Joseph, and finally, with the blessed life of Jesus, we are reminded that if we trust God and really follow where he leads our hearts, we can finally expect a happy return home.

Let us pray.

Lord Christ, we return to many places in our lives. Please give us the grace when we do so to bless those we return to, to the Glory of your Name.

 

Charlie Niemi

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