Sermon Epiphany 7 Joseph and His Brothers

 

I promise you that there is a good sermon in this church this morning.  And, it’s not mine! We just heard.  Our teacher, our rabbi, our master, our Lord gave a sermon.  And I don’t have much else to add. You can’t out preach Jesus.  The sermon is written in Luke’s Gospel. It would do us all well, Christians and non-Christians to take to heart.  It’s called the sermon on the plain.  I saw Pastor Mona walking around over there, going down to the plain, the plain, she was on point with that y’all, Amen! The plain. Hallelujah!

 

Jesus’ sermon is about the reverse of the present evils of the world.  Blessed are you who are poor and hungry.  Another way of saying blessed is Holy.  Jesus was calling holiness on his congregation that day.  Calling down hope and power while acknowledging the very persistence and perniciousness of poverty in their lives. 

 

You see, the very idea of the poor and sick being blessed, being made holy, was the opposite of what everyone thought.  It was widely believed that people were punished with poverty because of bad behavior.  This is not blessed because you are poor or hungry but blessed because you have God’s favor and God will not let injustice stand. There is no divine plan for us to be hungry or poor or suffering- Jesus turns that upside down and says “no”, in fact, it’s the opposite of that. God does not do bad.  People do bad and God brings good out of it.

 

Which leads us to Genesis - You may or may not recall, there have been some goings on among the Bar Jacob boys.  This ended up with them selling their well-dressed brother Joseph into slavery.  There was some debate about whether to kill him or not, but greed won the day.

 

Now there has been a reversal - an undoing. Joseph is in a position of authority.  And his brothers need him.  They are shocked about the situation.  And he tells them to not be grieved because of their choices.  I’m not sure if they were grieved because they had done wrong or grieved because they did not kill him and now, they may have to face his wrath.  “It is I, Joseph, your brother.” He reestablishes the relationship.  The aggrieved one does not seek vengeance but reconciliation.

 

Let there be an understanding, the Black Lives Matter and other justice organizations are not seeking vengeance but reconciliation.  We need to put a stop to this false witness that minorities in this country hate white people.  It’s ludicrous.  The aggrieved, in Joseph fashion, are calling out for a relationship.

 

This story weaves and winds over a number of
years- It’s the real housewives of Nile Delta.  Over in
Chapter 50 is another scene of Joseph and the
brothers. This time their father has died, and the
brothers are scared Joseph will now turn on them
and exact revenge because the father is not around
anymore.  Joseph has a conference with them on
that matter.  Joseph tells them not to be afraid.  And
then some of the most beautiful and powerful
words in the Hebrew scripture.  What you intended
for evil, God intends for good.  Please remember
that. Turning things around.  Bringing blessings
when others meant curses.  Bring life and freedom
when they intended death and slavery.  God brings
good out of bad.  Amen?

 

This demonstrates to
us in no uncertain terms—God intends good for us.  God does not strike people down with disaster but will take disaster and bring out some good.

 

There is no way to prove this theory but here is an opinion.  The AIDS crisis was a disaster of epic proportion.  In the beginning many opportunities were lost and squandered to put an end to it or at least to mitigate the suffering.  The prejudice of the Reagan administration and the prejudice and fear from politicians on both sides thwarted public health protocols.  Some of our fundamentalist brothers and sisters made the matter worse by stigmatizing the sick and claiming that it was God’s judgment.

 

Instead, what happened? There came a realization that the predominantly gay victims were members of our families.  As one youth explained the situation at the last Synod high school retreat - suddenly everyone had a gay cousin.  I believe this increased awareness brought about sweeping changes in our culture and in our church.  Sweeping changes for a more inclusive fellowship and a hunger to right the wrong.  God took a curse and turned it into a blessing.  What prejudice means for evil, God intends for good. This story repeats itself time and time again.

 

Perhaps you are going through a bad time, even a very bad time today. Maybe you feel cursed.  Blessed are you.  Good will bring something good out of the bad.  It is the invitation, and it is the hope, and it is the promise of the sermon on the plain.

 

We have all been through a bad time.  This pandemic has been a never-ending nightmare.  Lies and disinformation have made a bad situation worse and longer lasting.  God will make something good come out of this.  God did not will the last few years on us, but God will bring a change.  

 

The increase in recording of violence against black people by our judicial system is becoming a blessing of awareness and hopefully soon one of change. Violence is not a curse from God but from the evil of humans and it is a curse that will be used by God to create a better society. 

 

God has not cursed us.  We are blessed, made holy, loved, and called to bring blessings to the world.  Thank you, Jesus, for a really good sermon. Amen.