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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, August 14, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Genesis 45:1–15

Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Send everyone away from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. 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. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “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. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. I will provide for you there—since there are five more years of famine to come—so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.’ And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father how greatly I am honored in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” 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. (NRSV)

During these days of the continuing pandemic, as I converse with older adults one repeated refrain is family relationships. Some individuals are delighted with new, sustained patterns of virtual contact. Others are anguishing at the many obstacles to staying in touch with loved ones at a distance in retirement homes and in moments of crisis.

Today’s biblical text takes us into a crisis of famine, with a distinctly dysfunctional family. Joseph and his brothers had undergone serious sibling rivalry, to the point that the brothers sold Joseph into slavery in Egypt (without parental consultation). Ironically, Joseph had flourished in exile and had become an Egyptian leader. The brothers arrive in a desperate search for food and survival, not knowing with whom they are dealing.

When Joseph can no longer contain himself, he calls for a private moment with his siblings. He then reveals himself, not with anger and threats but with tears and hugs. He testifies that all that had happened was not their malfeasance. The twists and turns of events were God’s doing, leading to this moment of reconciliation and family survival.

In our current moments of crisis and challenge, I believe our God is not only walking with us but the Holy One is at work in transformative ways, revealing new possibilities and new patterns if we are able to be open to them, if we in our lives and our life together are able to discern the leadings of God’s Spirit. For me, this repeatedly reveals the grace of adversity. Thanks be to God!

Mysterious God, whose ways are beyond my comprehension, I thank you that you continue to be at work, in my life and in our life together, in spirited moments and in our frailties and failings. Transform me, transform us, we pray, through the grace of adversity. Amen.

Written by Jeffrey Doane, Parish Associate for Older Adults

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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