Lectionary 24/13th Sunday After Pentecost- Sermon
9/11/11- Year A
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Evil. Dastardly. Sinister. Conniving. Ruthless. Wicked. The darkness of revenge and jealous of anger and hate, prompted those 10 men to commit an unspeakable and unthinkable act. They plotted together, waiting for just the right moment of attack. To surprise their well known victim with assault and treachery of the cruelest sort. Thought it was already 40 years after his brother’s crimes against him, surely the pain and tragedy was still close to Joseph’s heart. The beat him. They threw him into a hole, to be left to rot and die. If the oldest Reuben hadn’t piped up, he would have died in that hole. Instead they sold him to slave runners on their way to Egypt. He was bitterly torn away from his father and his mother, at the hands of his own flesh and blood. A no doubt terror-full, terror-filled experience for the youngest, the 17 year old Joseph.
Now was the moment of revenge. Now was the moment to strike. Now was the opportunity to inflict his wrath upon his brothers. Having buried his father, any last promises of safety he had given to his father were now expired. He was the number two man in all of Egypt and none could stand in the way of his revenge. Even his brothers know this, that’s why they come to him pleading with some made up story. “Your father gave this command before he died…” No he didn’t. There is no record of this in all of the 23 chapters that Joseph’s tale is recounted in. His father likely didn’t tell his brothers that. But they come in their fear, finding any way any way, even the memory of their now departed father to coax a little bit of mercy out of Joseph. They do it so they don’t meet the just and rightful wrath of their brother.
And kneeling there at the feet of Joseph there is no doubt in my mind that both Joseph and his brothers there minds drift back to the event that sparked it all. The dream. Just to refresh our memories...Genesis 37:6-8, “Joseph said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.” The forty year old dream. The forty year old terror. Together at a head.
Seeing them again at that moment the Holy Scriptures record the pain of the experience in a simple way, “Joseph wept. (2x).” Even though his brothers rightly deserved wrath, his hand could not strike. Revenge was not to be, because Joseph knew and saw in his own life the truth that he told his brothers, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” A wisdom that only 40 years of living could comprehend. Though the darkness surrounded Joseph, out of it God brought life, life to the Egyptians, life to his father and mother during the famine, and now a life of peace and forgiveness to his brothers.
I think it is by no small miracle that today, on the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 that we are confronted with this text from Genesis, Joseph forgiving his brothers. His words strike a two-note chord which should be the focus of our reflection on the past decade. The first: “As for you, you (Al Qaeda) you meant evil against us, but God meant it for good.” What good has God brought forth from such devastating tragedy? Are we better people today than we were on 9/10? Has our focus been brought back to the fundamentals of life, God and Family? How has God touched your life since then? How has he revealed himself to you? Healed you? Comforted you? And sustained you since that Tuesday morning? And the Second: Are we at peace enough with souls that we can forgive, (not forget, not excuse, not deal out just punishment) but forgive, be at peace, and show the mercy of God, because God has shown us his mercy.
And if any of you are getting nervous, there are no right answers to these questions. They are meant to help us reflect on the present reality of past tragedy. Some of them cannot be answered, not now. It’s much too soon only a life time worth of seeing God active can answer them. Perhaps, like Joseph...in 40 years.
But it is this my brothers and sisters in Christ why you and I continue week in and week out to come to this house of our Lord and hear his word and to receive His gifts given in the holy sacraments. It is to help us see all that God has done for us in spite of our wicked intents or the wicked intents of others. To hold in our hands the very forgiveness of our sins in the body and blood of the man who died upon the cross to save us all. To as the psalmist declares, “Taste and See that the Lord is good, indeed!” Knowing that, “Blessed is the Man who takes refuge in Him.” (Ps. 34:8). Here our God and Lord reveals to us His mercy, here He shows us that even from evil He will bring good, for our good. He is active and alive and showers you and I with his mercy.
It is this very fact that excites us about Rally Day and beginning the new year of Christian Education. For in our classrooms and studies God shows us His work for us in the Holy Scriptures and the faith encounters of fellow brothers and sisters. Here our youth learn to trust in God and to know and love His Son, who is the strength of the weak and the mighty Lord of all. God is with you in this year’s adventures and here you will come to trust in Him and be loved by Him. Therefore let us all recommit ourselves to being grounded in Christ and the cross, embraced by His suffering so that when anything befall us we may not waiver, in faith or in strength. So that we may stand in the righteousness of God, knowing and trusting in all that He has done for us and if we are called upon to give life to others; to give mercy and forgiveness to others, just like our forefather Joseph.