“Mercy, Mercy, Mercy or The Privilege of Freedom”

Sermon – 02-24-19 – Epiphany VII – Cycle C
Scriptures: Genesis 45: 3-11, 15; Psalm:37; I Corinthians 15:35-50; Luke 6:27-38
Sermon Title: “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy or The Privilege of Freedom”

Of course, you saw the cover of our bulletin! “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” By Lewis B. Smedes

Do you know the feeling of this chunk of something in your chest where your lungs are supposed to be? Do you remember how your mind is filled with a kernel of anger surrounded by pieces of corn cob? Where did that image come from? Maybe you are sitting here at this very moment with those feelings comsuming you. Is there a smidgeon of guilt trying to hide by clinging to the anger?

Think Joseph. His brothers have first thrown him into a deep pit. One of the brothers has more kindness sitting in his heart and he does not want to know what a large chunk of guilt would feel like. So this brother proposes that instead of leaving Joseph in the pit to die, they could sell him into slavery because just by chance a caravan is coming past heading for Egypt. Aha! They will be rid of Joseph without killing him.

Problem #1: They need to explain to the Father Jacob why Joseph is not with them at the end of the day. Another aha!

Why do the 10 brothers want to get rid of Joseph? You probably know. This is the Joseph with the coat of many colors. Actually, I don’t blame the brothers. This Joseph was the favorite son of Jacob because Jacob loved Joseph’s mother and he did not love the older 10 brother’s mother but he had been tricked into marrying her by her father. Jacob does not hide his favoritism for Joseph and also for little Benjamin, youngest son – same mother as Joseph.

If you were one of the older ten brothers, would you not also have feelings of anger because this Joseph flaunts the special gifts Jacob gives to him?

Well, fast forward. Joseph landed in Egypt, a slave. But the location is in the king’s compound. He is evidently on the handsome side and the king’s wife takes a liking to him which he does not reciprocate. But she tricks him and it is believed that Joseph is compromised and lands in jail.

From birth, God seems to have given Joseph the ability to interpret dreams. In fact, it was one such interpretation that was the last straw with the 10 brothers that fateful day when they sold Joseph. Joseph starts interpreting dreams of the other prisoners in the jail.

The king has a dream. He does not know what it means. Word about Joseph’s ability reaches the king’s ears. He sends for Joseph. Joseph interprets the dream. There will be seven years of good harvest and then seven years of drought. Because Joseph also offers a plan for Egypt’s survival, the King makes Joseph Governor, second in command only to the king. Joseph’s plan produces enough extra grain that Egypt can invite other countries to come to them for grain.

You may know the story or you may be guessing the next scenario. Yes, Jacob in the Holy Land, sends his sons to Egypt to get grain so they can survive. Oh, you guessed it. When the ten brothers come, Joseph recognizes them but they do not recognize him. Fun time!

Instead of getting even with them, Joseph has nothing but forgiveness in his heart. He wants them to bring Jacob and 12th son Benjamin to Egypt where they will have sustenance to live for the five years of drought yet to come since this is the second year of drought. They resist this idea, gracious as it is.

But Joseph tricks them into coming again by leaving the money they paid for the grain in their sacks. When they arrive home, there is this money. So a second trip seems in the works. Will Jacob leave Benjamin go with them? No. No. So Jacob and Benjamin make the l-o-n-g trek to Egypt. This is how the Israelites come to be in Egypt. They multiply while there and eventually they are so numerous that the current Pharoah, or King, and these Israelites cannot co-exist and Moses is called by God to lead this large civilization from Egypt, through the Red Sea, into the 40 years of wandering which then ends in the Israelites entering the Promised Land.

All of his religious history because Joseph forgives his brothers!

How does forgiveness work in our lives? For starters, forgiveness takes away the large chunk in my chest if I need to get rid of anger and revenge. Looking at the situation from a totally different angle – the other person’s perception – does start this change in motion. Thinking how I am going to deal with relationship if I don’t get rid of the anger is another step. So what if I am right and the other person is wrong? So how is that going to bring the estrangement around? In any kind of conflict, small or large, everyone has to come out of it a winner in some way! Think about it. Maybe you already know this and are far ahead of me. Wonderful! You are a leader in the movement toward peace.

How do we carry this idea of “everybody needs to come out of a situation a winner” to the world of race, to the world of war, to the world of outsiders moving into our community, to the world of how do we love? When does every person in the world get to feel the freedom God intended? When does each person get to fly from the cage into the blessed state of being the person God created that person to be?

We shall commit our way to God; we shall put our trust in God, and see what God will do!
We shall commit our way to God; we shall put our trust in God, and see what God will do!

Amen

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