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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 2, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
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Epiphany 7C February 24, 2019

Genesis 45:3-11, 15
Psalm 37:1-12, 41-42
1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50
Luke 6:27-38

Our opening reading today is an extraordinary moment in the scriptures, and I want to take a little time to think about what leads up to this moment. We all remember how we heard the story of Joseph and his brothers in Sunday School. Joseph’s father, Jacob, loved him more than any of his other sons. As we know, this is not the best parenting practice, but there it is.

Jacob made Joseph a cloak with long sleeves, that was quite fancy, and, over centuries of retelling, it became the famous coat of many colors.  Joseph also tended to have dreams, which was a bit much in the eyes of his brothers, especially since the dreams involved their having to bow down to him.

So, when Jacob sends Joseph out to see how his brothers are doing tending the sheep, they  think about killing him and finally decide to sell him to some slave traders. They take his beautiful cloak, dip it into the blood of a goat, and carry the cloak back to their father to signify that Joseph has met with a horrible fate. Jacob is  beside himself with grief.

Meanwhile, the slave traders take Joseph to Egypt and he is sold to Potiphar, the captain of the guard. Joseph is honest and intelligent, and before long, Potiphar has trained him to take over all his responsibilities. Joseph is also handsome, and Potiphar’s wife begins a determined campaign to seduce him.  Joseph resists, and she finally grabs his cloak, whereupon he runs out into the street. When Potiphar comes home, his wife tells him that Joseph has tried to seduce her.  Potiphar becomes extremely angry, and Joseph ends up in prison in the captain’s house.

Soon after, the pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker end up in prison with Joseph. Potiphar, the captain of the guard, assigns Joseph to take care of these members of the king’s court. The baker and the cupbearer ask Joseph to interpret their dreams, and Joseph ends up as the chief assistant to the pharaoh.

The pharaoh takes this extraordinary step because Joseph has interpreted pharaoh’s dream of the seven fat cows and the seven lean cows. There will be seven years of plenty and seven years of famine. During the seven years of plenty, Joseph stores the extra grain so that when the lean times arrive, there will be plenty of food.

When the time of famine comes, Joseph’s father sends his brothers to Egypt to buy grain. They meet with this great man who is their  brother and they do not recognize him, but he knows who they are. He accuses them of being spies, a crime punishable by death, but says he will let them live if they will leave one of their brothers with him and bring their youngest brother there next time they come.

Then he has his staff fill their sacks to overflowing with food, places their money on top of the sacks, and sends them home. Our scene today is the second trip of Joseph’s brothers to Egypt. The famine has continued. They have come for more food. Their brother, Simeon, who has remained with Joseph, is well, and they have kept their agreement with Joseph. They have brought their brother Benjamin. And now Joseph tells them who he is. They have wondered when the time of reckoning would come for what they did to Joseph. And now he tells them not to be distressed because they sold him into slavery. Joseph’s interpretation is that God sent him into Egypt to be able to help his family and many other people when the time of famine came.

Then he tells his brothers that their whole family will settle in the land of Goshen. They will all be together, there will be plenty of food, and all will be well. Then he kisses all  his brothers and they all cry and then they have a good talk. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be a fly on the wall for that conversation! All through his meetings with his brothers, Joseph has had to exit and go to a private room to cry his eyes out.

This story is very old, at least three thousand years old, and that makes it all the more powerful. Here is a man whose brothers sold him into slavery feeding them and the rest of his family in spite of what they did to him, and welcoming them into the land where he is essentially the king and giving them sanctuary and all that they need to survive. Joseph sees the hand of God in all the terrible things that have happened to him. Somehow he has worked through his own anger at what his brothers did to him, and he has allowed God to turn that into love. This is one of those classic stories that tell us that God can bring good out of terrible things.

That is what our Lord is talking about in our gospel for today, the continuation of the sermon on the plain. Our Lord says, “Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you.” And Joseph is doing that. He is in a position of great power; he is in charge of Egypt, one of the great powers of that time. Yet he has compassion on his brothers who were so cruel to him and he saves them and extends to them all the abundance that he enjoys in his own life.

There are so many inspiring stories from the Hebrew Scriptures that can provide much food for meditation. Would we be able to forgive our siblings for doing something like that? Would we be able to extend the kind of hospitality and help that Joseph gives his family?

Do we hold on to resentments? Do we find it difficult to forgive? Do we accept God’s forgiveness for our own failures and sins? Do we learn from difficult situations and move on?

There is a lot to think about in this story. Our collect begins, “O God, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love….” Joseph was able to receive that gift.

Gracious God, thank you for the gift of your love. Amen.

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