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Reflecting on the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost: One Day after Sunday (Year A)
Psalter: Psalm 130
Old Testament: Genesis 43:1-34
Epistle: Acts 15:1-21
Psalter: Psalm 87
Old Testament: 2 Kings 5:1-14
Epistle: Acts 15:1-21
Eternal God, you are present with us throughout our lives, even when others plot to do us harm. May we learn to live together in unity, that in all we do, we may sing your praises now and forever. Amen. (Revised Common Lectionary)
Now the famine was severe in the land. And when they had eaten up the grain that they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go again; buy us a little more food.” But Judah said to him, “The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ If you will send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food, but if you will not send him, we will not go down, for the man said to us, ‘You shall not see my face, unless your brother is with you.’ ” Israel said, “Why did you treat me so badly as to tell the man that you had another brother?” They replied, “The man questioned us carefully about ourselves and our kindred, saying, ‘Is your father still alive? Have you another brother?’ What we told him was in answer to these questions. Could we in any way know that he would say, ‘Bring your brother down’?” Then Judah said to his father Israel, “Send the boy with me, and let us be on our way, so that we may live and not die—you and we and also our little ones. I myself will be surety for him; you can hold me accountable for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever. If we had not delayed, we would now have returned twice.”
Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry them down as a present to the man: a little balm and a little honey, gum, resin, pistachio nuts, and almonds. Take double the money with you. Carry back with you the money that was returned in the top of your sacks; perhaps it was an oversight. Take your brother also, and be on your way again to the man; may God Almighty[a] grant you mercy before the man, so that he may send back your other brother and Benjamin. As for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.” So the men took the present, and they took double the money with them, as well as Benjamin. Then they went on their way down to Egypt and stood before Joseph.
When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Bring the men into the house, and slaughter an animal and make ready, for the men are to dine with me at noon.” The man did as Joseph said and brought the men to Joseph’s house. Now the men were afraid because they were brought to Joseph’s house, and they said, “It is because of the money, replaced in our sacks the first time, that we have been brought in, so that he may have an opportunity to fall upon us, to make slaves of us and take our donkeys.” So they went up to the steward of Joseph’s house and spoke with him at the entrance to the house. They said, “Oh, my lord, we came down the first time to buy food, and when we came to the lodging place we opened our sacks, and there was each one’s money in the top of his sack, our money in full weight. So we have brought it back with us. Moreover, we have brought down with us additional money to buy food. We do not know who put our money in our sacks.” He replied, “Rest assured; do not be afraid; your God and the God of your father must have put treasure in your sacks for you; I received your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them. When the steward had brought the men into Joseph’s house and given them water, and they had washed their feet, and when he had given their donkeys fodder, they made the present ready for Joseph’s coming at noon, for they had heard that they would dine there.
When Joseph came home, they brought him the present that they had carried into the house and bowed to the ground before him. He inquired about their welfare and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” They said, “Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.” And they bowed their heads and did obeisance. Then he looked up and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, “Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? God be gracious to you, my son!” With that, Joseph hurried out, because he was overcome with affection for his brother, and he was about to weep. So he went into a private room and wept there. Then he washed his face and came out, and controlling himself he said, “Serve the meal.” They served him by himself and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians. When they were seated before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth, the men looked at one another in amazement. Portions were taken to them from Joseph’s table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. So they drank and were merry with him (Genesis 43:1-34).
There are times when I am just not sure what to do with a biblical text. I have questions that perhaps are not questions the writer intends to answer, but they are questions nonetheless. For example, I struggle to make sense of Joseph’s seemingly playing games with his family. Disguising himself waiting to reveal his identity and inviting them to a lavish dinner in which Benjamin is treated no doubt, in reminiscent fashion, for how Jacob spoiled Joseph in his youth. It now appears that favoritism is transferred to Benjamin. Apparently, Joseph wants to see if the brothers will respond in jealousy to Benjamin the way they responded to him in jealousy many years ago.
Joseph reveals his character when he doesn’t exact revenge upon his brothers. When they appear before him in Egypt, he will not only offer them hospitality but give to them extravagant generosity; but I struggle with this ruse that Joseph is playing. It feels like a bad practical joke. I know that Joseph is not joking, but what is the point?
Well, I don't know the answer to that and I will just have to allow my question to remain another unanswered question in life. The older I get, the higher the stack of unresolved questions. Nevertheless, I think it is important to realize that after many years of being separated from his family and living in Egypt, and at times reflecting upon the injustice that was done to him by his brothers, there were worse responses Joseph could have made. Yet, he follows what the Apostle Paul will instruct the Romans centuries later. “Do not repay evil for evil but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
And in this one endeavor. Joseph has got it right.
PRAYER: O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer)
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