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Genesis 43The Second Journey

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Bacchiacca: Joseph receives his brothers

Just when we think we have reached a plateau in our journey where we might walk along the flatland rather than clamber up and skitter down the mountain sides . . . we find that we have to go back to repeat a leg of our passage.  Just when we have begun to relax at the oasis where we have filled our water sacks and rested in the shade from the heat of the day . . . we are told that we must move on.  Just when we are beginning to become comfortable in the little fortress where we are hiding from our foes . . . we hear the voice that calls us to make a second journey.

Today we find ourselves in the Joseph story at the point where the brothers have returned home to Jacob to tell him that they must go back to Egypt . . . and this time they must take the favored son Benjamin with them.  Just when Jacob thought his problem of famine had been resolved . . . he is told that he must relinquish the last person who brings him comfort.  Despite his age and the litany of difficulties he has undergone, Jacob must trust God and allow himself to suffer again.  The brothers who had sold Joseph into slavery know that they must make a return trip to Egypt.  Little do they know that well-hidden secrets are about to be revealed, questions will be asked and answered, truths will be spoken.  They plan to go to Egypt to purchase food for their families.  They do not plan to encounter the brother they have delivered to slavery and death.  They do not know they are about to make a further journey.  We do not hear from Benjamin, the young boy whose full brother wields power second only to Pharaoh, but we can imagine that he feels both anxiety and excitement.  Everyone in this story will suffer.  Everyone in this story will be rewarded beyond their wildest imaginings.

I am reading a book by Richard Rohr which a friend gave to me.  In FALLING UPWARD, Rohr posits that in life each of us is given the gift of a second or further journey. “[I]n my opinion, this first-half of life task is no more than finding the starting gate.  It is merely the warm-up act, not the full journey.  It is the raft but not the shore . . . There is much evidence on several levels that there are at least two major tasks to human life.  The first task is to build a strong ‘container’ or identity; the second is to find the contents that the container was meant to hold.  The first task we take for granted as the very purpose of life, which does not mean that we do it well.  The second task, I am told, is more encountered than sought; few arrive at it with much preplanning, purpose, or passion”.   (Rohr viii and xiii)

Rohr cites W. H. Auden:  We would rather be ruined than changed.  We would rather die in our dread than climb the cross of the present and let our illusions die.  (Rohr 65)  And on page 73 we find this from Matthew 16:25-26: Anyone who wants to save his life must lose it.  Anyone who loses her life will find it.  What gain is there if you win the whole world and lose your very self?  What can you offer in exchange for your one life?”

Jacob believed that his sons were going to Egypt to purchase food that would save the family.  He did not know that his lost son Joseph would be their savior.  Joseph’s brothers thought they were purchasing food to save their lives . . . they did not know that they would also redeem their souls.

Just when we believe that we have convinced everyone of the reality of our illusions . . . we are given the opportunity to leave our comfort zone and enter the second half of our lives.  We are blessed with the gift of seeing clearly that we are created to love honestly and suffer well.  We are created to take the second journey of our lives . . . the journey that promises far more than suffering . . . the further journey that brings us more reward than we can ever imagine.


Rohr, Richard. FALLING UPWARD: A SPIRITUALITY FOR THE TWO HALVES OF LIFE. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011. Print.

The painting above is housed at the UK National Gallery.  To see more detail, click on the image and follow the link.  A spy glass on the museum site will allow you to see detail by zeroing in.   You will also find a link to other scenes from the life of Joseph which may interest you. 

A re-post from August 16, 2011.

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Hebrews 12:14-17Peace and Holiness

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Hendrick ter Brugghen: Esau Selling his Birthright

Hendrick ter Brugghen: Esau Selling his Birthright

As we continue to consider the quality of peace in our lives, we reflect on this Favorite written on August 23, 2007. How do we find peace in our families? How do peace and holiness abide in times of deception and deceit? 

Strive for peace and holiness by avoiding bitterness, and by seeking reconciliation and unity through repentance and reparation.  Seeking blessing through tears does not work unless it is accompanied by true repentance and a true desire for intimacy and union.  The example of Esau is clear.  He deserved his inheritance yet he was cheated out of it by his own mother and brother.  We go back to rethink the story and we find something new.

In a homily more than a year ago, the homilist pointed out the following in regards to the stealing of Esau’s birthright by his brother Jacob: When we look at Jacob’s life, we see that he manipulated God’s plan in order to receive something which he thought he deserved.  He angled for his brother’s inheritance by clear and overt deception and betrayal. Yet in the end, his life was one of a series of losses of family members and of separation from loved ones.  The homilist pointed out that no matter how we try, we humans cannot out-maneuver God.

We reflect on how Esau was so often absent from the family, doing what he pleased while hunting and fishing.  He was a member of his family but had moved himself away from the intimacy of the precious circle of love.  Perhaps if he had been more engaged, more interactive, more truly present, less passive resistant or even passive aggressive, his brother would not have thought it possible to steal an inheritance.  Esau neglected something important that had been given to him: the gifts of his intimate family members.  He was cavalier in his attitude about them and in Chapter 25 of Genesis he sells his right for a single bowl of stew.  Later when he cries, he does not repent.  So Esau goes off to join the Ishmaelites and to begin his own tribe which thrives in opposition to the tribes of his brother Jacob.

And so as we reflect, we pray.

God in Heaven, keep us from neglecting those whom we love so dearly.  Do not let us stray so far that my loved ones believe me gone.  For those whom we love who stand away from us, let us always be open to the newness of the Spirit, always present to the impossible possibility that a new beginning is waiting to bloom.  For those to whom we have an aversion, for those we hold at arm’s length, keep us aware that you work wonders – even in the lives and plans of those who mean to do harm.  Keep us prudent but open to the possibility that hearts may be softened, walls taken down.  Keep us from being part of the wall.  Allow us to trust you to be our shield and protection.  Keep us holy and in peace.  We pray this in Jesus’ name as we abide with you in the same Spirit who guided Jacob and Esau. 

Amen.

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Genesis 46:1-4Migration – Part IPyramids

Monday, July 25, 2016

I am thinking about how I typically react when God asks me to migrate.  Not in the physical sense – for I have lived and worked and worshiped in the same places my entire life.  I am thinking about the so many times I have been asked to migrate in or out of a relationship, to or away from a task, toward or away from a habit.  Usually my reaction is doubt . . . doubt that I have not heard the inner voice well.  Doubt may be a sign of prudence and healthy caution.  Doubt can also be a sign of recalcitrance, stubbornness, or a lack of faith.

I am reading today’s selection and I am reflecting on the fact that so many times in scripture we hear the Father who created us or the Son who redeemed us whisper to us: Fear not, for I am with you.  I will be with you until the end of the age.  Chapter 43 of Isaiah begins with the beautiful idea that no matter  our circumstances, God will continue to remind us that we redeemed, loved, and each named by God . . . and and called by that name.

Our days are full of activity and noise, but we might continue to think about this idea as we go about all we must do before our heads hit the pillow:  When we are called to migrate, what must we change in ourselves so that we might trust God more?  Do we not remember that even when we step wrongly, we are sustained by the one who created us?  We will want to answer swiftly as Jacob did, “Here I am, Lord”! 

As we examine our need to migrate spiritually, emotionally and physically, we also pray for those who are forced to migrate from the places and people they love.

Adapted from a favorite written on July 31, 2008. 

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joyWednesday, November 5, 2014

Genesis 31

Joy and the Deceiver

This is the first in a number of posts in which we will visit scripture looking for stories about joy. These tales will surprise us in a number of ways as we explore. If you wish to read more about how joy astonishes us, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see what surprises you there. Today we begin with the book which holds scripture’s oldest stories: Genesis.

In today’s story we read of the relationship between Jacob and his uncle Laban. After deceiving his father and brother – with the help of his mother – and depriving his older twin brother of his birthright, Jacob leaves home to travel to a distant land where he lives with his mother’s brother. Laban promises protection and wages and Jacob settles into his new life, taking his wives Leah and Rachel from among Laban’s daughters, and establishing his own family. But as happens so often in family dynamics, Jacob’s uncle and cousins become jealous of Jacob’s prosperity.

Verse 2: Jacob saw the attitude of Laban, and behold, it was not friendly toward him as formerly.

And also as so often happens in our human relationship with God, the all-knowing creator sends word to guide and assure us.

Ribera: Jacob with the Flock of Laban

Ribera: Jacob with the Flock of Laban

Verse 3: Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you”.

Jacob and his wife Rachel deceive Laban so that they might take their children, livestock and belongings to return home; but Laban pursues them and all hope seems lost until God surprises Jacob’s household with joy.

Verses 24 and 25: God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream of the night and said to him, “Be careful that you do not speak to Jacob either good or bad”. Laban caught up with Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country, and Laban with his kinsmen camped in the hill country of Gilead.

Laban and Jacob meet and each speaks his mind. They argue. They air grievances and sort out quarrels.

Verse 27: Why did you flee secretly and deceive me, and did not tell me so that I might have sent you away with joy and with songs, with timbrel and with lyre; and did not allow me to kiss my sons and my daughters?

Finally uncle and nephew reach a covenant agreement and seal their pact with ritual stones at Mizpah. The drama ends with each man stepping away from violence, each man going his way, each man blessing the other.

Verse 55: Early in the morning Laban arose, and kissed his sons and his daughters and blessed them. Then Laban departed and returned to his place.

Brugghen: Jacob Reproaching Laban for Giving him Leah in Place of Rachel

Brugghen: Jacob Reproaching Laban

In a story chock full of deceit, joy surprises us. In a tale with so much potential for violence, God speaks to the heart. In the patriarch saga of bloodshed and deception God brings us to the joy of mercy. Let us consider today the times we have moved out of a relationship without allowing the joy of knowing one another kindle forgiveness. Let us reflect on the times we have deceived another without offering the gift of asking pardon. Let us remember the joy that surprises all deceivers. And knowing that God is always with us, let us look for the joy that is waiting to surprise us today.

To learn about the story of Jacob, spend time with Genesis chapters 25-36. For insight into the relationship between Jacob, Leah, Rachel and Laban, and how both joy and deception play roles in Jacob’s life, visit: https://bible.org/seriespage/never-satisfied-story-jacob-and-rachel 

For more about anxiety and joy, click on the image above or visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/ 

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Saturday, January 12, 2013 – Genesis 42 – The First Journey

West: Jacob Blesses His Sons

West: Jacob Blesses His Sons

Everyone in this story is tested. 

Jacob’s sons are reluctant to go to Egypt for rations of grain even though they starve.  Jacob speaks to them in this way: Why do you keep gaping at one another?  I hear that rations of grain are available in Egypt.  Go down there and buy some for us, that we may stay alive rather than die of hunger.  Later he must allow the precious smallest son, Benjamin, to return to Egypt with his brothers; this is the condition laid upon them by Joseph.  If some disaster should befall him on the journey you must make, you would send my white head down to the nether world in grief. 

Joseph suffers greatly when he sees his ten brothers who once discussed murdering him before selling him into slavery.  He speaks to them through an interpreter so as to retain his anonymity; his reaction to their conversation is one of deep sadness: Turning away from them, he wept.

As Joseph’s brothers argue over how to proceed, Reuben reminds them that they ought not to have rid themselves of Joseph years earlier: Didn’t I tell you not to do wrong to the boy?  But you wouldn’t listen!  Now comes a reckoning for his blood.

Everyone in this story suffers. 

Our culture encourages us to avoid pain at all cost.  We are too often taught that failure is a negative to be circumvented . . . not an opportunity to learn something about ourselves and others.  We regard tests as ordeals . . . we do not see them as opportunities to examine our minds and hearts.  We look upon obstacles as objects to be overcome . . . we do not see constricting circumstances as a lesson plan from God.  We too often see adversity as punishment . . . and we miss the fact that hardship and strife give us an occasion to draw nearer to God. 

We are all tested.  We all suffer.  This is an inherent condition of the human experience.  Later in this story (50:20) Joseph will say to his brothers: Even though you meant to harm me, God meant it for good, to achieve his present end, the survival of many people.  Joseph sees his trials for what they are . . . God’s providence and love converting all harm to good.  Joseph makes this journey first, his brothers and father follow later, completing a passage they had never imagined possible.  They experience loss and sorrow, joy and surprise yet they move forward inexorably . . . hoping to traverse their pain. 

What does all our suffering and testing mean?

We might take time today with this part of the Genesis story to contemplate the sons of Jacob and the many lessons their story contains.  Let us make our own first journey to discover the gift of our misfortune.

For a reflection on Genesis 43 – The Second Journey, the journey of return, visit the November 16, 2011 post on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/2011/08/16/the-second-journey/

 

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Reunion


Friday, October 17, 2012 – Genesis 33 – Reunion

Hendrick Ter Bruggen: Esau Selling His Birthright

In the past we have reflected on the story of how Jacob found himself in hiatus from all he knew – and how we find ourselves in that same place from time to time in our lives.  Often we wander – guessing at our true destiny, seeing glimpses of it now and then, wanting the end of the endless waiting to arrive.  We have also reflected on how Jacob came to realize that his place of exile from home had become dangerous.  He plots to outwit Laban, his father-in-law, and he manages to escape the wrath of Laban’s sons – but where does he go?  He returns home.  Re reunites with his brother Esau– whom he had deceived.  The story of Jacob until this point is one of God’s pruning of a valuable vine.  So too are we the branches of this same vine.  So too does the master of the vineyard prune us – his faithful.

Today we reflect on Jacob’s reunion with the brother he had deceived.  We can learn much about ourselves in this meeting of two who once loved and have been in hiatus.

As I read through these verses today I am so struck by how this relationship has changed during the brothers’ time apart.  The attitude of deception that characterized Jacob in Chapter 27 is gone and in fact Jacob begs Esau to accept his presence and his gifts in verse 10.  And look at what he says.  “No, I beg you!” said Jacob.  “If you will do me the favor, please accept this gift from me, since to come into your presence is for me like coming into the presence of God, now that you have received me so kindly”.

Jacob – in receiving mercy from his brother rather than a wrath that would be justified – realizes and then admits aloud that he and Esau have a holy union.  They are meant to love one another and not deceive one another.  During their time apart, Jacob has come to understand that not only had he tried to deceive Esau when he sought to cheat him of his birthright . . . he had sought to deceive God himself.  He had sought to manipulate God’s plan.

Esau wants to accompany his brother home.  Jacob does not want to tax his family or his herds.  Esau offers guards to ensure the safety of his brother’s tribe.  Jacob declines.  The two bothers come to an agreement and eventually reunite.

Last year when we reflected on Jacob and the lessons he learned about being willing and faithful, this was the prayer that came to us that day.  I offer it again below.  May all of our waiting dreams and broken hearts find such sweet reunion as these two brothers with whom we reflect today.

Sweet and loving God, may I be ever-listening, ever-faithful, ever-willing to obey your plan.  I understand that you have something wonderful in mind for me and that from where I stand I cannot see as well as you and so sometimes I am a bit afraid of what will pop up next over my horizon.  May I refrain from manipulation and from being manipulated.  May I refrain from separating myself from you, may I return to you always when I am afraid, because I know that you are always with me.  Amen.   

Written on October 17, 2008, re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

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Sunday, September 30, 2012 – Ezekiel 39:25-29 – Restoration After Hiatus

Govert Flink: Issac Blessing Jacob

When we look at the life of Jacob we might be tempted to look at the story of his deeds or accomplishments: his early toying with deceit, his growing ability to focus persistently on a goal, his fathering of twelve sons who lead the Twelve Tribes of Israel.  When we look more closely we see that rather than a rising and falling arc of “doings” what we really find is a string of actions that are separated by pauses.  What Jacob has mastered is not so much the “doing” of life but the thoughtful hiatus.

In the story of Jacob we see that are many periods of hiatus in which he is separated from all he loves by either his own actions or the events that swirl around him.  When we reflect a bit more on Jacob, we might also see how and if and whether we experience hiatus in our own lives.  Today’s Noontime calls us to reflect on the goal we all have in mind when we are in a state of hiatus.  We yearn for the reunion, the curing, the re-construction, the bridging, the healing . . . the restoration.

We know that the lands and fortunes of the tribes of Jacob are indeed restored . . . and then lost again.  The people wander away from the lesson they thought they had learned during exile.  Their hubris and their lack of willingness to listen to and for the voice within gets in their way, they become easily distracted, and wander into the wilderness again to lose what they had regained.  Fortunately for humans, God forgives endlessly.  The prophet Ezekiel reminds us of this.

When we experience hiatus well we have the opportunity to learn much about ourselves.

We come to know that the Lord is our God, before whom no other god may stand.  These other gods may be our desire for wealth, looks, fashion, friends, prestige, life style, addiction – anything which separates us from God.

We experience the New Law of Love, the Law of the Beatitudes which Jesus brought us on the Mount (Matthew) and on the Plain (Luke).

We become people who do not fear poverty, illness or rejection suffered as the result of Kingdom Building and Kingdom Living.

We become light and salt and yeast to the world.  We are to be brothers and sisters together shouting with joy that God is good.

We become to be harvesters who go forth weeping to return singing.

We become people who are Jesus in a world which is not.

We become people who wait for, and hope for, and work for Restoration.

And this is the Restoration which awaited the tribes of Jacob.  It is the same restoration which comes to all those who wait actively, seek patiently, and witness persistently.

This is a Way worth following.  It is a Life worth living.

Amen.

To explore how hiatus figures in Jacob’s life and in our own, go to the A Journey Hiatus in the Journeys of Transformation page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/a-journey-of-transformation/a-journey-hiatus/

To learn more about Rebecca. Issac, Esau and Jacob, and to see their story in art, click on the image above or go to: http://www.bible-topten.com/Rebecca.htm

First written on October 6, 2008.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

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