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Posts Tagged ‘Joseph’


Saturday, December 19, 2020

Rembrandt: St. Anna the Prophetess

Rembrandt Rijn: St. Anna the Prophetess

Luke 2:36-38

Anna

She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.

“A fourth and final [Lucan] theme is expressed in Simeon’s word to Mary (apparently this occurs in the outer court where women were allowed).  Jesus will bring truth and light and will effect decision and judgment. However, in so doing he will face opposition and death. When Jesus comes to Jerusalem as an adult, the journey will be his ‘exodus’ (NRSV: ‘departure,’ 9:31).

“Simeon’s words are confirmed by Anna, a devout woman of advanced age . . . The two aged saints are Israel in miniature, poised in anticipation of the new.  God is leading Israel to the Messiah, but the Messiah will weep over this city because it did not know the time of the messianic visitation (19:41-44)”. (Mays 932)

Scholars describe Anna as having insight that most of us lack and she appears in this story to affirm the Messiah’s identity. She is likely 105 years old, lives in or near the Temple, and dedicates her days and nights to a life of service to and in God; but she is no doddering ancient. Robin Gallaher Branch describes her saying that “her lifestyle evidently invigorates her, for she is mobile, articulate, alert, spiritually savvy and unselfish”. (Branch)

Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary and Joseph, Anna and Simeon, servants, disciples, prophets, all announcing that openness and peace and joy have come to a people who yearn to be free, that light and courage and hope have come to a people who wait in darkness, that healing and consolation and union have come to a people who remain faithful despite their fear. As we approach the fourth Sunday of Advent, a time when we near the announcement of joy to the world because the Messiah is come, let us remember that we are Advent people. And let us, like Anna, be articulate, alert, spiritually savvy and unselfish as we declare to all that the one who saves is indeed come to live among us.


For insight into the importance of Anna the Prophetess, one of the Bible’s most unusual women, by Robin Gallaher Branch, click on the image above or go to: http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/people-in-the-bible/anna-in-the-bible/

Branch, Robin Gallaher. “Anna in the Bible.” Bible History Daily. Biblical Archeology Society, 19 Apr 2013. Web. 15 Dec 2013. .

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 932. Print.

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Monday, December 14, 2020

jesus-lamb-of-god[1]Luke 2:21

The Naming

When the eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Parents devote much time and thought to the naming of a child but history does not record any conversation Mary and Joseph may have had on the naming of Jesus. As we see with the relatives, friends and neighbors of Elizabeth and Zechariah, many opinions may come to bear on the naming of an infant, but scripture merely records the fact that Mary and Joseph did as Gabriel requested. And the child’s name continues to resonate through millennia.

God says: When you come to a crossroad or feel pressured by others and you are at a loss for how to proceed, step away from the confusion and center yourself on your purpose. Call on me in times when others crowd you so that chaos will simply fall away. Place your focus on how your actions reflect the goodness for which I created you. Concentrate not on the opinions of others but on the integrity your actions will – or will not – have. When in doubt, call on the name of this one who is all for all eternity.  Call on the name of Jesus.


For more reflections, enter the words The Name of Jesusinto the blog search bar.

Image from: http://www.awordforyou.org/Encourage/?p=488

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Friday, December 11, 2020nativity-story-gathering[1]Luke 2:15-20

Reflections of the Heart

And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.

Pain and happiness. Amazement and worry. Wonder and joy. A gamut of emotions in such a short few days.

Joseph and the child. Shepherds and angels. Innkeepers and oxen. Extraordinary companions for such a new mother.

God says: Mary is wise to ponder all things in the heart. It is from this pondering that she gains wisdom and fortitude. It is in this abiding with me that she discovers courage and patience. It is from her love of me that she finds persistence and hope. When Mary keeps these things in her heart she hides from no one; rather, she gathers a new strength for the journey before her, a fresh perspective of the past that lies behind, and a deep reverence for the holy present. Each moment of each life is as precious as the moment you read about today. Each moment of your lives holds more love from me than you can imagine. Ponder these things in your heart. Reflect on these things in your heart. And remember me.

Mary knows that the road she travels with this special child will be as fraught with problems as her journey to Bethlehem has been. She also knows that the shepherds who arrive in the quiet darkness have sought and found her small family by knocking on many doors in their determined search. Faith, persistence, endurance and courage. As Mary greets her son’s first visitors, she ponders these things in her heart.


To view a clip of the 2006 film Nativity Story:The Birth of Christ depicting the arrival of the shepherds and wise men, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Lpv77EdxF4 

Image From: http://www.williedeutsch.com/the-hobbit-a-beautiful-story-for-christmas/

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Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Salomon de Bray: Joseph Receives His Father and Brother in Egypt

Salomon de Bray: Joseph Receives His Father and Brother in Egypt

Genesis 45:1-15

A Prayer for Truth Revealed

It was not really you but God who had me come here.

People, places and situations do not govern us. We do not even govern ourselves. God sees, knows and does all.  God pulls goodness out of harm.  God converts evil into something that we can use.  God transforms all suffering and sadness.  If we trust in God above all else and at all times, this truth will eventually dawn on us.  And we will be grateful for this dawning.  We will be grateful for this plan that at first seemed all wrong but which later comes into full focus as being better than any we might have devised on our own.

As St. Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians: In all circumstances, give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Jesus Christ.

As we suffer, as we undergo, as we bear all things, endure all things, we do well to do them for Christ and in Christ . . . because Christ does them with us.

As we strive to be faithful disciples, as we struggle and persevere, follow and persist, we do well to abide with and in the Spirit . . . because the Spirit dwells in us.

As we seek God, as we knock at God’s door, as we petition, question and dialog, we do well to turn to God first in all matters . . . because God awaits our turning with eager and open arms.

Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers and it is not until years later that the truth is revealed.  Joseph waited, worked, prayed, remained, dwelt, and loved in God.  Truth revealed.  Character honed.  Spirit strengthened.  Pain transformed.  Love born.  This is the gift of integrity and honesty.  It is the gift of discipleship.  It is the gift of life itself.

And so we pray . . .

God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit,

We thank you for having created us.

We thank you for having saved us.

We thank you for dwelling in us.

May we always reach for the hope you place in us.

May we always remain faithful to your promise which rests in us.

May we always abide with one another as we undergo suffering.

May we be good and faithful remnants for you in all of the places and situations we find ourselves which feel so foreign.

And may we, as Joseph did when he heard your voice, listen for you . . . and spread open arms to welcome those who have harmed us.

We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Salomon_de_Bray_-_Joseph_Receives_His_Father_and_Brothers_in_Egypt_-_WGA3146.jpg

First written on November 15, 2007. Re-written and posted today.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Tissot: Joseph Sold into Slavery

James Tissot: Joseph Sold into Slavery

Genesis 45:1-15

The Truth Revealed

As a child I was always enthralled with the convolutions of the story of the tribes of Jacob – and I have always loved the figure of Joseph – the harbinger of the Joseph who serves God so loyally as Jesus’ earthly father.  The Joseph of Genesis was innocent, happy, and the apple of his father’s eye . . . and for this he suffered greatly.  He was nearly murdered, was sold into slavery, and escaped the vamping of a woman only to land in jail for his moral rectitude.  Even while imprisoned he remained faithful and he listened for Yahweh’s voice . . . heard it and obeyed.

We all know the denouement of how he came to be reconnected with the family he had lost – at the hands of his own brothers; and today we see his reaction when the truth is revealed.  He does not accuse, he does not punish . . . he cries for joy at seeing the people he thought he had lost.  And then look at verse 7.  Joseph has so tuned himself to understand God’s word to him, that he immediately understands the reason for his suffering.

God, therefore, sent me on ahead of you to ensure for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives in an extraordinary deliverance.

This is what we are called to do for one another.  Those who have vision, rather than take advantage of the weak, are to go on ahead to prepare a place.  Those who have voice, rather than shout down an unpleasant story, are to proclaim it to all.  Those who have ears, rather than turn away from the truth, are to hear it and witness to it.  Those who experience God in a very real way, rather than hide God’s light under a bushel basket, must raise it on a lamp stand to shine throughout the world.

Today  we pause in our journey through Eastertide to reflect on our discipleship. We examine the hardships we suffer; and we give thanks for the gifts we receive in this special way in such a special time.  God asks much of us but he gives us much as well: meekness, broken-heartedness, constancy and honesty.  Let us consider how these gifts have changed us.  Let us consider how God has changed us.  And let us consider how we have used these gifts to change the world.

Tomorrow, a prayer for honesty and truth revealed . . .


Image from: https://www.jweekly.com/2019/12/19/caged-no-escape-in-judaism-there-is-always-hope/

First written on November 15, 2007.  Re-written and posted today.

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Sunday, January 12, 2020

Genesis 42: The First Journey

West: Jacob Blesses His Sons

Benjamin 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, enter the words in the blog search bar and explore. 

Image from: http://www.oneyearbibleblog.com/2011/01/january-24th-one-year-bible-readings.html

 

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Genesis 45:1-8: Making Ourselves Known

Sunday, October 13, 2019

James Tissot: Joseph and his Brethren Welcomed by Pharaoh

Today we continue our reflection on the story of Joseph whose brothers sold him into slavery . . . on the story of Joseph who forgives and saves these brothers in return.

When we find ourselves in a place of power, do we react with anger or mercy?  Do we struggle to understand how to convert our dire circumstances into an opportunity to be close to God so that we might be able to see our grief as gift?  Do we look for ways to offer this gift back to the God to use as he sees best as he accompanies us in our travail ?

Joseph reveals himself to his brothers and to us in this story, and so may we reveal ourselves to others.  Rather than sink to the easy move of wielding the power we find in our hands, we are to seek God in our suffering and pain.  In so doing, we will discover that God has converted the harm to good, the evil to joy.  We will also discover new depths in ourselves; we will find our best selves – our deepest potential.  Can we imagine offering this re-made self back to one who rejected us earlier . . . particularly when we have the power to reject as we have been rejected?  What greater love can we demonstrate than to turn away from vengeance to turn toward peace?  What greater act might we perform than to follow Christ in an act of forgiveness of others . . . especially the others who have harmed us greatly?

Joseph reveals himself to his brothers . . . and in so doing he bridges profound chasms of sorrow and loss . . . bringing joy and reunion.

God reveals himself to us and thus calls us to the possibilities dreamt for us at our inception.

When we reveal ourselves to others as Joseph did then we demonstrate that we understand the depth of our capacity to be God’s love in a world yearning for peace.

Reading this story we see that we have no choice . . . let us journey through loss to make ourselves known to the world.


First written on September 20, 2008. Re-written and posted today as a Favorite. 

Image from: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/350858627214142649/

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Genesis 45:1-8: Making Ourselves Known

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Konstantin Flavitsky: Brothers Sell Joseph into Slavery

The story of Joseph and his many-colored coat, his journey into slavery, his rise to power and his rescue of the Jewish nation are all familiar to us.  One of the most poignant moments in this long saga is when he reveals himself to his brothers . . . the very brothers who plotted his death and then – after the intercession of Reuben – decided to sell the younger favored brother into slavery.

As I grew up the fourth of five children, it became clear to me that a position of favor usually brought more danger than safety.  Envy begins as a tiny seed when one of a group is seen as exceptional, beyond or above the rest.  In my quiet observation of older and younger siblings vying for attention in the family and in the world, it became clear to me that disfavor often follows hard on the heels of distinction – the presence of natural gifts and good works so often causes jealousy in others Tribal law too often wants to weed out dissimilarity, seeks to bring all denominators to a common lowness.

Joseph is sold out by his brothers and arrives in Egypt as a slave.  Once there, his good looks and honest behavior bring him to the notice of a woman in search of an illicit, sexual relationship – which he rejects.  She falsely accuses him and he is imprisoned.  We see the pattern in Joseph’s life that he arrives in dark places as a result of his grace and blessings, and perhaps that is a pattern we find in our own lives.  If so, we might easily identify with this kind of life.  Do we find ourselves in places we do not seek through no fault of our own, even as we follow the voice of God?

We might read with interest today’s citation and reflect on its meaning for us.  Joseph survives the treachery of his brothers, rises to a position of prestige and power, and when these brothers come to Egypt in search of food, Joseph does not react to their presence with anger or despair.  On the contrary, rather than mete out revenge on those who sent him into slavery, he recognizes that it was through this evil that he was sent ahead to prepare a place of refuge for his family and the entire Jewish nation.  A man coveting old wounds does not hear this wisdom, cannot see this good, does not meet evil with mercy.  Joseph, moving through and beyond his pain, welcomes his brothers to a new home.  This is the miracle of the story of Joseph: In the very moment when he has the power to retaliate with an eye for an eye, he chooses to respond with joy and compassion.


To read more about Joseph and his brothers, click on the image above or go to: http://freechristimages.org/biblestories/josephs_dreams.htm

First written on September 20, 2008. Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://freechristimages.org/biblestories/josephs_dreams.htm

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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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