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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 10:30-39: Trials Well Borne

Friday, May 11, 2018

James Tissot: The Mess of Pottage – Jacob and Esau

This reflection continues thoughts posed in the Revenge and Forgiveness post from September 9, 2012.

Obadiah, one of the Minor Prophets, offers us ideas we will want to examine further.

From the ARCHEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE we discover themes. We learn that Obadiah’s  name means “servant of Yahweh,” and many scholars believe that his brief prophecy was written between 586 and 553 B.C.E. We know that Obadiah does not specify that his prophecy is meant for any particular king or event; yet he indicates that a major calamity has occurred in Judah and that the Edomites have capitalized on this event.  In general, scholars believe that there was a post-exilic setback for the Israelites, and most believe it to be the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E. They also remind us that Edom itself fell to this same empire in 553 B.C.E.  All of this sets up a story of intense tribalism, payback, and retaliation. We look a little further.

Who are the Edomites and where is their land? These people descended from Esau, the son of Issac, who was cheated of his heritage by his brother Jacob and his mother. Obadiah writes to the people of Judah (the descendants of Jacob) condemning the Edomites for their treachery and violence toward the people of Judah.  He also rails against the people for their sins of arrogance and indifference toward God.  So this prophecy harkens back to the conflict between these two brothers.  Judah feels that the hostility shown to them when they are at a low point by the people of Edom is cruel and unjustified.  Edom’s arrogance was founded in its nearly impregnable mountain strongholds where the Edomites safeguarded their wealth (gained from trade) in rock vaults.  Obadiah teaches that God is sovereign over all nations. (Zondervan 1464-1465)

James Tissot: The Meeting of Esau and Jacob

So much of what we read here reminds us of the story we live each day; our modern world is occupied with ancient themes: indifference to a higher authority, arrogance of the ego, injustice of systems and structures, and the use of cruelty as a fair means to any end. The rivalries in this prophecy echo the petty rivalries we set up early in life and, as we grow older, carefully nurture.

Turning to today’s reading, we see these familiar words in verse 18: “Vengeance is mine; I will repay”. Yet, despite our recognition of the truth these words bring to us, we need more urging. The prophet, knows that despite enlightenment we will have setbacks, and so he lays them out for us to examine in ourselves: the malignant hope for revenge, the overpowering force of hubris, the willingness to use any means to achieve our ends, the animal-instinctive fear of others. Obadiah asks us examine the suffering of our daily experience as we reflect on his prophecy.

As New Testament believers, we want to be poised for Jesus’ coming into our lives and receptive to the Spirit that lives among us. Feeling Christ’s call to our highest goodness, we might look at Hebrews 11 and determine to follow the example of the faithful lived by the Patriarchs: Adam, Enoch, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, and the Judges . . . “all these . . . approved by the testimony of faith”.  We might look to these people as models of how and what we are to do, how and why we are to overcome our lust for revenge, how and why we are to practice love.  When we study their individual stories, we see that these ancestors do not lead perfect lives; but they strive for that perfection in their loyalty to Yahweh.  They listen, they obey, and they bear their trials well.

In the name of Jesus, let us call out our best selves to serve God, to fulfill his hope in us.  Let us be good and loyal servants who want nothing more than to discern our mission and to complete it well.  We ask this in the name of Jesus, the one who dwells among us to lead us, to heal us, to restore us, to be one with us.

Amen.

Adapted from a Favorite written on October 27, 2007.

Read the brief prophecy of Obadiah and compare varying translations to better understand our tendency to seek revenge . . . and our need to rely on God’s wisdom rather than our own.  


ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 1464-1465. Print.

Visit the Obadiah – Outrageous Hope page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-old-testament/the-prophets/obadiah-outrageous-hope/  or the Revenge and Forgiveness page at: https://thenoontimes.com/2012/09/09/revenge-and-forgiveness/

 

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angels-announcing-the-birth-of-christ-to-the-shepherds-flinck-govert-teunisz-1024x792-dec-30

Linck Govert Teunisz: Angels Announcing the Birth of Christ to the Shepherds

Luke: Do Not Fear – Part V

Christmas Friday, December 30, 2016

Do not be afraid. We need to hear these words. We need to share these words. We need to use these words every day.

The angel of the Lord speaks to the high priest Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, assuring his that the Living God was making the impossible possible in their lives.

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. (Luke 1:13)

The angel of the Lord speaks to the girl Mary, the mother of Jesus, assuring her that the Living God was entering her life in a special way.

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. (Luke 1:30)

The angel of the Lord speaks to shepherds who guard their flocks on the night of Jesus’ birth, assuring them that a newness has just entered into a weary world.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people. (Luke 2:10)

Jesus speaks to Jairus, a synagogue leader, assuring him that his daughter is alive and has not died.

But when Jesus heard this, He answered him, “Do not be afraid any longer; only believe, and she will be made well.” (Luke 8:50)

Jesus speaks to the people, assuring them that the darkness of the world can be dissipated by the light of truth and peace.

“I say to you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. (Luke 12:4)

Jesus speaks to his followers, assuring them that the evil of the world is transformed by love.

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32)

Anton Raphael Mengs: Dream of Saint Joseph

Anton Raphael Mengs: Dream of Saint Joseph

Lifetimes after these verses are recorded, we remind ourselves that the impossible is possible with God. All harm becomes goodness through God. Darkness becomes light. Despair becomes home. Doubt becomes faith. Evil becomes love. And for all of these reasons, we need not fear.

Today we might ask, “How do we live in order to remember that we need not be afraid? How do we live in such a way that we demonstrate our understanding that God is everywhere and lives in us? And how do we share this Good News in our thoughts words and deeds?

In Matthew 1:19An angel of the Lord appeared to [Joseph] in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. To learn why, visit: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/why-did-joseph-plan-to-divorce-mary 

Throughout Christmastide, we continue to remember God’s words, “Do not be afraid”.

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Rembrandt: St. Anna the Prophetess

Rembrandt: 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 judgmentHowever, 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 third Sunday of Advent, a time when we announce to the world with joy that 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 the world 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 16, 2013

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 Jesus, into the blog search bar.

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Friday, December 13, 2013

nativity-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 all 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 

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Monday, May 6, 2007

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.

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

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Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 5, 2013

Tissot: Joseph Sold into Slavery

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 lampstand 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 . . .

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

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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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