Proper 15A August 17, 2014
The message of today’s Scripture readings is in the psalm, “How good and pleasant it is, when brethren live together in unity.” God brings good out of evil. God’s will for us is repentance and reconciliation.
The news is full of stories about refugees and immigrants. Today’s Old Testament reading includes Joseph’s invitation to his family to escape famine in the Holy Land by settling in Goshen near the Egyptian border. In the Gospel Jesus goes out of the Land of Israel into what is now southern Lebanon, and the Epistle speaks of God’s mercy. As Christian people we are called to hospitality, we are called to care for those in need, and particularly to care for strangers and aliens. The St. Andrew’s Community Garden is one way for us to help provide good, fresh, nutritous food for all. As citizens we shere responsibility for a just and humane immigration policy that meets the needs of ourselves and the whole country. We may disagree about what particular actions are the most just and beneficial, but all of us descend from immigrants and many of us from refugees, but all of us share Emma Lazarus’ poem on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
First, Joseph: Some of the best stories about Joseph are not in the Lestionary. Last Sunday we left him sold as a slave to Midianite traders on his way to Egypt. In Egypt Joseph was bought by Potiphar, the captain of imperial guard, and became his overseer. . Potiphar jailed Joseph when Potiphar’s wife lusted for Joseph and when he refused her accused him of attempted rape. In jail Joseph interpreted the dreams of the royal butler and baker. The butler restored to office remembered Joseph when Pharaoh dreamed about 7 fat and 7 thin cows. Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream as prophecy and proposed a 20% income tax to store up grain in the good years for the coming time of famine. The Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of the project and married him to an Egyptian priest’s daughter. Their sons were Manassah and Ephriam.
When the famine came Pharaoh sold the grain collected in the good years and gradually acquired title to all the land of Egypt. Jacob sent his ten sons to buy grain, keeping Joseph’s full brother Benjamin at home. After testing their sincerity by requiring them to bring Benjamin to him, Joseph accepted their repentance in the scene we heard today. Their life experiences had both brought the brothers to repentance for selling him into slavery and also brought Joseph to accept that repentance, to desire and to accomplish reconciliation.
The story of Joseph explain how the people of Israel came to Egypt. From about 1750 to about 1550 BC northern Egypt was ruled by the Hyksos rulers from the north and east. Genesis says that Joseph lived to see his part-Egyptian great great grandchildren included among the people of Israel. Next week’s reading begin with the slavery of the people on Israel when a Pharaoh arose who knew not Joseph, then Moses and the Exodus, 40 years in the desert, and the coming to the promised land. At the Exodus Joseph’s descendants took his body with them and eventually buried it at Nablus in the West Bank.
Joseph teaches us about God’s ability to bring good out of evil, about God’s will for repentance and reconciliation, as the psalm says, “how good and pleasant it is, when brethren live together in unity.”
But unity, and repentance and reconciliation are hard work. It is easier simply to exclude those who are different. In today’s Gospel Jesus went to what is now southern Lebanon – perhaps to get away from the crowds seeking healing. It didn’t work. A woman of that country cried after him, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David, my daughter is tormented by a demon!” The disciples were also tired of the crowds and wanted to shut up the noise. Jesus’ response is “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” That seems a strange response to us who know Jesus as the savior of the world. But Jesus knew his limitations of time and space. He knew that the responsibility and authority to heal the world would be the gift of the Holy Spirit to the whole body of believers after his death and resurrection. Jesus’ earthly ministry was limited in time and space; the spiritual ministry of Jesus by his Holy Spirit in the church is limited only by the short time remaining until Jesus comes to earth at the end of time.
Jews and Canaanites called each other names. “Dog” was a mild one. When the Canaanite woman spoke of the bread of the children those who heard her were reminded of God’s special gift of manna in the desert. Jesus recognized the faith of the stranger. He not only healed her daughter but in doing so brought her into the fellowship of saving faith. “Great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.”
God’s can bring good out of evil. God’s will for us is repentance and reconciliation. “How good and pleasant it is, when brethren live together in unity.” This week let us look for opportunities to repent and seek reconciliation and unity.