Sermon – 22 February 2004

I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?

We are allowed just one snippet of Joseph?s saga before Lent begins and it is the bit where he reveals himself to his brothers. ?I am Joseph? and reveals his longing for news of home. ?Is my father still alive??
Of all the bible stories, I think that Joseph?s tale is one of the very few that now has a currency outside church circles. It is one of the few stories which a lot of people could relate who never went to Sunday school and rarely see the inside of the church. It isn?t just a good Bible story but a stage show. Indeed, our friends up in St Mary?s Dunblane are putting it on very soon.

Unlike most preachers these days, I?m not a great one for story-telling. However encountering Joseph and reading of his troubles and eventual reunion with his brothers and his father, it is impossible not to recognise and applaud a master story-teller at work.

This is great story telling. However, this is story telling for a purpose.

The question that I want to pose for you this morning is to ask how Joseph reached this point in life. For this was a place of reconciliation. A place of peace. A place of brotherhood. A place of concern for family and generosity beyond what we might expect.

Joseph had somehow made a journey. He had travelled from Canaan to Egypt. From promised land to foreign land. From spoilt brat to superpower. From family fields, to the Egyptian court. But the journey that I invite you to think about this morning is the inner journey that Joseph made. A journey beyond resentment to generosity and love.

? How would you feel towards your brothers if you had been sold into slavery?
? How would you feel towards those who had caused you to be banished from your homeland?
? How would you feel towards the world if you had been shut in prison for no good reason?
Joseph somehow managed to journey beyond the feelings that we would expect him to have. He managed to think of others when most would have expected him to be thinking about himself.

I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?

What was going through Joseph?s mind throughout his life. What was he feeling when he was rewarded with all that Pharaoh could give. When he donned the state robes of Egypt did his mind go back to the fine robe with long sleeves that his father had once bought him ? the robe that enraged his brothers? Or was he looking for a way to share what he had even then? Did he imagine? Did he hope for some reconciliation? Did the dreamer dream of a time when his brothers would find themselves in front of him. For how many years had that exclamation been forming in his mind.

I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?

There are two parts to that exclamation. Firstly. ?I am Joseph?. There is more here than mere identification. For Joseph really knew himself. Somehow, through all the troubles which life had thrown at him, he knew himself. And he knew that he would do nothing to harm the brothers. He knew he had riches to share. He had somehow reached beyond resentment to generosity.

I am Joseph.

Self-knowledge is something very current in our world. All kinds of self-awareness programmes and books are available. There is a whole industry of self-actualisation. And not all of it is spirituality-lite.

The spiritual journey is authentic when it enables us to grow in such a way that, like Joseph we can put resentment, even justified resentment aside. And with God?s encouragement we can reach out with open hearts and offer what we have to those in need with no motivation but love.

For that seems to be what Joseph managed to do.

I am Joseph. Is my father still alive.

Nothing had killed the hope that Joseph had that he would see his father again. Nothing had dampened his dream that one day things would be restored. Happy endings; miraculous happy endings have a way of happening in good stories. And sure enough, Jacob will come wending his way over the hills to see his beloved son once again.

Not all our stories have happy endings. Not all of us live in the middle of the miraculous. Not all of us will have all we hope for restored to us.

But we can dream.

We can dream like Joseph the arch-dreamer. And we can form our prayers and action out of our dreams. Dreams of a world restored. A world where generous hearts reach out beyond resentment and build the kind of world which all broken hearts hope for.

We can dream of a world where the brothers in the middle east are at peace once again. We can dream of a world where homes are free from the violence which Joseph knew. We can dream of a world free from false accusation. A world free from famine. A world free from all that keeps apart those who belong together.

Somewhere along his journey, Joseph realised that he was already loved. And that realisation allowed him to act beyond resentment. So free did he become that he was able to construct a means of being reconciled with his brothers ? acting out his forgiveness until they grasped that it was real.

And in that reconciliation, the desire to do violence between the brothers was overcome. In that love the desire for vengeance was quenched in love. In that moment when Joseph says, ?I am Joseph. Is my father still alive? the brothers finally get the message. All wrongs can be put to right.

When we hear Joseph?s saga ?whether it is told or whether it is sung from the stage, let us remember its message. Let us remember and let us dream. Let us dream the dream of reconciliation moment by moment and day by day.


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