Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org

Oh, Oh, And Whew

Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

August 17:

Call:       Matthew 15: 10-11
Text:       Genesis 45: 1-15
Read:   W&S # 187
Psalm:  Psalm 133   (850)
Closing:    Romans 11: 28-32

            Oh, Oh, and Whew!

For those of you who could not be here last week, I have a short summary of the story in the text we examined:

    Joseph was Jacob's son by Rachel, Jacob's favorite wife.
    Joseph was born after years of frustrating infertility.
    Joseph was therefore, Jacob's favorite son
    His ten older brothers were - not surprisingly - jealous
        And Joseph made it worse by telling them about his dreams that he would rule over them.

    When this favored son was sent to join them in the field
        The jealous brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt
        But led their father to believe he had been killed by a wild animal.

That was the story in a nutshell.

We noted the impact that their jealousy had had
We recognized how easy it is for us to become jealous
    And looked at how we had to allow love to trump jealousy
At the end, we asked whether any of us wanted to see ourselves
    As Joseph's brothers?

And none of us wanted to.
But despite that unanimous opinion,
    as we move toward and reach the sequel to that story,
    I think that we must hear this morning's text
from the perspective of the very brothers
        Whom we rejected.

We begin with what happened
between last week's story and today's,
and for that    we need to be   Rueben, Simeon, Levi et. al.

The Midianite traders to whom Joseph had been sold
In turn sold him to Potifer
    Pharaoh's right hand man.

Joseph was so skilled that despite being a slave,
he became Potifer's chief administrator.

His Egyptian owner was impressed with Joseph
    And was unquestionably fond of him.

Potifer's wife was also impressed with Joseph
    And she was unquestionably fond of him
        Her fondness was not, however, because of his administrative skills.

She wanted Joseph    and she tried to seduce him.
    Joseph, however, rejected her advances.

Now, Mrs. Potifer was a woman used to getting her own way.
Mrs. Potifer was more than a little upset by the rejection.

She refused to be so insulted by a slave
And accused him of the very thing that he had refused to do

A prominent Egyptian woman.
Wife of a prominent Egyptian man
Her word against the word of a Jewish slave
    Who do you think won?

And so Joseph was imprisoned.

While in jail, he encountered two of the palace servants.
    One was the Pharaoh's cup bearer.
    The other was the Pharaoh's baker

Those other prisoners asked him to interpret their dreams
    He explained to the cup bearer that his dream meant that he would be released in three days
    He explained to the baker that his dream meant that his head would be cut off, hung on a pole, and the birds would eat from it
        Also within three days.
        [some Biblical images are a bit graphic].

Both things happened just as Joseph had said they would.

Two years later, the Pharaoh was struggling with the meaning of his own dreams.
    None of his advisors could explain what they meant.

And so the cup bearer told Pharaoh
about this Jewish guy he had met in prison.

The Pharaoh summoned Joseph for help.

Upon hearing the dreams, Joseph explained what they meant:
    There would be seven years of abundant harvest;
    Followed by seven years of drought and famine.

He recommended that silos be built to store the abundant harvest
    So they would have nourishment during the period of famine

Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of the storage and distribution of the harvests.

Sure enough, just as Joseph had said,
Egypt and the surrounding area
    Had seven years of abundant harvest.

After those seven years
    - Again as Joseph had said -
    The famine came and Egypt did not suffer
        Because     of what Joseph had done.

He was a hero.

Because of the importance of food,
he became the quasi ruler of Egypt.

Now the whole area around Egypt suffered greatly
    Including Canaan
where Jacob and his family continued to live.

Word came to them that there was food in Egypt.
    And so Jacob sent his ten oldest sons   (Remember them?)
    To purchase life saving food from Egypt's Food Czar.

When they appeared before him, Joseph recognized his brothers
    But they did not recognize him

He actually spoke to them rather harshly
    Accusing them of being spies.

He also inquired about their (his) father
    And asked if there were any other brothers

[Now, here I need to share another fact:

    Before Joseph was sold into slavery
        in fact, before he had dreamed his own dreams
    Joseph's mother Rachel had given birth to a second son

    This son was Benjamin, Joseph's only full biological brother
    He was Jacob's 12th and final son
    Sadly, Rachel died while giving birth to Benjamin.]

In Joseph's interaction with his food seeking brothers,
    They disclosed that they were 10 of 12 brothers
        Their youngest brother was home with their father
        Their other brother was "no more."

Joseph offered them a chance to prove they were not spies
    "if you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here where you are imprisoned.  The rest of you shall go and carry grain for the famine of your households ..."

And then    he added one more thing,
    "and bring your youngest brother to me"

He told them that if they did this,
    "your words will be verified, and you shall not die."

They agreed,
perceiving that they were being penalized
for what they had done to their brother.

Then Joseph picked Simeon to remain
    Sending the other nine back to Jacob with plenty of grain.
He even had his servants put their money back in their bags.

But back home, Jacob, who had lost both Rachel and Joseph
    Refused to let his sons take Benjamin to Egypt
        After all, Benjamin was all that was left of his beloved Rachel

And having now apparently lost Simeon, he was fearful.

But the famine grew worse and worse
They were running out of food.
The situation was getting desperate.

Afraid that they would all die, along with their own children,
    Judah finally talked his father into sending them back
    Offering to be a surety or guarantee that Benjamin would be all right.

And so, once again ten of Jacob's sons traveled to Egypt for food.

After this visit, as all eleven sons prepared to return to Canaan
    Joseph had his own silver cup put in Benjamin's bag
Then he announced that it was missing.

When it was found in Benjamin's bag
    The boy was arrested

Joseph told the others that they could leave,
but that Benjamin would have to stay.

Judah could not let his father to suffer again and so begged Joseph
to let Benjamin leave, saying,
    That his father would die if the boy did not return
    That he had had difficulty in getting his father to allow Benjamin to go with them

And finally he concluded,
    Now, therefore, please let me remain as your slave "in place of the boy; and let the boy go back with his brothers.  For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me?  I fear to see the suffering that would come upon my father."

It is that moving verse that leads to our text: Genesis 45: 1-3

This is the "Oh, oh!"

And if we are reading this and hearing this as the ten older brothers
    We can't help but gasp, "Oh, oh!"

    This man who has all this power
    This man who has the power of life and death over you

Is the very man whom some years before,
    You had seriously wronged by selling him as a slave
wronged to the extent that
by now even you know    that you were wrong
and     that you committed this wrong
        Because you were jealous of him

This ruler in front of you
    Is the brother whom you betrayed
    And now has the perfect opportunity to get even with you.

Even you    might consider that to be justice

Of all the possible outcomes that race through your mind
    Not one is appealing.       Not one seems acceptable
And the best you can do is utter,   "Oh, Oh!"

Those three words,  "I am Joseph"
    Must have cut through their hearts like the sword of justice

And although I am an NRSV guy
    I think its translation that the brothers were "dismayed"
        Is too gentle a term.
    I prefer the NIV indication that they were "terrified."

Then , as they envisioned the guillotine blade
dropping to and through their seemingly out stretched necks,
Joseph called them to him   [45: 4-15]

Whew!   Whew!   Whew!

Instead of hearing harsh words proclaiming guilt and revenge
    Those ten men heard the brother whom they had wronged
        Utter words of gentleness, love, and mercy

Other than the story of Christ on the Cross
and perhaps the one of Steven as he was stoned,
there is no text that better describes
    God's relationship to us
And What God expects of our relationship to each other

Than the story of the ten brothers
    who in the course of these fifteen verses went
    from        being sentenced to being forgiven
from        fearing anger and retribution
        to receiving a loving invitation
from        uttering "Oh, Oh!"  to proclaiming "Whew."

As the song goes,
When will we ever learn?    When will we ever learn?