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Redeemng grace, Joseph & his brothers

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May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, our Saviour and redeemer – Amen

What an exciting story we have today from the book of Genesis – our Old Testament reading

It is the climax to the life and purpose of Joseph

          Joseph is the focal character for 13 chapters in the book of Genesis

                   More then anyone else by far

And today in 15 short verses we hear the reason why his story is such an influential one

                                                One could say it is because Joseph had vision

- Godly vision -

          But that is only part of the story

and more about that later

More importantly – today, we hear the climax of WHAT God is doing through Joseph and his brothers…

Believe it or not – today’s account is none other then ‘the Gospel’ – ‘the good news’

You might be wondering – Gospel – I thought that was the stories of Jesus from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – or thinking that it is a New Testament concept

Of course those four books of the bible are gospel accounts of the life of Jesus

And Gospel is a contextual word, more fitting to the New Testament times

Whereby the word was used to describe news of Caesar, the Roman ruler and demi-god

And St. Paul (in particular) transformed the word to be a dramatic counter-culture, counter-political statement of the true Lord of all – The Gospel of Jesus who was the Christ

You may have also heard people make statements – like this person is doing the gospel work or that person is proclaiming the gospel – and wondered what that meant

Well the fundamentally the essence of the Gospel is not a book or what we do – but the work of the Lord

The manifestation of the Holy Spirit in redeeming and transforming lives towards God

And this is exactly what we are hearing about in our passage from Genesis today

                                      And - this is exactly what all of the Bible is about

All scripture - told to its fullest - speaks the gospel message

There is what some call a Meta-narrative

An over-arching story behind each and every story in the bible

The structure is simple: creation – fall – repentance – redemption

It is a process – a journey:

–       from God’s created purpose

–       to our misunderstanding or abuse of the freedom given to us

–       to realization and turning away from self focus and towards God

–       concluding with God redeeming, God transformation of what was misguided to what is noble and good

Beginning with Good and returning to Good

All - is God’s redeeming grace

So let’s back peddle and bring us briefly into the long story of Joseph

          Jacob favorite wife, he had four, was Rachel

                   Joseph was the first born of Rachel and the favorite of Jacob

Benjamin was the second of Rachel and Rachel died bearing Benjamin

                                      Jacob had 12 sons

Joseph was not loved by the brothers for his favored status nor his smarming tattle-tale ways

Joseph also had dreams or visions, which God gave him, and he correctly interpreted, as having his brothers bowed down before this favored son

They hated him even more – so much that they first planned to kill him, and after some intervention by Reuben, the eldest, they sold him into slavery

          He prospered as a slave, but after a false accusation was thrown in jail

There he also prospered – there he also had an opportunity to use his God-given gift of dream interpretation to some servants of the Pharaoh

When the pharaoh was troubled by some dreams that no one could interpreted, one remembered that Joseph in jail had this gift

Joseph, given the credit to God, was able to interpret the dreams and to suggest a strategy in which the bad fortune that the dreams forecasted could be averted with some clever management

The pharaoh, seeing the wisdom of Joseph, gave him the task of administering all of Egypt to the strategy Joseph had suggested to deal with 7 years of famine

          Joseph prospered, he was a gifted administrator and his strategy worked

His family represented by his brothers, in neighboring Canaan, suffered under the famine and came to Egypt to buy food

they did not recognize their brother – thinking him dead long ago

Joseph leads them through a series of deceptions through which Joseph (in his position as an Egyptian ruler) had manipulated to his unsuspecting brothers, causing them a good deal of consternation

And the final deception led them to point whereby Benjamin is accused of stealing and will be killed or becoming a slave of Joseph

Here Judah steps in, and in a long speech offers to take the place of Benjamin – to spare his old father’s heart for a second favored son lost

Judah will not abandon Benjamin

Now we are at the point of our story today – the climax of the story

This act of love that Judah does for his brother – is more than Joseph can take and he weeps – so loud that even the Egyptians, that have been sent away, can hear him

          He reveals that he is their brother and declares …. are you ready for it

                   "God sent me before you to preserve life . . . .

It was not you who sent me here, but God."

The climax of the story is the revelation that God has redeemed the evil that they had done

Note that Joseph does not attribute the brothers' sinful actions to God. God did not make them sin: "I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt"

BUT it is what God does – God redeems the situation

This is the gospel – this is the good news – God redeems us,

Even … or especially … in our folly

Through-out the bible we have stories of people that mess up

          And yet God keeps His promises

God turns our failings, our falling away from God’s plan, or our situational misfortunes

                             And transforms it into an opportunity for reconciliation

                                      Redeems what is lost to what is found

Now if you are like me and grew up hearing the story of Joseph as the archetypal story of forgiveness – you have not been mislead

          That is an important layer of the story

Certainly Joseph’s actions display incredible forgiveness

His brothers which had sold him into slavery, are being forgiven

Because Joseph is blessed with seeing the bigger picture – the story behind the story

In which by their initial actions Joseph was able to save two nations;

Both the Egyptians and his family

But before we canonize Joseph prematurely

Remember he was blessed with a gift from God

He given the gift of vision and the wisdom to understand it and act in accordance with God

Understanding – living up to one’s potential and fulfilling God’s purpose is all anyone can ever hope to do

and Joseph should be held up as a glorious example of that

But the true human hero of this story is actually Judah, Joseph’s brother

For in the beginning of the story, it is Judah that had suggested that they sell Joseph into slavery

And yet over time he transforms into the one who is willing to lay down his life for his brother

          This is what brings Joseph to tears

Judah’s previous actions have been redeemed – he is a transformed person – God has worked a miracle in his heart

Judah is the lesson that we all can likely relate to better

Every person that I have ever met, and of course myself included have failing moments in our lives

          Moments in which we fall short of God’s desire for us

God adjusts and over time works in our lives to redeem us – to transform us – to brings us back

and it is a continual process

To illustrate this point: of how God works with us

          This past three weeks we have had a GPS in our van

                             It is a actually a loaner from Kelly’s grandma

A Global Position System is a device which can locate you using a database of maps and a connection to satellites - locating you to within 5 feet

          It is a cool gadget to have in the car

Now when I want to go to some place and have this little computer tell me the best route – I type in the location and it calculates the route from where I am

I am then given turn by turn directions – audibly and graphically

But let’s say that I think I know better – maybe one street has less traffic or there is construction or maybe I just think I know better - and I take a different route

                    The computer takes a moment - in our case says “recalculating route”

                             And a revised route is produced

                                       If we have gone seriously wrong – it will say

                                      “at the next opportunity, make a legal u-turn”

That is how God deals with us

          God, as Joseph rightly declares, doesn’t create the problem

                   God sets out a path

When we stray from it, God adjusts and redeems the situation by giving us another way

And just like my driving example, sometime calls us to make an about-face

Otherwise know as repentance – turning from one way to another

That is also the way God works in the midst of suffering

          It is not God’s desire for us, the creatures created in God’s image - to suffer

                   For God created us and declare it was good

But we by our free will, or imposed upon us by the actions of others or from general fallen creature that we have become, find ourselves in suffering situations

In the midst of that God knocks on our door and provides a way to redeem it

          God reaches out and offers us ‘another way’

God release us from our suffering in

Mind, body or soul

And in some cases all of the above

Our passage from Romans tells much the same message

          In the midst of our fallen ways – our disobedience

God provides mercy – God redeems

That’s the Gospel – the Good news story

Found through-out the Bible

In the Old Testament and in the New Testament

Most clearly displayed in - the purpose - teachings - and life of Jesus

Here are the words of Jesus

16“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

Let us pray - Lord may our eyes be always opening to your redeeming grace, may we - like Joseph - be blessed with the vision to see your hand in reconciling all things to the glory which is yours - Amen

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