Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
August 6-7, 2011
The news hasn’t been very good week this week here in the United States.
The infighting in Congress ended in a last minute deal
…but it was too little and too late to avoid a downgrade in our credit rating.
31 American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan today.
The job news isn’t good.
Stocks are shaky.
There have been record-breaking heat waves,
And not enough rain.
This is the time to listen to the story of Joseph.
We listen not as much because of what the people do in the story,
but because of what God does in the story.
Now wait a minute, you might say,
I didn’t hear God mentioned at all in the story!
God isn’t mentioned.
The Joseph story is very different from the other stories in the book of Genesis.
In other stories when the people are in a jamb, God speaks to them:
God tells Noah to build an ark – a very big ark.
God scolds Cain for committing murder.
God promises to Abraham and Sarah that they will have a child. God even speaks to creation as it is created – Let there be…God says – and he’s proud of his own handiwork and calls it good.
For others in Genesis, God meets them in person or sends a personal messenger.
God meets Abraham and Sarah in the form of two strangers.
God meets Jacob at the Jabbok and wrestles with him.
But this doesn’t happen to Joseph.
God doesn’t speak to Joseph. God doesn’t send a messenger to Joseph.
– he doesn’t tell him how to get out of the pit
– he doesn’t advise him not to brag about the special coat to his brothers
– he doesn’t suggest that he not share those dreams about his older brothers and his parents bowing down to him
– he doesn’t give him an escape plan to get away before he’s taken to Egypt
– he doesn’t reassure him that everything will turn out okay.
Throughout Genesis, God is hidden from Joseph.
The wonder of the Joseph story is that it shows us that God is still at work
even when God is not seen or heard.
The Joseph story reminds us that whatever happens,
God can be trusted.
It’s a story for today.
Despite all the bad news around us God can be trusted.
Despite the pit that we’re in as a nation, God can be trusted.
For Joseph, it’s only at the very end of the story – in chapter 50, verses 19 and 20 –
that he can look back at all that has happened to him
look to his brothers and say:
Now I know…
“You intended do to harm to me, but God intended it for good.”
Someday, later in our story – in our own chapter 50 or beyond! — we will see God’s hand in everything.
Someday, we will understand.
Someday, we will look around us and say most assuredly,
“God intends good.”
It doesn’t take much faith to believe in a loving God when things are going well.
It takes great faith to believe in a loving God when things are difficult.
The Joseph story reminds us to keep the faith when we can’t see God.
Last night I was at a baseball game.
It was a game unlike any other – and that was because the players are blind.
Our New Day Band bassist, Lu Leon plays ball for the York Thundersticks
and his team was taking on the Lancaster Bats at Sovereign Stadium.
The form of baseball they play is called Beeper Ball.
The ball beeps and the bases buzz.
The batters hit based on what they hear
and run to the buzzing base.
The fielders listen to the sound of the ball and run in the appropriate direction.
Now granted, sometimes the outfielders start out running the wrong direction.
And the batters don’t make contact with the ball every time.
But these athletes have the most amazing trust I’ve ever seen!
Can you imagine having the faith to run as fast as you can toward a base
without being able to see anything in front of you?
How about standing in the outfield hearing the sound of a ball coming your way
and trusting that it won’t hit you?
Or standing in the batter’s box waiting for a pitch that’s
aimed very close to your head!
If you think it’s easy, the team will challenge you to a game
– if you’re willing to wear a blindfold!
Oftentimes I think people use the term “blind faith”
to mean a faith that is immature or irrational.
Watching Lu and his blind baseball team,
I don’t think “blind faith” means that at all.
Real blind faith is complete trust
despite knowing there are obstacles in the way.
It is stepping out – even running out – despite the darkness.
That same blind faith is what the Joseph story teaches us.
It is the trust in a loving God we cannot see.
It is faith that regardless of our circumstances,
God has a plan, God has a purpose, and God intends it for good.
It is the encouragement to continue running
even if we can’t see homeplate.
It is the courage to continue to play
even after we’ve been hit by a ball once or twice (or three times or four times).
In the meantime a sense of humor helps.
In talking with Lu’s teammates, I was struck by their sense of humor.
I asked Lu about it later.
He said that when you’re blind, you have to be able to see the humor in things.
Otherwise when you find yourself in the wrong restroom,
or get into the wrong car;
or knock something off a counter and break it,
you’d be mortified.
It’s much easier to share a laugh about it.
It’s no question, we in the United States are in a pit right now.
But God is not indifferent;
God has a plan;
God has a purpose;
God can be trusted.
God intends good.