Thursday, February 11, 2016

Genesis: Afterthoughts

Dear Christa—
Genesis: Afterthoughts
Joseph’s life sums up the one of the great paradoxes and intriguing aspects of God’s creation: sovereignty and choice. If theologians were ever going to nail exactly how it works, they would have by now. It is a mystery that Joseph expresses to his brothers.
Joseph tells them:
Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.
This is a continued illustration that runs through all Genesis and all Scripture of man’s choice and God’s sovereignty. The bad that is done to us by others is a part of our sanctification, even when we don’t understand it. I learned this from a young wife I met at my niece’s wedding in Denver last summer who told me her story, and said: “This is a part of MY sanctification. God is weaving a story, and all story is marked with conflict.
“Joseph lived 110 years and saw the third generation of Ephraim’s children.” In this Joseph sees the fulfillment of God’s promise of his family becoming a nation. For Joseph there was some revelation and understanding, and Joseph died.
For 400 years the narrative lies silent. For 400 years the family—isolated—became a great nation.
Times changed. Pharaohs changed. Conditions changed. God seemed distant, but He was as real and active as on the day he called Abram out of Ur.
God is always active—each day, each moment—whether we see it or not. This is the lesson of Joseph. He believed in the activity of God—as should we.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Conclusion

Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Now: The Conclusion
Gen. 50
Every life must eventually come to an end. So, as with Abraham and Isaac, Jacob, too, came to the end of his days. In many ways his life had been just as he’d expressed to pharaoh—“few and difficult.” Some of those difficulties had been the result of his own hands and some had not. Joseph and his brothers did just as Jacob had requested, carrying his body to the cave near Mamre to be buried.
Afterward, the brothers were once again fearful of Joseph. Oh, the things we do that can come back to haunt us—foolish and rash decisions that devastate and hurt others. These had been done at an early age of adulthood, but we can be just as guilty at anytime in our lives.
It’s true that Joseph could have been waiting for revenge. People do. They can wait and calculate, nursing the wrongs with retribution for the future, but not Joseph.
Joseph accepted the events of life as from the hand of God. What a wonderful thing it is when we are able to look back on hardship and see the plan of God. Joseph accepted his life as from the plan of God.
These brothers had nothing to fear because Joseph recognized that what people had meant for harm, God intended for abundant blessing. So, the brothers and Joseph and their descendants lived in Egypt in the land of Goshen for hundreds of years until they became a large nation, no longer classified as one family.
Revealing Creation, the Fall, God’s chosen people, and the positioning for the salvation of the world, Genesis is a foundational narrative in Who God is, His omnipotent power, and his interaction with individuals and the world—both God followers and those who aren’t.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Prophesies

Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Now: The Prophesies
Genesis 49
There comes a time when Jacob calls all his sons to him—all older men themselves at this point. And, as they gather around him, Jacob predicts the future of each.  We learn through Reuben that sin has a way of catching up with us. Although Reuben’s foolish action of sleeping with his fathers concubine was many years back, it was his downfall: Reuben would not excel.
The violence of Simeon and Levi at the Shechem would also come back to haunt them. Jacob curses their cruelty and anger. They would not have their own land in Canaan. It’s a warning to not let anger get the best of us, no matter how bad we’ve been wronged.
Through Judah, we see the result of repentance. Judah’s life was far from stainless, yet it’s Judah who receives a great blessing. Ultimately, its Judah’s descendants who are honored above the rest. David would come from the house of Judah, and Jesus would be born of his line.
The other sons that we know little to nothing about were given prophecies, some positive and some negative.
Then, Jacob ends with his favored sons from Rachel, his first love and the one who always seemed to have his heart, even to the end of his days.
Joseph’s blessing was long. He is fruitful in the midst of persecution from his brothers, and God is credited with Joseph’s perseverance—the Mighty One, the Shepherd, the Rock, the Almighty—great attributes of God who’d sustained Joseph through all his years of trouble, and Jacob proclaims Joseph a “prince among his brothers.”
And, indeed he was, and at this point there wasn’t a soul who could deny it. Joseph had experienced great suffering and great blessings, as do all people (just perhaps on a less extreme scale), yet Jacob in his last words make it clear that God is the sustainer in our trials and the provider of every blessing. What an example is Joseph in how God deals with his people.
the parishioner who doesnt do anything

Monday, February 1, 2016


 Dear Christa,

From Genesis to Now: Blessing
Genesis 49

The last three chapters of Genesis closes out the life of the last patriarch, Jacob—Israel, the namesake of the nation God chose to especially reveal Himself through.
When Jacob appears before Pharaoh, he summarizes his life in comparison to Abraham and Isaac: “My years have been few and difficult, and they do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my fathers.”
Jacob looks back on his life with sorrow, yet his parents Isaac and Rebecca, too, had many years when Jacob’s lived far from them.
So, the last 17 years of Jacob’s life was to be spent in Egypt. I wonder how often he looked into the morning and evening Egyptian sky and longed for the hill country around Hebron. In the darkness of his failing vision, did he ponder the vision of God’s promise that He was there too in the fertile Egyptian soil and that He’d one day accompany a great nation back to his homeland?
Jacob makes Joseph promise he’ll take his body back to be buried in the family cave. He would rest next to Leah, the wife who’d deceived him. I’ve always wondered if they they found a measure of happiness together in the long years following Rachel’s death.
Jacob claims Joseph’s sons as his own, giving Joseph a double portion of blessing in the nation of Israel—and placing the younger above the older, not a surprising gesture on the part of Jacob. It also reveals that God chooses whom He will. It matters not the birth order, or any other cultural traditions we have.
Then, he reassures Joseph, the brother who holds the welfare of his entire family in his hands: “I am about to die, but God will be with you.” Could a father bequeath any greater promise and blessing on a child?
So, as God had always directed Joseph’s life, his father assures him that long after he is gone, God will not leave him but continue to direct his steps. A reassuring word from a person we respect means so much and encourages us in the path before us.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Thursday, January 28, 2016


Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Now: Reflection
So, Jacob—finally convinced that Joseph was still alive—gathers up the family to go to Egypt. When he reaches Beersheba and offers a sacrifice, God appears to him.
“’I am God, the God of your father’, he said.
‘Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt,
for I will make you into a great nation there.
I will go down to Egypt with you,
and I will surely bring you back again.
And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes’”
(Gen. 46:3-4).
Jacob did a lot of significant traveling in his life. None of it was prompted by good, but that’s when God always worked and reassured him. To Paddan Aram as a young man, away from Shechem in his midlife, and now to Egypt for one last trip—to see Joseph before he dies and to deposit his kin right where God wants them for the next 400 years.
In that time, just as promised, they’ll become a large nation. And, eventually once again—in the midst of hardship—they will take up Joseph’s bones and return to the Promised Land.
Is it not true that God works in the midst of our storms when we have no choice but to trust in Him?
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, January 25, 2016


Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Now: Deliverance
I love happy endings, especially when they come after hardship. Now, with the fact that Joseph is still alive and well, the brothers must have admitted all to their father. The dreams had come true—far from the way they could have ever anticipated—but true just the same.  And, they are relieved they had—in the midst of this famine.
When we only have a glimpse of our future, it is so often difficult to see beyond the sliver that’s revealed. It’s easy to only see the negative. We interpret it only in the context of the present. It can be fearful. It can be frustrating. It can be anything but what we want.
We can only see a short distance into our futures, not 20 years, for 20 years bring things we’d never imagine, some good, some bad.
I imagine old Jacob waiting at home and fearing for his sons. Little could he see the great deliverance Joseph would bring to him. Sometimes, the bad—all the darkness—can open up into a glorious end of love, renewing, and joy. As with Jacob, Joseph, and these brothers, joy can come through loss, guilt, shame, then recognizing and trusting in God.
Sometimes deliverance comes only at the end of this dark and fallen world when peace and rest are found in Heaven, enfolded into the love of God. But, sometimes deliverance comes in the here and now. It can come unforeseen, without expectation. And, as C. S. Lewis stated, we can be “Surprised by Joy.”
Looking for surprises today—
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Thursday, January 21, 2016


Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Now: Genesis 45

What we send around does seem to come back around eventually—maybe even 20 years later.
When Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, I doubt that they’re amazed about Joseph’s childhood dreams and that they’d already come true. What they’re probably thinking is that they are all truly toast. It isn’t as if Joseph has been particularly kind to them so far. Now, the money and the cup in the sacks all make sense to them, and it isn’t a lit surprising that they’re petrified.
Then, notice Joseph’s words. “And do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.”
Here, all these years later Joseph realizes God’s purpose. Sometimes circumstances take us places we don not want to go. Sometimes our own choices and other’s choices toward us can be so foolish, so selfish. Yet, in a crazy roundabout way, they serve to sanctify us in the pain. They press us into trusting God like nothing else would have, and in the end we often find understanding, acceptance, and even gratefulness.
So, Joseph he tells his brothers, “God sent me here.” There is purpose in every dark event, and no matter what we or others have done, there is no way we an mess up God’s will. God is God and He will have his way, and many lives will be saved.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything