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

Monday, January 18, 2016


Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Now: Genesis 44:33-45:1

Judah makes good on his promise to Jacob. He speaks to Joseph alone. He tells of his father, explaining that if Benjamin doesn’t return it will literally kill the old man. And, he begs Joseph to let him stay as a slave in place of his brother. “How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come upon my father,” he pleads. He has already seen that once. He could not bear to see it again.
Judah’s actions reveal that after confession comes a repentant heart. True repentance always brings about change. God working in us—Is that not the impetus for change in our hearts that’s revealed in our actions? I want to see God working in me, working in others, working in the world.
Oh, God is always at work. We can be sure of that, but my pride and selfishness has a way of hiding the very longing of seeing His work. In a world so broken, God is holding it together, not by a string, but by His almighty Hand.
God is writing a story—a story of Himself and we’re in it. In this storyline surrender leads to confession and confession to repentance. Repentance doesn’t always just affect our own lives. Sometimes our repentance fosters change in others as well. After Judah’s repentance, Joseph can’t help but reveal himself for who he really is, their brother.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Thursday, January 14, 2016

From Genesis to Now: Confession

Dear Christa—
Genesis to Now: Gen 44:14-33
Confession can take a long time. Wouldn’t it just be better to admit when we’ve done wrong and be done with it? But no, our pride and fear keep our sins hidden. One of the things I liked about teaching Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter was dealing with the issue of hidden sin. It makes us miserable during the hiding, and it comes out eventually anyway—like a splinter slowly but surely pushing its way to the surface, festered and painful.
So, Jacob’s sons trudge back to Joseph’s house. No cajoling, no excuses, they throw themselves for a third time before him, and Judah exclaims, “What can we say? How can we prove our innocence? God has uncovered your servants’ guilt.”
All these years they’d carried the guilt of selling Joseph to Egypt. It’s fitting that it’s Judah who speaks, since it had been his idea to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites to begin with. When Judah finally comes to the end of himself, I wonder how the words felt tumbling out of his mouth—God has uncovered our guilt.
Confession isn’t easy. Judah’s life had been marked with pain. Did he wonder about Joseph in the dark nights after he’d lost his sons? Did he wonder about God and his justice when he discovered the child Tamar carried was his own? The road to confession can be long and difficult. We must set aside pride and the false pretenses, believing we are more than what we actually are. But, confess we must. For through confession comes relief, hope, and mercy. It was so for Judah, and we can find it too, as we throw ourselves before Jesus, the only one who can save us.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, January 11, 2016

From Genesis to Now: Surrender

Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Now: Gen. 44:1-13
I can’t help but wonder what kind of person was Joseph’s steward. He puts the silver in the sacks and Joseph’s cup in Benjamin’s. Then, he turns right around and goes after them—all just as Joseph had instructed him. We know nothing of the steward other than his obedience, yet I wonder—had Joseph confided in him? Did he understand the bigger plan? Or, had he worked for Joseph so long he’d come to trust him? If so, these were certainly strange actions for a man he knew to be wise and caring. Then, perhaps, he simply did Joseph’s bidding because he was a servant and it wasn’t his job to question his master---but even then, no matter our position, we consider the things we see. Many view Joseph as a parallel to Jesus—one who in many ways freely put aside his own life to save the lives of others. Like the steward, sometimes we see God’s plan, and sometimes we don’t. But, we trust that there is one.
So, we follow God as the steward followed Joseph. And, when the steward found the cup in Benjamin’s sack—just where he himself had placed it, all the brothers tore their clothes in a display of great anguish. They did not blame Benjamin. They’d seen enough to know they had no control over these happenings. They did not argue. They loaded their donkeys and returned to the city.
The feelings of complete surrender, heaviness, and resignation can be taken in from this section. This would be the end for them, they surely thought.
Did they wonder what would happen next? Did they wonder about the old father and their own families and children who waited helplessly at the home they’d never return to? Did they pray to the God who’d chosen them? I imagine it as a silent trip back without conniving and blame. Finally, these brothers were at the end of themselves. It had taken many years. It’s a place we must all find ourselves eventually.
To throw ourselves at the feet of God and relinquish ourselves to Him— That is His desire and rightly so. That is the point where He lifts us up. but, that comes after the surrender—true and complete—lost in His power and our need for mercy.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Fulfillment and Fear

Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Now: Fulfillment
Fulfillment of God’s words doesn’t always come right away, but it comes. Joseph’s brothers were fearful that God’s punishment for their wrongdoing was imminent. Yet, what was on the horizon was the fulfillment of the dreams—dreams that angered them so as to send a brother into slavery—to lie to a father dearly loved, to endure pain, guilt, and hidden sin.
Joseph’s steward tries to alleviate their fear. I think his words are interesting. “Don’t be afraid. Your God, the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks.” And then he reunites them with Simeon.
When Joseph arrives home, they present him with the gifts Jacob had sent with them—and they bowed down to Joseph, not only once but twice.
When, they ate, they were seated according to their ages, eldest to youngest. When portions were given, Benjamin, Joseph’s brother of his mother, was given 5 times the amount of the others. They feasted, they drank, and they were astonished.
Maybe one of them should have taken a closer look at Joseph—this man they feared, but no one did. We simply don’t see what we don’t expect.
Although their thoughts were on Joseph, they did not recognize him. Fear has a way of hiding many things from us.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, January 4, 2016


Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Now: Gen. 43:15-18
Maybe you’re like me: I’m often trying to second guess peoples’ motives. I can wonder why I’m’ being regarded a certain way. Sometimes I never know. And, sometimes I’ve just plain misjudged a situation. Some of us naturally see people’s actions toward us as positive and others of us tend to conjure negative motives of others. Most of us probably live somewhere in between the two extremes.
However, for Joseph’s brothers, who often had self-seeking motives themselves, they are expecting the worst from this strange, powerful man they must deal with in Egypt. When they are sent to Joseph’s house, they assume payback day for sending their brother into slavery has arrived. Genesis 43:18 tells us they thought “he [Joseph] wants to attack us, and overpower us and seize us as slaves and take our donkeys.”
Making them slaves is one thing, but wanting their donkeys? Well, that’s just makes me want to laugh. Why in the world would someone as powerful as Joseph care about their donkeys? Guilt has a way of clouding our thinking. And, often we don’t think things through in a logical, rational way in times of stress.
We can find ourselves scared. We can find ourselves cornered. And, we can conjure up any number of ridiculous ideas, especially if we tend to live our life primarily focused on ourselves.
It’s a warning to not jump to conclusions. Sometimes, we need to wait and see. Most of the time, that’s what we’ll end up doing anyway. We wait to see where the hand of God moves. The questions is “How do we wait?” We can wait in anxiety or in trust.
I won’t tell you how I generally wait.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything