September 13th 2020 Trinity XIV Proper 19 Year A
We all know the story of Joseph and that outlandish, peacock coat that his father gave him and how out of jealousy, his older brothers sold him into slavery. When you read the earlier part of the story you can end up sympathising with Joseph’s brothers. What a prig and show off Joseph was - swanking and strutting about in that technicolour coat. What an idiot his father was for showing his out and out favouritism of Joseph over and above his elder sons. Yes! Joseph was one of the two sons of his later life and second marriage to an adored but deceased wife but as any good parent knows you don't openly show your favouritism to one child at the expense of others without incurring problems for both that child and yourself.
I think, in this excerpt, that Joseph’s father is asking Joseph to forgive his brothers as he is truly to blame for what happened to him. It was Jacob that was at fault and his actions caused the brothers to behave as they did.
Joseph, because of his experiences in captivity and then in Pharaoh’s service has also learned many lessons about life. He has come to understand himself and to acknowledge his less than good behaviour as a young man. Although his brothers meant him harm in the past he is able to forgive them because he can see how his life has developed for the better because of their actions. He now seeks to re-unite his family and does so with great generosity:
“21So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.’ In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.” Genesis 50:21
This example is meant to show us how great and forgiving is God’s love of us and how much that God is always willing to forgive us, even when we think we don't deserve that forgiveness because of what we may have done or not done. Just ponder on that reality for a while.
As a more or less vegan this bit of Paul’s letter to the Romans always makes me laugh:
“2Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables.” Romans 14:2
But in today’s current climate it does have resonance. The Vegan lobby is very strong at the moment and the ad’s against milk drinking a couple of years ago were very hard hitting but they’re just as judgemental as those non Vegans who tend to ‘do down’ those who are, as fanatics. What Paul is trying to tell us in this epistle is that no one of us is in any position to judge anyone else. We might think we are and have evidence to support that stance but in actuality none of us can or should judge another. Why? Because there is always going to be a bit of us that could be open to judgement by someone else as well.
I well remember a strong voice in the campaign for Civil Partnerships who ranted against such things. This was a man four times divorced who could see no reason for his sexual mores to be challenged by those who were trying to make a life-time commitment to each other. He believed he was above judgement and was in a position to judge others. God soon topples us off such pedestals should we choose to stand on them.
God, it appears from the Scriptures, does not judge anyone on any grounds; colour, race, creed, gender, sexuality, age, whatever. It is us humans who do that. We may individually be uncomfortable or unhappy with somethings in other peoples lives but they might be just as unhappy with things in our lives. We need to regularly challenge ourselves and our beliefs and behaviours, our prejudices and preferences and be prepared to see things in a different light once we carefully examine the evidence.
Judging each other and thinking some of God’s creation are more worthy than others has to stop. It has to be challenged. Why in the 21st century should women be paid less than men for doing the same job? And why should the majority in some area feel threatened by the minority, that they wish to bodily harm those who are different?
The older I get the less patience I have with any form of discrimination or prejudice for I truly believe it grieves God and makes God’s heart bleed. I suspect it also angers God and disappoints God in that the pinnacle of creation is such a mean spirited animal. This is not what God wants us to be, we are bigger than that and capable of such amazing altruism if only we can remember not to judge others for fear that we will be judged as well.
“21 Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ 22Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. “ Matthew 18:21-22
Don’t just forgive once but forgive time and time again. For useless you do Jesus warns us:
“35So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’” Matthew 18:35
Forgive, forgive, forgive and God will forgive you your sins and faults as well. Do not judge and you will not be judged, harshly, by God either. Basically, it’s all summed up in the ‘Golden Rule’:
‘Love God and love your neighbour as yourself.’
Pretty good advice after all we have read this morning.