Genesis 45:3-11, 15 Psalm 37:1-11, 40-41 1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50 Luke 6:27-38
The church in the Gambela region of Ethiopia is growing by leaps and bounds. It is such a blessing to see how the believers there are simply unable to keep their faith to themselves…they just have to share the Good News about Jesus with anyone who is willing to listen…and even with those who are not so willing to listen.
But oh, it is so sad to see the church divided along ethnic lines! While a few (like our Anglican Church) are willing to work together and to seek common ground, many want to fight over the limited resources and the land. Even church leaders have been known to egg their people on to commit unspeakable atrocities against their fellow believers from a different ethnic group.
This is nothing new of course…division and strife are as old as sin. When Adam was caught out in his sin, he turned against his wife and blamed her. She turned against her new friend, the serpent. Cain killed Abel. And Joseph’s brother turned against him as they sold him into slavery…a fate worse than death. Or at least, that’s what we would think…
The Old Testament lesson reveals a classic theme in Holy Scripture. What we would think of being upside down, God uses to turn right side up. What Joseph’s brothers meant for evil, God meant for good. His slavery led to the preservation of the whole family.
It is this Divine tendency to bring good out of evil that caused David to write in our Psalm for today, “Don’t worry about the wicked or envy those who do wrong. For like grass, they soon fade away. Like spring flowers, they soon wither. Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desire. Commit everything to the Lord. Trust Him and He will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun. Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for Him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.”
We’ve all been wrongfully accused at some point in life. Our natural inclination is to defend ourselves or to seek revenge on whoever it was who sought to harm us. But Joseph shows us a different way. Many in his position would – quite justifiably – want to get their own back…what we call pay back time. But Joseph looked beyond himself and his own hurt…he saw the bigger picture as it were. He saw the sovereign hand of God behind the evil actions of his brothers…if they had not sold him into slavery…if he had not been bought by Potiphar and wrongfully accused of trying to seduce his wife…he would not have met the butler and would not have interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh and would not have been in the position to save his very own family from starvation. What was upside down, God turned right side up.
The same is true for one greater than Joseph…our Lord Jesus Himself. The Seed of the woman who invaded our world to crush the head of the serpent, had to die first in order to rise from the dead in a new, eternal, resurrected body. He had to die in order to be a life-giving Spirit. What seemed to be the end of the road for the disciples was, in fact, the beginning. The crucifixion, humanly speaking, was a disaster…but God raised Jesus from the dead and inaugurated the New Creation…in His death, Jesus defeated death. Through His death, God turned the upside down world the right side up.
And Jesus taught us to turn an upside down world the right way up by living lives that seem foolish…by loving our enemies, doing good to those who hate us, blessing those who curse us, praying for those who hurt us, forgiving those who sin against us. Like Joseph being sold into slavery…like David being persecuted by Saul…like Jesus being put to death…these things only make sense when we see them from God’s perspective. Joseph became a ruler in Egypt, 2nd only to Pharaoh. David became king. Jesus became the King of kings. God has promised to work all things – all things – good and bad – all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are the called according to His purpose. We may not understand how He will weave tragedies into triumphs, but He promises that He will and we, like the Psalmist, must trust Him and continue to do good…we must become still in His presence and wait patiently for Him to act in His own good time.
Corrie Ten Boom once said that life was like a tapestry. From our perspective we only see messy tangles of the various threads as we see it from the back. But when God turns it around, we see the tapestry from the right side and we are then enabled to see beauty instead of chaos. When we look at life in this world, we see hatred, bitterness, sadness, sorrow, sickness, and death, and we may not always understand. But God turns all these things around for good…and ultimately, for those who die in Jesus, He turns the mortal into the immortal.
What always helps me regain an eternal perspective is the Eucharist. Here I am a witness to the Divine tendency to turn the wrong into right…to bring good out of evil. Jesus’ death is my life and your life. What seems foolish…what seems tragic…what seems upside down, it actually wise, triumphant, and the right side up. Here in this very simple sacrament we see things differently…we look beyond our own limited resources and behold the great plan of the Almighty.
So come…come to His Table…come into His throne room, asking Him to turn your upside down view of life the right side up. Come and see things from His perspective…come and be still in His presence and commit everything to Him.
© Johannes W H van der Bijl 2019-02-22