Monday, February 25, 2013

Who are you?

While today's reflection is interesting, I'm going to give an example of feasting and fasting from Genesis that could have gone very wrong - into the extremes, and how the balance was found.  This example comes from Pastor Craig Pierce (who did not realize he would be providing this example as he had another point in his sermon) of the Door of Hope, and actually ties into the subject of today's reflection of "Who Are You".

Let's look at Genesis 42-46; the story of Joseph and his brothers in Egypt is fairly well known.  But let's look at it through the lens of fasting and feasting.  It's been 20 years since the brothers have seen each other.  And during this time of famine (actual fasting concerning food) and draught, Joseph's careful preparations have taken what could have been a literal time of feasting and turned it into a balance for the whole land, that none would need to starve.  His storage of the grain is heard far and wide, and his father Jacob sends the majority of his brothers to Egypt to buy some.  He keeps Benjamin with him, however, as that is the only son left from his beloved wife Rachel, or so he thinks.  Here we begin to see the first twinges of guilt from the brothers who sold Joseph into slavery so many years before, along with lying to their father for decades. 

Joseph recognizes his brothers, and here before him is an absolute opportunity for feasting on revenge and retribution, but he realizes that they still do not feel particularly badly about what they had done to him, and uses words to prick at their consciences.  While he puts all of them in jail for three days, he keeps one brother to ensure their return, and sends the rest on their way, telling them that unless they bring their youngest brother the next time (Joseph's full brother), they will receive no more grain.  They begin to recognize on the way home that this may be retribution for what they did to Joseph two decades ago.

In their return trip, they bring double the money (for their money had been returned to them), along with gifts of fruit and honey, nuts and spices - a veritable feast.  When Joseph sees them, he actually provides for them a feast, overwhelmed at seeing his younger brother, and reunites all the brothers, sitting them in order of birth at the table.  For Joseph, this is a feast of not only food, but of the emotions of being surrounded by his family. 

The brothers prepare to leave, and Joseph has the silver cup put into Benjamin's sack, leading to the arrest and agreement to become a slave for such thievery.  Finally, the brothers begin to realize that their actions caused their father such grief, and that their present circumstances would certainly kill him, were Benjamin never to return to him.  They realize their crime of 20 years ago has led them to this place here, and Judah repents his actions so that Benjamin might return to their father.  We have reached the opposite end of the spectrum - the brothers have a veritable feast of repentence and guilt.  Joseph here has an opportunity to have an absolute glut of revenge on his brothers. 

But here we find the common theme with today's reflection - who are you?  Joseph is a wise and kind man, and has long since realized that God has guided his life all along.  His presence in Egypt was necessary to prevent widespread famine with the drought.  His feast of good fortune in Egypt allowed him to save not only the country, but his family from the fasting that would have occurred.  His brothers could have wallowed in their guilt, with an absolute paucity of good feeling, but through their repentence, and Joseph's forgivness, they reach the balance of reconciliation.  In the end, they accept Joseph's words, and admire him for who he is, and who he has become.  The option of vengeance never even entered his mind as he focused on the opportunity to once again see his father - not telling him of his brothers' perfidy, but merely being grateful for the blessings God gives him.  This is a truly honorable and wise man.

Would you have been able to do the same?  So, who are you?

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