The Way Life Turns
Based on Genesis Chapters 42-45
Ten men live for at least 12 years with a dark secret – a secret that no one dares to tell, for they are all implicated in it. They have seen their father suffer with grief, and turn his affection, not to them, as they hoped, but to the youngest son, the second child of his beloved Rachel, who died giving birth to baby Benjamin. And now the whole family, and the whole land suffers the effects of drought. But traders have said, there is grain to be bought in the land of Egypt. And so the brothers travel to Egypt where they hope to buy grain to help their family survive a famine. Unbeknownst to them, Joseph, daddy’s favourite, whom they sold into slavery in a fit of jealousy years earlier, has not only survived but has risen to be a leader of the Egyptians. Everything that ever went on before, led to this moment. All the seemingly good and bad, the twists and turns of relationships, the geography, the movement of time and space…
In the moment that Joseph realizes that it is his brothers that stand before him, he knows he has a choice to make. He has been affected deeply by the choices these men made many years ago, and he has the power to deeply affect their lives now, and the lives of generations to come. And… if you read the whole story, he takes his dear sweet time about letting on to them that he knows who they are, he plays tricks on them, setting them up for failure until they bring his little brother Benjamin, whom he has never met, down to Egypt. Their lives hang in the balance – he could destroy them completely. Ultimately though, re rises above revenge. Joseph has come to a place where he believes that God has worked in and through all that has happened, and he chooses mercy and restoration. He chooses to live in right relationship with his estranged family, and he chooses to see God at work in it all.
When relationships are fractured or dysfunctional, whether within a family, or among friends, community, church members co-workers etc., we have to make choices that affect us and the people we are estranged from. Some relationships we may have no desire to restore, and others take a lot of time, patience, careful listening, unconditional love, abiding faith, and desire to rebuild relationships between those that are estranged. Where does this connect with our spiritual selves, where or how do we see the Holy Spirit at work in it all?
How do we understand God in the midst of things, especially when life gets difficult? You have probably had Romans 8:28 quoted to you, or perhaps by you: “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love God, who are called according to God’s purpose.” Or from Proverbs 3: 5-6Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
Depending on your experience this may or may not be a comforting notion. In Christina Baldwin’s book, “Life’s Companion: Journal writing as a spiritual quest,” she writes: I had a great-aunt who, no matter what the situation would always tell me to “trust the Lord.” I never much liked this aunt. You couldn’t have a real conversation with her. If something good happened she praised the Lord for it, and if something bad happened she trusted the Lord to fix it. And somehow the person living through these experiences seemed to disappear in the equation. … The way she used trust, she didn’t have to do anything else, it all became “the Lord’s “problem.
People like my old aunt give trust a bad name. They use it to squelch dialogue and avoid doubt, questioning, or thinking. As part of my journey, I have had to rebuild a concept of trust that can include these things, build a sense of trust that emerges in the middle of my dialogue with life, in the middle of my doubts, fears, questions, and offers me another chance to choose to have faith in the hubbub, not to deaden my sense of reality.
Trust is the decision to keep seeing the deeper path of life and committing ourselves to it, in active partnership with guidance. Trust is interaction. We are doing what we can do, spirit is doing what it can do, and our lives are the amalgam (a joining) of these energies. P 211 & 213
As Joseph looked at all that was happening in his life, including his understanding of God’s part in it, I invite you now into a quiet time of guided meditation to look at your life in this moment. (based on a writing exercise from Ray McGinnis’ “Writing Through Transitions” workshop)
I invite you to begin by closing your eyes and relaxing your body… take time to get comfortable… notice if there are any places of tension in your body and let your muscles relax… let your feet rest on the floor … and slowly draw your breath deeply into your body… and slowly exhale, letting all tension flow out with your breath… breathe in slowly, deeply… you are safe here…
I invite you to imagine yourself walking into a movie theatre… you are here to see a movie… You walk into the quiet dimly lit room… and you can choose any seat because you are the only one there… Before you is a blank screen… As the lights go down, the movie screen title emerges… It says: My life – August 17th 2014. This is a movie about your life “as it currently is.” What is your life today? As you watch the screen, notice who and what is around you… Notice yourself in your giftedness… notice what you are giving of yourself to others… and notice what gifts you are receiving…
Notice too, the challenges you are facing right now… What is challenging your spirit, body and mind? … When you have seen what your current reality is, I invite you to see the screen fading… and the lights come up slowly…
I invite you to take a few deep cleansing breaths … and when you are ready, bring your attention back to this room…slowly open your eyes… and bring your awareness back to the worship service…
In your bulletin, you will see a sheet called Current Reality Cluster….
Put today’s date in the centre …You will see that there are two words at either end of Current Reality circle. Gifts & challenges
I invite you to think about the gifts that emerged from you as you reflected on gifts given and received …. E.g. you might have the gift of gardening, or the gift of genuine listening – write you gifts into the blank circles clustered around the word GIFTS. You can draw other circles beyond those on the page… e.g. from gardening – you may branch out into growing healthy food for your family, sharing with your neighbours, enjoying the sunshine etc.
Then look at the challenges that came up for you – they may be around health, energy, family, whatever… again use the space to you. Just take a few minutes of quiet time to write on your sheet, what comes to mind…
See questions in bulletin: What surprised you about this exercise?
What might the Holy Spirit be asking you to pay attention to?
You may want to share your responses with another person, or take some time to do some journaling about what questions.