Sermon, Feb. 24, 2019
Genesis 45: 3-11; 15
Luke 6: 27-38
Living in the Light – Love your Enemies
The gospel lesson, this morning asks/demands of us to love our enemies. I can’t think of a better Old Testament story that depicts this reality better than the story of Joseph. This is the story about a young man. His father’s name is Jacob, and they lived in Canaan. Joseph was seventeen, and he had eleven brothers; and only had one brother younger than him. Because Joseph was one of the youngest sons, his father spent more time with him, and he became very special to him. So, Jacob had a special robe made for Joseph. It was very beautiful and had every color you could imagine in it. All of Joseph’s older brothers saw this and they got very jealous. They got so jealous they couldn’t even say a kind word to him for it meant that Joseph, as a younger brother, need not labour in the field.
One day Joseph had a dream, and he went to tell his brothers. He said, “Guess what? Last night I had a strange dream. We were tying up bunches of grain out in the field when suddenly my bunch stood up, while all of yours gathered around and bowed to me.” The brothers looked at each other in disgust, but Joseph continued. “Then I had another dream that the sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed down to me.” “Who do you think you are?” The brothers said. “Do you think that you are better than all of us? Do you think that we would ever bow down to you?” This made the brothers dislike Joseph even more. When he told his father about his dreams he said, “Those are strange dreams.” But he thought carefully about what Joseph had told him.
A few days later Joseph’s father asked him to check on his brothers. They were in the fields quite a distance away. So, Joseph went to find them. When the brothers saw Joseph in the distance, they ‘made a plan’ to kill him. But when Reuben, Joseph’s oldest brother heard this he said, “Let’s not kill him, just throw him in a well out here in the field.” He said this because he was secretly planning to come back and rescue Joseph when the other brothers had left. So, when Joseph came to them, they took off his beautiful robe and they threw him in an empty well. A little while later a group of people came by that were wanting to sell some things in Egypt. One of the brothers spoke up, “Why don’t we sell him to these people, this way we never have to see him again, and we don’t have to kill him.” The other brothers liked this idea, so they sold him to the people who were going to Egypt. Unfortunately, Reuben had been working and hadn’t seen what happened. When he returned to the well, he noticed that Joseph was gone. He had been sold to an important man named Potiphar, an assistant to the Pharaoh of Egypt. The rest of the brothers took Joseph’s beautiful robe and dipped it in animal blood and took it back to their father. When the father saw this he cried, “Some animal has killed my son.” And he cried for many days, so much that nobody could comfort him.
Here we hear of how animosity can build up in a person, a family, a country: jealousy/injustice/favouritism/being set apart/slavery/killing and the story goes on and we witness how loving those who hate can bring a reconciliation for all. To love your enemies then; God’s children’s behaviour is not determined by the enemy. The God we worship does not hate in response to hatred. God does not react; God acts in love and grace and forgiveness toward all and such ought to be the way of those who are children of God. God’s children do not judge or condemn but rather give and forgive. In other words, we are called to non-retaliation, generosity, and mercy. We are to relate to others as God relates to us. To know God’s forgiveness and generosity means that we are ourselves God’s forgiving and generous children.
Now Joseph had started out as a slave, but God was with Joseph and God helped him do everything right. So, Potiphar made him his helper, and put him in charge of everything that he owned. The problem came when Potiphar’s wife lied about Joseph to her husband, so Potiphar had Joseph put into jail. The Lord was still with Joseph in jail, and the warden put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners. He never worried because the Lord was with Joseph and helped him do everything right. Joseph stayed in jail for two years. Until one day the Pharaoh had a dream, and nobody could explain it to him. Joseph was brought to Pharaoh. “Can you understand dreams?” Pharaoh asked. “I can’t, but God helps me.” Joseph replied. After Pharaoh had told him his dream Joseph explained, “God is warning you. There will be seven years when nothing will grow and there won’t be any food for anyone.” “What can I do?” Pharaoh asked. “God has shown you what to do. There will be seven years before the bad years of famine that will be very good. So good that there will be extra food a-plenty for everyone. So, you should save a little bit of each year’s harvest, that way you will have enough to get you through the bad years.” Joseph said. Pharaoh believed all that Joseph told him and put him in charge of all the land of Egypt. People came from all countries to buy grain from Joseph, because the whole world was in need of food. Some of those people were Joseph’s brothers. When his brothers came, Joseph recognized them, but they did not know who he was. (It had been over 10 years since they had seen him). The brothers all bowed to him because he was an important person. Just as he dreamed, they would at the beginning. After a few meetings with his brothers he could not keep it in any longer and Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father alive?” But his brothers couldn’t answer him because they were afraid. Then Joseph said, “Come here. I am your brother, the one you sold! Do not worry, and do not be angry at yourselves for selling me, because God has put me here to save people from starving.” Joseph forgave his brothers showing God’s love to them. So, his father, his brothers, and their families came to live in Egypt with Joseph, and they had all the food they needed.
After the story of Joseph is told, and we hear how we ought to love our enemies; be kind to unkind. Jesus’ criteria for forgiveness not mentioned here but told none the less, is not a blind forgiveness in which people can stomp over us and be forgiven but a forgiveness in which the enemy must ask for forgiveness and repent. In repenting, then the act of the enemy is not repeated. May it be so, amen.