Today’s reading from Genesis has a backstory: Joseph, one of Jacob’s twelve sons, is his father’s favorite. Joseph is self-confident, imaginative, clever, and insightful. But his resentful brothers see him as spoiled and self-aggrandizing, so they plot to kill him. Instead, they sell Joseph into the hands of Egyptian spice traders. The ensuing years in Egypt bring Joseph both suffering and success, and through it all, spiritual growth. By the time Genesis 45 begins, Joseph is about forty years of age, prosperous, powerful, and finally ready to reconcile with the brothers who once viciously abused him.
Unrecognizing, they stand before him now. Sorrow shot through with joy, hope, and fear overcomes Joseph, who cries for privacy. Emotionally naked, he weeps and shows his brothers the human being he truly is—their own flesh and blood, who, despite betrayal and injury on all sides, loves them still and loves their father. Shocked beyond words by Joseph’s self-disclosure, the brothers can’t respond until he speaks the invitation that dissolves two decades of estrangement: Come closer.
Come closer is God’s invitation not only to Jacob’s sons but also to all humankind—to you and me. If the words come closer had another name it would be Jesus Christ. God comes close to us in Jesus because God yearns to heal the wounds of separation; undo the trauma of exile; reconcile all broken, distanced souls, families, and communities to Godself; and make human beings whole again. Our wholeness develops not in splendid isolation but in right relationship with others. Young Joseph once dreamed of reigning supreme over his brothers and even over heaven’s stars. Through the wreckage and reconciliation of his relationships, Joseph learns that no power is preferable to love.
Humbly, may we come closer to you, O God, and be reconciled to you through Jesus Christ. Embolden us to reveal our true selves, to forgive and be forgiven, and to be reconciled with the ones we love. Amen.
Joseph has risen to a high position in Egypt, and now his brothers come searching for food in a time of famine. He reveals his true identity and reinterprets their evil intentions as being part of God’s plan. Sometimes we too are granted perspective to see God’s working in difficult times. The psalmist rejoices when God’s people are living in unity, as Joseph and his brothers were after their reunion. In Romans, Paul declares that his people are not rejected by the merciful God, for God’s promises are unchanging. In Matthew, Jesus teaches that God looks on the inside, not the outside. Thus, what you take into your body is less important than what comes from your heart, and God does not favor one ethnic group over another.
Read Genesis 45:1-15. When have you experienced God’s grace in forgiving or being forgiven? How were those needing forgiveness still held responsible for their actions?
Read Psalm 133. How has God called you to live in unity with those different from you? How do you receive God’s abundant blessing through such unity?
Read Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32. How does the eternal mercy of God’s gifts and callings sustain you when it seems like God has rejected God’s people?
Read Matthew 15:10-28. When have you, like the Canaanite woman, felt like you had to insist that Jesus come closer? How did your faith change or grow from this experience?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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