Pentecost 18 & Confirmation Sunday – Narrative Lectionary 1
September 23, 2018
Grace, Mankato, MN
Genesis 39.1-23; Matthew 5.11-12
A lot has happened since Abraham and Sarah were called to begin a new people, a result of God’s promise to them and to humanity. But it would take another 25 years, when Abraham was 100 and Sarah 90 for Isaac to be born. Isaac grows up and marries Rebekah and they have twins, Esau and Jacob. Jacob is younger than Esau, but he swindles his older brother for the birthright and flees. They’ll eventually reconcile, but not before Jacob marries Leah and Rachel and they have 12 sons. One of those sons is Joseph, nicknamed “The Dreamer” because of dreams he has that he boastfully explains to his brothers that they will bow down to him. Joseph’s arrogance nearly gets him killed.
Instead, Joseph is sold into slavery in Egypt and, through a set of circumstances not of his own making, lands in prison. As a slave and then a prisoner, we learn that “God was with Joseph,” a promise that will continue through Joseph’s life. You might argue Joseph got what he deserved for his arrogance. But clearly the biblical writer wants us to know that he doesn’t deserve this and no matter what happens to him, God is with him.
If we think long and hard enough, all of us can remember a difficult situation where God was present with us. In my previous call as pastor, I loved the congregation and community and hoped to stay longer. However, some difficult circumstances prompted me to seek another call, leading me to Grace. Because of the things I went through there, I was determined that it would be different here and I believe that it has.
But it is God who is the hero of my story, Joseph’s story and your stories, not us. It is God’s steadfast love—hesed—that carries us through, even though we may not see it yet. It is the assurance of God’s presence and hesed that helps us to do the right thing when it’s hard, just as it did for Joseph.
I’m going to end with a quote from Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who served the poor for so long. They’re words all of us can take to heart, but especially our Confirmands affirming their baptisms:
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.Congratulations, Confirmands. Remember: no matter what, God will be with you anyway. Amen.