New videos are generally posted by Sunday evening.

Listen to the podcast.

New episodes are generally posted on Monday mornings.

Our reading today is a simple story.

Last week, we met Abram as he was leaving his country and his kindred and his father’s house to start a new life in a new land with a God who he barely knew.

And the story goes that Abram became Abraham. And Abraham had a son named Isaac. And Isaac have a son named Jacob. And Jacob had a son named Joseph.

And Joseph is in prison in Egypt.

You see, back in the good days, when he lived in Canaan, Joseph had dreams. He had dreams that his brothers would bow down to him. He had dreams that his parents would bow down to him. He had dreams that everyone would bow down to him. So his own brothers took him down, and threw him into a pit, and sold him into slavery in Egypt.

And Joseph did quite well, actually. Everything that he touched prospered; and he became the overseer of the house of the captain of Pharaoh’s guard!

And then, the wife of the captain of Pharaoh’s guard started pursuing him. She ran into him in dark corners and secluded spaces. She batted her eyes and wore flattering clothes. She cooed, “Come and lie with me!”

And he… refused.

But then she started telling people that he had pursued her… and ran into her in dark corners and secluded spaces… and looked into her eyes and wore flattering clothes… and said, forcefully, “Come and lie with me!”… and laid his hands on…

And now, Joseph is in prison in Egypt. And things are going quite well, actually. Everything that he touches prospers; and he is the overseer of the prison in the house of the captain of Pharaoh’s guard!

Our reading today is a simple story: it shows us everything that we need to see and tells us everything that we need to know.

And this sermon is supposed to be about how the Lord is with Joseph, even when he is unjustly imprisoned, making everything that he touches prosper… and about how the Lord is with you, too.

But this story is broken. Because the world is broken. And the world almost never shows us everything that we need to see and almost never tells us everything that we need to know… and it’s almost never the word of the named protagonist, from a family of named protagonists, against the word of an unnamed villain from the land of Egypt… and the world is almost always dark, and murky, and uncertain.

On the one hand: believe women.

The statistics always seem to be a little out-of-date, and different sources give different numbers, but today, in this country, sexual violence is common, and it starts early, and it disproportionately affects women, racial minorities, and sexual minorities.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about one in five women have experienced severe physical violence from an intimate partner. And about the same number have experienced sexual violence from an intimate partner.

About a quarter of women have experienced an attempted or completed rape… eighty percent of those before they were twenty-five and almost half before they were eighteen. About a third of women have experienced sexual harassment in a public place. And more than half of women have experienced some form of physical sexual violence.

And every one of those numbers gets worse once we start talking about racial and sexual minorities.

And that is today, in this country. And I can only imagine what life would have been like for Potiphar’s wife: a woman to whom scripture does not even offer a name.

On the other hand: Emmett Till.

I don’t think that there are statistics on this, but it is a simple fact that accusations of—and anxieties about—sexual violence have been used against racial minorities and members of the LGBTQ community for generations: from the old stories about indigenous men kidnapping white women to more recent rumors about transgender people lurking in bathrooms.

And that is today, in this country. And I can only imagine what life would have been like for Joseph: a Hebrew man living in slavery in Egypt.

And somewhere between those hands: the truth. 

Our reading today is a simple story: it shows us everything that we need to see and tells us everything that we need to know.

But this story is broken. Because the world is broken. And the world almost never shows us everything that we need to see and almost never tells us everything that we need to know.

And there are so many hands. And there is so much space between them. And in the face of all of that: when we stand in a voting booth, or sit on a jury, or pass judgment on a news story, or decide who we are as a church…

In the face of all of that… how are we—the ones who so often stand in the position of the captain of Pharaoh’s guard, the ones who so often stand in the position of the chief jailer—supposed to know what to do?

Our reading today is a simple story that shows us everything that we need to see and tells us everything that we need to know: Joseph is in prison in Egypt; and God is with him.

And every moment that we are imprisoned in a broken world… God is with us. God lays aside glory and comes into the world as one of us, born among a dispossessed people in an occupied land, a prisoner among prisoners who refuses to live by the rules of the prison.

And every moment that we are slouching toward Gehenna… God is with us. God picks up the cross and goes to Golgotha, unjustly accused and unjustly sentenced, a prisoner among prisoners who dies even to the rules of the prison.

And every moment that we are yearning to break free… God is with us. God steps out of the tomb into the garden and brings good news to we who were impoverished, proclaiming release to we who were captive, giving sight to we who were blind, setting free we who were oppressed, and proclaiming a time of God’s favor even for this broken world.

So what can we do, when we are faced with so many hands and so much space between them, but show the same love that was shown to us? What can we do but show the same mercy that was shown to us? What can we do but show the same welcome that was shown to us? What can we do but show the same solidarity that was shown to us? What can we do but show the same compassion that was shown to us? What can we do but show the same grace that was shown to us?

To the accuser and to the accused. To the victim and the assailant. To the oppressed and the oppressor.

Shoot. I seem to have preached myself into a corner.

You see, it is easy to say that we should show love, and mercy, and welcome, and solidarity, and compassion, and grace. It is easy to say that I should show all of those things and more.

It is harder to do them. 

Because, let’s be honest, it is easy and it is comfortable to look at the accuser, or the victim, or the oppressed—or the accused, or the assailant, or the oppressor—and think that the world has shown us everything that we need to see and told us everything that we need to know.

Because it is easy and it is comfortable to imagine that it’s the word of a protagonist against the word of a villain, and that’s that.

And sometimes… every so often… every now again… that is true. Sometimes sixty people and more line up to make the same accusation. Sometimes DNA evidence clears five young men.

But most of the time…

Our reading today is a simple story that shows us everything that we need to see and tells us everything that we need to know… and Joseph—the named protagonist from a family of named protagonists—is still going to sit in prison for a couple of years, until the plot of this story moves him along toward its happy ending.

But most of the time, the world does not show us everything that we need to see or tell us everything that we need to know. And there are so many hands and there is so much space between them. And we are standing in the position of the captain of Pharaoh’s guard. And we are standing in the position of the chief jailer.

And I know that it is hard. But I also know that prison itself is unjust… and the story rarely moves people along toward a happy ending.

And I don’t have an answer to that. I don’t have an answer to balancing the hands. But I wonder what would happen if we reimagined justice as something that is rooted in love, and mercy, and welcome, and solidarity, and compassion, and grace, and more.

I wonder what would happen if we reimagined justice as something that is rooted in restoration. For the accuser and the accused. For the victim and the assailant. For the oppressed and the oppressor. For everyone.

I wonder if that might help us create something that is a little more like God’s justice. I wonder if that might help us create something that is a little more like God’s kingdom.

Share
Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Email
Explore
Info

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This
Subscribe