Monthly Archives: October 2014

Go, Go, Go Joseph

If you recognize the title of this week’s blog, then you’ll also know the subject matter. Joseph. No, not that Joseph (as the person behind us at Sunday night’s performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat corrected her seatmate). The other Joseph – the son of Jacob, the great-grandson of Abraham. That Joseph.

Joseph’s story appears in the final chapters of Genesis. Thirteen chapters in fact. As much space as the story gives to his father and more than to his great-grandfather. Yet Joseph’s story ends when Genesis ends. The attention given him suggests he is the fourth patriarch and his biography fits the pattern well: a younger son, someone who experiences dreams and visions, a boy who grows into manhood and also into maturity in a foreign land where God has sent him to save his family.

But… nothing. We hear about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob but Joseph is not added to the formula. If fact, when the twelve tribes of Israel are listed Joseph’s name disappears. His two sons are each remembered as half-tribes. Joseph is mentioned in Hebrews 11 among the roll of the faithful (11:22). But as far as I can see he disappears.

I love the story of Joseph. One of my treasured passages of Scripture comes from the mouth of Joseph:

 “ But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:19-20 NIV)

My affection for this dreamer is the reason I love the Broadway show so. And his life is one to which I constantly return for inspiration in my own walk of faith. So I am distressed at his seemingly being written out of the story.

Perhaps Joseph is a reminder (not unlike the Joseph who is father to Jesus) that our place in God’s narrative begins and ends. Others will follow. Even the most important of us fade into the background of divine purpose and providence. We matter but not as much as we might assume or our pride expects.

In the words of the fictional Joseph –

“If my life were important I
Would ask will I live or die
But I know the answers lie
Far from this world.” “Close Every Door”

“Close Every Door”
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Categories: Faith Journey | 1 Comment

Enemies at Home

“…a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” (Matthew 10:36 NIV)

Matthew quotes the prophet Micah, both of whom are talking about the end times. But when I hear this passage these days I hear the part about my own household – the places and people closest and dearest to me.  Eugene Peterson in his translation of this segment puts it thus:

“—cut through these cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God.
Well-meaning family members can be your worst enemies.” (The  Message)

I spent a few days with people who include some of my dearest friends. They are not biological family members but are family in the sense of affection and loyalty. Among them are also folks who test me mightily! I crossed paths several times, for instance, with someone about whom I wrote in an earlier blog and whose betrayal and breaking of trust still hurts deeply.

I know that I am ripping this verse out of its context. But part of what I think Jesus meant by the startling words about family is that family and friendship will be where our Kingdom commitments and character will be most sorely tempted.

Some of us face or will face great public trials of our faith. Some followers of Jesus will experience great hardship or unimaginable tragedy. Some will have to affirm or deny Christ in dramatic ways. But most of us will live out Jesus’ ways in our homes, offices, schools, and neighbourhoods.

The people we most love and with whom we spend the most time are often also the people we struggle to forgive and to love as Jesus demands (and not as our feelings or inclinations alone may lead us). While enjoying the renewal of friendships this weekend I also was tried in my commitment to love, to forgive, to extend grace.

Eugene Peterson wrote in a book on teenagers (maybe something I should read?) but something that applies broadly to families and family-like relationships:

“The biblical material consistently portrays the family not as a Norman Rockwell group, beaming in gratitude around a Thanksgiving turkey, but as a series of broken relationships in need of redemption, after the manner of William Faulkner’s plots in Yoknapatawpha County.”

Eugene H. Peterson, Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up with Your Teenager
(Eerdmans, 1994), pp.110-11

Let the redemption continue…

Categories: Faith Journey, Forgiveness | Leave a comment

Outside In or Inside Out?

Earlier this week I caught this story on NPR:

‘Mass Mobs’ Aim To Keep Pews Full At Old Churches

Each Sunday, a crowd of worshipers descends on a Detroit church that used to be filled with people but now faces closure and death. The pastor and administrator in me listened with interest but also with concern.  What happens next week when the pews – and the offering plates – are again empty? How does one Sunday of great attendance improve the viability of the local church in any meaningful way?

What really caught my attention was this line:

“People are upset that the churches are closing, but the simple reason is, people don’t go…”

The speaker meant that people don’t go to the churches and therefore the churches are empty. I wondered if the real problem lies in the very words he spoke but seen from the other side?

In the interest of fairness, I do not know these churches, their leaders or their congregants. But when did keeping the physical doors of the church open become a passion worthy of the church? Worthy of the sacrificial nature of a Christ who gave himself if others and not for himself?

This story troubles me because – honestly – much of my work as a pastor is directed to this very thing — keeping the church open, moving the church forward in growth, etc. And guaranteeing that I have a salary and a home and a retirement account.

What this story says to me is that the church will survive and thrive when its people – when Christ’s people – go rather than lamenting that people don’t go to church. Not a new thought for me or for many but a thought energized by this sad story.

I certainly hope the churches in this story stay open. I hope, even more, that they and we go instead.

“For those who want to save their life will lose it,
and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

Matthew 16:25 NRSV

Categories: Church, Faith Journey | Leave a comment

Broken Dreams and Callings

This week I read one of the most unsettling – and liberating – things I have ever read:

Discovering Your Calling Won’t Make You Whole

It is troubling because it speaks to so much of what we spend our adult lives pursuing… purpose, meaning, calling. Why am I here? What am I here to do? We believe that if we find this calling all will be easy – or at least clear.

Andrea Lucado in the above post bursts that bubble. And it should be burst.

So much effort spent on finding our unique calling. So many books written, seminars given, and (yes) money spent on this dream. So much agonizing over my place and purpose. Not pursuing this unattainable dream in a fallen world can free us for better things.

What if our purpose is rather to particularize God’s vision for the world in our lives and relationships?  This is enough of a dream for most of us! I wonder if our striving for our calling and purpose is a slightly off-course attempt to do this very thing? Another sign of the brokenness of the world. But also a source of hope.  As Andrea Lucado quotes Jesus in her blog:

“But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33c

Jesus has done so… therefore I do not have to overcome it. What could be more liberating and hope-filling than that?

Categories: Calling, Faith Journey, Purpose | Leave a comment

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