Joseph in Jail

Genesis 39:1-23 – Preached in worship at River of Hope on Sunday, September 21, 2018

In the Bible, there are often headings of chapters put there by the interpreters in an effort to help the reader know what’s going on. Sometimes they are great headings and truly helpful and other times, not so much. I’m going to sum up Joseph’s story and see if you can guess what title I’d give these chapters in the Bible: Joseph is daddy’s favored of the 11 children of Jacob. He even gets a fancy coat so that everyone is clear about that. That’s not fair.  His brothers throw him into a pit and leave him for dead and put animal blood on his fancy coat and lie to their dad about him, saying he’s probably dead. Not fair not fair not fair. Joseph is taken out of the pit and sold into slavery into Egypt, that’s not fair. He’s an outsider, a Hebrew among Egyptians, and he rises to power in Potiphar’s house. That’s not fair. It’s not fair that this story further perpetuates that women lie about sexual assault. Joseph is then jailed for these false accusations, which is not fair and then given power and authority even in jail, also not fair. Can you guess the heading? *** “It’s. Not. Fair.” Just look around this room and realize how many unfair stories there are in all of our lives. In all the ways you’ve gotten what you haven’t asked for or wanted. In all the ways you are suffering or have been cheated or lied to. In all the ways your life hasn’t gone how you wanted it to. It’s not fair. Sometimes I lie awake at night and worry about the world’s problems – the children separated from their parents at the border, it seems criminal to sum it up in one sentence. Just imagine the damage that’s been done to the hearts and minds and lives and bodies of family, of children, that will always be with them in some way, shape or form. It’s not fair. What keeps you up at night? What injustice to you or to a friend or to a stranger across this country or world gets in your brain and makes you spin?  You see, as Christians, we’re called to care about what happens to other people, not just our own lives and our own people. That’s not the point. And so the list gets really long about the people who have it even worse than us! But what if. But what if we looked at this story in a new way.  What if we reframed it. What if I re-named that terrible story heading from It’s. Not. Fair. To ***This Happened. Where Can God Go From Here?

Write that down. Take out a pen and jot that down on your River Source. This happened. Where Can God Go From Here? Because to acknowledge the “this” – to face the unfair thing that has happened is the only way through to see what God might make out of your particular mess. What if you put that on the mirror in your bathroom? Over the doorpost of your home? On your car visor? In a frame on your desk at work? Printed backwards on your forehead so when you look in a mirror… You get what I’m saying. What if you looked at your situation, your life, and wondered what God might do with you next, in your terrible situation. There are no spiritual dead ends for God. Joseph ends up saving the lives of his brothers by feeding them when there was a famine in the land. God used Joseph to change a system – he helped feed countless people in a famine. And, in the end, Joseph and his brothers were reconciled. What has happened in your life? And where can God go from here? The only guarantee is that God is with you every step of the way. It probably won’t happen in your preferred timing, that’s almost a guarantee, but God will use you in ways you could never have imagined. God is just that creative.