Sermon Notes for August 14, 2011

Scriptures for the 9th Sunday after Pentecost (Year A, Proper 15)

Genesis 45:1-15
Psalm 133
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28

“I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt…”

 If all you heard was this line, you would guess that the brothers’ gig was up.  How surprised they must have been to be standing before their very own flesh and blood in Egypt, and to realize that the boy they sold as a slave is now a big muckety-muck in Pharoah’s court.

I suspect that if it was a story about us, the next sentence would be much different.  It would be a story of taking revenge, and exacting justice that would surely be due us after suffering at the hands of our siblings.  We would probably take great pleasure in making slaves out of the brothers and making them serve us and Pharoah awhile.  But it is an alternative story; a story of God’s salvation and reconciliation that calls our story into question.  The next words that come out of Joseph’s mouth are quite  striking:

“And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.”

This is God’s story that peaks through the Bible from one cover to the other.  God is working in the midst of the chaos that surrounds us, even the chaos we’ve made for ourselves, and is seeking to bringing peace and reconciliation to all. God can even change the hearts of folks like us and give us surprise endings to our stories.

  • I have looked at the Epistle and Gospel for the day, and I suspect that if I were preaching, I would focus on the Joseph story.  I would also use Psalm 67 in worship. It is a great compliment to the OT lesson.  The last verse is powerful: May God give us his blessing, and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of him.
  • The Gospel compliments the Joseph story as well.  Jesus heals the daughter of the Canaanite woman who was tormenting Jesus and the disciples.  Jesus finds great faith in this annoying outsider.  I think this a retelling of God’s reconciling nature.
  • The Romans lesson is a short one, but again there is that theme of reconciliation and mercy: “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.”
  • I found this reflection on the Gospel to be a good read–Our Global God from Journey with Jesus by Dan Clendenin.  (This reflection chooses to highlight the Isaiah 56 passage which is the alternate OT lesson for the day).  Ask this question-Does Jesus make the world smaller for you?

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