Beaten and left for dead in a dried up well; sold into slavery by your own family; tossed about by tempest winds within a stormy sea. Life can be brutal. Sometimes, we find ourselves battered and abandoned, swallowed alone in a pitch-black emptiness. Where is God in the abyss of our lives? What is faith when we feel forsaken and forgotten?
This is the theme of each text this week.
Today, we start with Joseph. Ultimately, Joseph’s story testifies to God’s faithfulness. It is the prelude to Exodus. God will hear the cries of God’s people; God will liberate them from the horrors of slavery in Egypt. Joseph’s story tells how God’s people got there in the first place. And the story begins with the lead character left to die in an empty pit.
Truth be told, the family from which God’s chosen people—the twelve tribes of Israel—are formed, is ravaged with dysfunction. A father spoiling a favorite child who parades, robed, around his brothers; the favored one informing on his brothers then flaunting his dreams of lording over them all; the brothers, so seething with jealousy and spite, scheming to murder the favored child then crushing their father with their deception. Their crime is deterred only in part. They rip the robe off their brother, cast him in a barren well, then ponder how to be rid of him. God promises to be faithful. That promise, however, is made with our hope stripped and abandoned within a pit.
For God to meet us in the abyss, we must first speak truthfully about how empty and alone the abyss really is. The waterless cisterns in which we sometimes find ourselves are dark—abuse, abandonment, betrayal, enslavement, the murder of a sibling, the death of a child. Where is God when we are beaten down by life’s cruelty?
Within the abyss that swallows us, please, O God, come. Amen.
The strange dynamics in the history of Abraham’s family continue in Genesis. This week his great-grandson Joseph is sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. God will ultimately use this for good, as we read in Psalm 105, but in Joseph’s time there clearly is significant dysfunction. Perhaps the story brings encouragement to those of us who also have challenging family dynamics. Paul emphasizes in Romans that every person is welcome to call on the name of the Lord and be saved, but it falls to us to offer them the good news. How can they believe if they never hear? In the Gospel reading, Peter learns a valuable lesson about trust. He initially shows great faith, but he falters when he allows himself to be distracted by the waves.
Read Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28. In the face of cruelty, how do you continue to believe in God’s dream of unity for us all?
Read Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b. When has a glimpse of God absorbed your pain?
Read Romans 10:5-15. When have you witnessed Christian violence against persons of other faiths? How does your faith compel you to proclaim God’s love for all—“no exceptions”? What does this look like for you?
Read Matthew 14:22-33. When have you struggled to trust Jesus through life’s trials? How has Jesus revealed his presence and companionship anyway?
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