The Reverend Dawn M. Adams is the Minister of the First Congregational Church, UCC in Brimfield Massachusetts. She is a wife, mother and grandmother who loves to write, to read, and to hike especially at their camp up in Prentiss, ME. (photo below: Dawn and her husband in Arizona)
Scripture: Genesis 50:15-21 (NRSVU)
15 Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, “What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?” 16 So they approached Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this instruction before he died, 17 ‘Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.’ Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said, “We are here as your slaves.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? 20 Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. 21 So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.” In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.
Reflection: Hankie, Please!
Tears can mean so many things. We cry when we're sad. We cry when we're happy. We cry as we cut onions or smell other irritating fumes. Some people's eyes tear up because of allergies. Some cry easily at romantic movies. Others cry when they are embarrassed or put on the spot. Some, like me, even cry when they laugh too hard. Tears come for many reasons and this is why it is recommended not to assume why another person is crying, but to instead, ask, "I see that you have tears in your eyes. Would you like to share what is going on?"
I wish we could have asked Joseph this question. Many commentators see this scene as take two of his family’s blessed reunion. I wonder, however, if those tears may be of disappointment and grief about the broken relationships that he is realizing he has with his siblings.
Joseph, for some time now, has been watching over his brothers. He has been making sure that his family has been fed and cared for. He has already forgiven the brothers back in Genesis 45; when he first weeps, embraces them and explains that God has used his life to save others’ lives including their own. From that point, it seems Joseph had put the past behind him; and yet, here we are back in an almost identical scene.
The brothers seem keenly aware that Joseph is again in a superior position, and it seems they are worried that, now that their father is dead, Joseph may not really have forgiven them. So, instead of being honest about their fears, they revert to old tactics: lies and deceit. That is, they tell Joseph that his recently deceased father asked for him to continue to protect them.
By placing this request as coming from their father they pull on Joseph's heartstrings and pile on guilt as a way to control him and protect themselves. Through this tactic, though, they also reveal that perhaps they haven't changed as much as Joseph (and frankly, we, the reader) had hoped.
This recognition of false relationship would have broken Joseph's heart who seemed so badly to want to reunite with his family and seemed so relieved when the brothers had passed his tests. Here it was though – their connection was not as genuine as we had all hoped. It was, as it was all those years before, a relationship built on jealousy and self-interest. Now though that jealousy was amplified with fear and desperation, because Joseph was not just the favorite, he was powerful; and, in a twist of fate, their lives depended on him.
In response to his brother’s reminder, Joseph does assure them that he'll take care of them, but he stops short of saying, “I forgive you.” Instead, he leans into praise for God who used the bad situation to do some good in the world and he says, “Am I in the place of God?” clarifying that unlike them he had no intention of seeking revenge.
Unfortunately, now, realizing his brother’s motives, Joseph weeps with grief: grief for the relationship he had thought was healed and grief for what would never be quite as he hoped.
Tears can communicate, but the message isn't always what we might think it is. Instead of guessing, it is always best to ask, "I see that you have tears in your eyes. Would you like to share with me what is going on?"
Gatherer of tears,
My tears sometimes flow in ways that do not best communicate my feelings.
Be with me as I cry . . . hear my reasons.
Help me clarify their purpose and find words to express them so that others might understand and therefore respond better.
Be my counselor, my confidant, and my courage. Amen
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane at email@example.com.
Prayers of Intercession:
- For the people of Ukraine whose lives continue to be shattered by war, as well as the many landscapes that are currently embroiled in conflicts.
- For those grieving or suffering due to the ~29,700 gun violence deaths that happened in the US since the start of the year.
- For all those grieving.
- For those suffering from the recent wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and the recent Morocco earthquake.
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
This Week in History:
September 11, 2001 (22 years ago): The United States was attacked by terrorists. [History]
“Study the past if you would define the future.”
September 11, 2023