Challenges and Difficulties

Challenges and Difficulties

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Pastor Brent Fugate serves at Byfield Parish Church in Georgetown, MA. Before Coronavirus he was decent at racquetball, now he is just trying to not be bad at tennis.


Scripture:  Genesis 45:1-15 (NRSV)

Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, ‘Send everyone away from me.’ So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?’ But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come closer to me.’ And they came closer. He said, ‘I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither ploughing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, “Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. I will provide for you there—since there are five more years of famine to come—so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.” And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father how greatly I am honoured in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.’ Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.

Reflection: Challenges and Difficulties

In Genesis 45 Joseph lets his brothers know who he actually is. He is the brother that they sold into slavery decades before. Now they are under his power. Joseph could kill them, imprison them, or sell them into slavery. He opts for a surprising course, responding with grace. He basically let his brothers off the hook.

I wonder if Joseph always felt what he expressed to his brothers in this passage. When he was being dragged away by traders to Egypt did he feel no resentment? Later, in the house of Potipher, what were Joseph’s thoughts about the family who had him there? In a dank prison cell did he rage or feel at peace? Scripture doesn’t tell us what Joseph’s emotional state was at these times. I think it is fair to think his thoughts were probably pretty closely aligned with what Job expressed. What we do know is that whatever negative feelings Joseph felt over the course of his life had been dealt with by the time he came into contact with his brothers again.

Joseph is able to respond with grace because his faith in God allows him to do so. He believes that in the trials he has faced that God has been at work. The significance of this truth leads Joseph to emotionally break down in the moment it is communicated to the brothers who abandoned him. For the brothers the crying man before them is a source of terror. However, Joseph is not crying in anger, his tears are filled with relief. He knows with certainty what he already believed, that all the suffering he endured was not pointless.

We can have confidence our suffering is not pointless either. Challenges and difficulties are a routine aspect of our lives. It is easy to lose hope. Many retreat into anger and resentment due to the way others have treated them relationally or the circumstances they exist in. In the midst of a pandemic and political upheaval there are many in the United States that are in a very negative headspace.

Any who trust in God can take comfort in the knowledge that our situation doesn’t tell the whole story. God is at work even when we are struggling. This in no way means that evil doesn’t exist. Joseph’s brothers acted in an evil way. God redirected their evil act for good purposes.
Trusting God allows us to respond to the challenges we face with the grace and mercy that Joseph showed. Doing so allows us to love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us. Neither our emotional state or our actions need be dependent on what we experience in this world. Both can and should be a product of our trust that God is working all things together for good.

PRAYER

Dear Lord, in a time of upheaval help us to see your hand at work so that we can respond to those who have hurt us with grace.

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 Drew Page at paged@sneucc.org

Prayers of Intercession:

  • For those grieving for the more than 160,000 victims of the Covid-19 disease
  • For the many who are without power in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isiais
  • For those grieving or suffering after an explosion in a warehouse in Beirut killed at least 200 people
  • For the Rev. Dr. Ken Ferguson, Pastor of Central Village Congregational Church UCC, and his family, upon the unexpected death of his son, Bryan, on August 4

Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:

  • For the many church leaders who are facing hard questions about reopening churches with prayer, wisdom, and compassion

Please Pray for the Following SNEUCC Churches:

First Congregational Church, Leicester, MA
First Congregational Church of Lee, Lee, MA
Ledyard Congregational Church, UCC, Ledyard, CT
First Congregational Church of Lebanon, Lebanon, CT
Lakeville United Church of Christ, Lakeville, MA
Kingston Congregational UCC, Kingston, RI
Congregational Church in Killingworth, Killingworth, CT
The First Congregational Church of Kent, Kent, CT
Kensington Congregational Church, Kensington, CT
Covenant Congregational Church, Jamaica Plain, MA
Hispanic Community Church of Boston, Jamaica Plain, MA
Hope Central Church, Jamaica Plain, MA

This Week in History:

August 10, 1945 (75 years ago) One day after the United States drops a second atomic bomb in Japan (this time in the city of Nagasaki), Japan surrenders. Emperor Hirohito wrote in his declaration that the new weapon would result in the ultimate obliteration of Japan and "would lead to the total extinction of human civilization [translated]."

“Study the past if you would define the future.”
Confucius

August 10, 2020
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