Tuesday of Pentecost 15 – Genesis 50:15-21

15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” 16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: 17 ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. When I was entering the fifth grade, my father accepted a Call to a small community located next to one of the interstate highways. For the next decade or so, I fell asleep to the sound of the semi-trucks laboring up and down the hills of Missouri. The church, a relatively new and impressive building, was within sight of the freeway. This meant a regular feature of the pastor’s life was people who pulled off the highway looking for some help. Not too many years after we arrived a dilapidated station wagon pulled into the church parking lot. We all saw it; the parsonage was across the lot from the church. Within the car was a rough looking man and his family which included several children. This was the late 1970’s or early 1980’s and high inflation had seriously eroded the purchasing power of my father’s modest salary. The members of the parish were feeling the same pinch. My father had no money to give to this family. But we did have a garden. He asked the man to wait. He came home and we all were marshalled into action. My mother made sandwiches. I was deputed to pick an excellent melon from the garden. We could not give them money, but we could feed them. I still remember the look on my parents’ faces when we walked onto the parking lot after the car drove off and we discovered all that food thrown out the window of their car. They had wanted money. They were not truly hungry as they had claimed. My mother wept. In this reading today Joseph weeps. The Joseph story should be part of every Christian’s bible story collection. He had been humbled, sold as a slave by his brothers, thought dead, raised to power, and had rescued the very brothers who had thought to kill him. This scene takes place at the very end of the Joseph story. His father has died, and the brothers assume the worst. Now that Jacob is dead, Joseph will exact his revenge. But Joseph had forgiven them years earlier. You can read about it in Genesis 45. In this scene the brothers come begging for forgiveness and mercy. They had been living in senseless fear this whole time. They had not believed him when he said he forgave them. That is why Joseph wept. It hurts when a gift given is rejected. Swallow your pride and humbly confess your sin. God, in Jesus, has forgiven you all your sins and continues to love you. It is hard to believe, to accept that. But it true. God delights not in your punishment and death but in your joyful acknowledgment of what he has done for you. He forgives you of your sins. Like a loan forgiven, your sins are gone, removed from the books. No more interest, no more payments. You owe nothing. The IRS has no record of it, so you do not even have to claim it on your taxes. It is yours. Believe it.

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