Many years ago I attended a conference in Skipton where Christian leaders gave a talk on their particular speciality. At the time I was interested in children’s ministry. But the speaker who left a lasting impression was a brother from a monastery. Amongst other things, he explained that they would spend a great deal of time in Bible study. As someone with three (sometimes very lively) children, the idea of spending time in quiet contemplation appeals to me greatly!
After a particularly “exciting” evening, I am certainly not in the right frame of mind to listen to the word of God. But perhaps now’s the very time I need to be listening? So here goes…
Genesis 44. Joseph, once again, tells his servants to put the money back into the sacks. But into Benjamin’s sack of grain he also puts his own personal silver cup. Yes, it’s the one bit of the musical I could never get my head round. It became known between me and my wife as the “Golden chalice moment”. It took my wife days to explain to me why Joseph did it. Let’s see what the Bible says about it and can I understand it better this time?
Joseph had already sent his brothers home with their money hidden in the grain. But they thought it was a gift from God. So now he’s about to do the same thing again. As the brothers are leaving, Joseph’s manager stops them. They have stolen the cup! No! They all plead innocence and the manager searches the sacks. The brothers tell the manager that they are innocent: didn’t they return the money last time? Imagine their horror when the cup is found in Benjamin’s sack! Little Benjamin! Reuben and Judah both swore to Jacob that they would protect him. Now he will have to return to the palace and be a slave for life.
Judah throws himself on the ground before Joseph and begs him not to do this. He tells Joseph that if Benjamin stays, his father would surely die. So Judah begs Joseph to take HIM as a slave instead and let Benjamin return home.
Genesis 45. Finally, Joseph can stand it no longer and he breaks down and tells his brothers who he really is. He isn’t angry with his brothers. After all, if God hadn’t been with him, they would all have starved to death. They survived because Joseph had been taken to Egypt. It was God’s plan all along. Joseph tells his brothers that they can all live in Egypt with him. They are to return to Jacob and bring everyone back.
With the Pharaoh’s blessing, they take wagons and provisions and return to Canaan to tell Jacob the news about Joseph. At first, Jacob doesn’t believe it but when he sees the wagons and gifts, he is overjoyed. So he prepares to go to Egypt to see his long lost son, Joseph.
So Joseph put the cup [aka “Golden Chalice”] in Benjamin’s sack to test his brothers. If they’d let Benjamin get taken away and gone back without him, that would have proved that their promises meant nothing. But Judah was a good man and willing to put himself in Benjamin’s place for the sake of their father. There, got it!
Matthew 14 is an absolute celebration! Jesus is travelling round healing the sick and ministering to everyone. When the crowds get too big and the hour grows late, his disciples want him to have a rest. But he takes 5 loaves and 2 fish and shares it amongst the crowd. There is even some left over!
Later, the disciples are in a boat on the lake and a storm rises. And there, across the water walks Jesus. (14:27) “Don’t be afraid.” And his calm manner convinces Peter to join him out in the open water. But Peter panics after a few steps and starts to sink. “Save me Lord!” He cries. Jesus takes him back to the boat. Only then do the other disciples exclaim, “You really are the Son of God!” When the boast lands at the shore, Jesus continues his ministry. He heals many sick people.
In Psalm 18, the writer’s enemies are crying for help as they are subdued. They even cry to the Lord! But he refuses to answer. Peter cried as he was sinking, and his cry was answered. My children cry. Sometimes they cry very loudly! And their cries make me cry. Who is answering? (18:48) “”You hold me safe beyond the reach of my enemies.” So even if it seems like he’s not there, even when we’re sinking, he still holds us safe because we love him. Isn’t that what parents do? Even when they’re exasperated?
Proverbs 4 continues to tell us where to find wisdom and what to do with it. (4:13) “Take hold of my instructions; don’t let them go.”
Holding on seems to be the theme to today’s readings. Holding on to wisdom, even when it seems like our enemies are all around. Holding on to faith, even when we feel like we are sinking. And holding on to what makes people special. Joseph’s brothers had learned their lesson and were ready go sacrifice themselves for the greater good.
But the other theme today is sharing, which is the opposite of holding on. The Pharaoh shared his things with Joseph and his family. The disciples and Jesus shared their food with the crowd (who most likely shared what they had too!).
And we share our problems. Knowing that there’s someone who is always ready to listen is the key to solving any problem. So we hold on to the idea that when there is no one else, God is listening to us as we share our troubles.