Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Lenten Journey: Climbing to the Cross - Day TWENTY-TWO


Genesis 47:27-48:7, The Message

And so Israel settled down in Egypt in the region of Goshen. They acquired property and flourished. They became a large company of people. Jacob lived in Egypt for seventeen years. In all, he lived 147 years. 

When the time came for Israel to die, he called his son Joseph and said, "Do me this favor. Put your hand under my thigh, a sign that you're loyal and true to me to the end. Don't bury me in Egypt. When I lie down with my fathers, carry me out of Egypt and bury me alongside them." 

"I will," he said. "I'll do what you've asked."
Israel said, "Promise me." Joseph promised. 

Israel bowed his head in submission and gratitude from his bed. 

Some time after this conversation, Joseph was told, "Your father is ill." He took his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, and went to Jacob. When Jacob was told, "Your son Joseph has come," he roused himself and sat up in bed. 

Jacob said to Joseph, "The Strong God appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me. He said, 'I'm going to make you prosperous and numerous, turn you into a congregation of tribes; and I'll turn this land over to your children coming after you as a permanent inheritance.' I'm adopting your two sons who were born to you here in Egypt before I joined you; they have equal status with Reuben and Simeon. But any children born after them are yours; they will come after their brothers in matters of inheritance. I want it this way because, as I was returning from Paddan, your mother Rachel, to my deep sorrow, died as we were on our way through Canaan when we were only a short distance from Ephrath, now called Bethlehem."

Family life is nothing if not fascinating. It is in the midst of family that all of us are forged and shaped, for good and for ill. 

And one of the reasons I love our Holy Writ is that we get example after example of how true this is! 

All the mixed up messiness of it. 
All the glorious power of it. 

And the story before us on this Lenten Saturday is liberally laced with the complex family threads found in the last three dozen chapters of Genesis. 

The younger son getting the blessing rather than the elder 
...shades of Jacob and Esau. (Genesis 25:19-27:40) 

The deep sadness caused by the death of Rachel, the one true love of Jacob's life 
...despite the other three women who fathered ten of his sons. (Genesis 29:15-30:24) 

The fact that Joseph is the recipient of Jacob's dying wish, not one of the sons who has been with him all along 
...decades after the coat of many colors. (Genesis 37:1-11) 

The interchangeable use of the patriarch's two names - Israel and Jacob 
...stirring memories of a wrestling match on the banks of the Peniel River, where the long-awaited blessing finally arrived, along with a new name. (Genesis 32:22-32) 

The re-counting of the promise of progeny and land 
 ...the promise that came from the dreaming Jacob did on that stone pillow as he fled his brother's anger. (Genesis 28:10-17) 

The almost primordial urgency to be buried in the land of his fathers, the land that was promised with these words, heard in that dream: 
     "Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go and I will bring you back to this land..." (Genesis 28:15) 

Think about all that has happened during the lifetime of Jacob: 
     scheming for the birthright and blessing; 
     fleeing for his life; 
     dreaming of ladders and angels and promises; 
     falling for the beautiful younger daughter and ending up with both sisters; 
     losing the wife he loved; 
     favoring her son to the near destruction of his entire family system; 
     traveling in his elderly infirmity to a strange land;
     finding the loved son he thought was gone forever. 

And you think your family has problems? 

Yeah, your family probably does. 
That's what happens in families - 
     great and wonderful and life-giving things...
     and hard and difficult and life-threatening things. 
And God's word is not shy about showing it all to us - 
     over and over again. 

I don't know about you, but that fact gives me a strange kind of hope
     hope that all is not lost, 
     no matter how bad it may look at any given moment in time. 
Hope that God is at work, 
     redeeming the broken bits, 
     helping us to tell our family stories well, 
          sometimes in spite of ourselves! 


You have set us in families, Lord. And when they work well, families are such a great gift. Even when they don't work well, though -  you can redeem them, you can redeem us, turning our mourning into dancing. Help us to seek you there - in the middle of all the mess that comes from living in close quarters, in all the tangled up emotions and connections, the hurt feelings, the mystifying emotional highs and lows. Because even there, you are. Thank you.