Genesis 45: 1 – 15 A Fractured Family Finds Forgiveness August 16, 2020

Here is this week’s sermon:



And the words:

A Fractured Family Finds Forgiveness

Genesis 45: 1 – 15


(preached on August 16, 2020)


When something precious – something that was lost – is found again, it’s a wonderful, heartwarming moment.  One family in California had a moment like that after they had lost something precious.  They had lost a memory card from a digital camera.  The card was lost while they were on vacation at the beach.  If you know anything about digital photography, you know that hundreds of photographs can be stored on those tiny cards.


The family was in despair, but happily, they got a very pleasant surprise.  The surprise came shortly before Christmas, when they opened their mail one day.  Their despair turned to joy because the mail contained a letter from a family living in another part of the state.  Tucked into the letter was the memory card!  The letter explained how this family happened to come by the tiny memory card.


Their son had found it on the beach.  They wanted to find the owner of the card, so put it into their computer and looked at the photographs stored on it.  They were amazed to find a photo that included the license plate of a car.  Then they went online to a website specializing in various kinds of car registrations. They found the name and address of the car’s owner.  They then mailed the card to them with a print out of one of the pictures, and a letter that explained everything.


As the first family read that letter, you can imagine their joy.  They were so happy, in fact, that they shared the story of the lost and found memory card in their Christmas letter that year.  They said it was a heartwarming example of what they called “the true goodness of people and that we may give as much as we receive.”


It’s a wonderful, heartwarming moment when something precious – something that was lost – is found again.  In our passage for today, from the Hebrew Scriptures’ book of Genesis, we find a similar heartwarming moment.  When Joseph is reunited with his brothers, he’s overcome with emotion.  They’ve been lost to him for many years.  Their family has been fractured by jealousy and resentment, torn apart by violence.  Now they can be made whole again.  Joseph finds in this new wholeness a sign of the goodness of humanity.  But Joseph also sees God at work in his life and the lives of his brothers.  He feels God’s healing power working in him, restoring the fractured family and, through them, restoring a broken world.


Last week we reflected on the story of Joseph and his brothers from earlier in Genesis.  You may remember that Joseph’s brothers hated him because he was their father’s favorite.  The brothers ganged up on him, and threw him into a deep pit in the ground.  Then they got a better idea and sold him to some traveling merchants who were passing by.  The traveling merchants took Joseph down to Egypt and sold him to be a slave to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard.

Joseph is not a man to give up easily, or give in to circumstance.  He’s an enterprising fellow, a hard worker.  In spite of beginning as a slave, Joseph succeeds to the point where he’s put in charge of all of Pharaoh’s wealth (Genesis 41: 40).  Joseph had always taken his dreams seriously.  He also takes seriously the dreams of other people.  Pharaoh tells Joseph about two dreams he has (Genesis 41: 14 – 36).  Joseph interprets the dreams as a prediction of a famine coming to Egypt.  Based on Joseph’s interpretation, Pharaoh stores up food and creates a system of rationing.  The famine comes, but no one goes hungry because Pharaoh, thanks to Joseph, has the foresight to ration Egypt’s food supply.


Outside Egypt, the famine is devastating.  It’s especially bad in Canaan, where Joseph’s father and brothers live.  They get the word that food is available in Egypt, so the brothers make the trip there.  They arrive tired and hungry after their long journey.  Of course they have no idea that Joseph has risen from slavery to such a prominent position in Egypt.  They come to him with their request, asking him for grain, but this first time Joseph doesn’t tell them who he is.  He can’t resist the urge to make them squirm a little.  Instead of making himself known to them, he accuses them of being spies, and sends them away.


When they return, he still wants to make them sweat a bit.  He sets things up to make it look as if they’re stealing.  But finally, he can’t stand it any longer.  As our passage for today begins, he’s overcome with emotion.  He sends away all the Egyptians of Pharaoh’s court and there, alone with his brothers, he lets his tears flow.  He reveals to them that he is Joseph, the brother they sold into slavery all those years ago.  But he no longer feels angry at them.  He’s no longer full of rage about what he suffered at their hands.  He tells them, “Do not be distressed. [Do not be] angry with yourselves, for God sent me here to preserve life… You intended harm for me…but God intended it for good.”


God intended it for good.  Since Joseph was sold into slavery, he has been through hatred and hardship, jealousy and spite, prison and privation and all forms of indignation, but God intended it for good.  Joseph and his brothers have known famine and fear, exile and estrangement, vengeance and violence, but God intended it for good.  Now Joseph is convinced that God has been at work all along, restoring life, mending the fraying fabric of the family and, through the healing of that family, mending the fraying fabric of the world.


So what does Joseph’s story have to say to you and me?  From Joseph you and I can learn that God can use us.  God can use our fragmented lives.  God can use our fractured families.  And God wants us to be part of God’s holy work of healing the world.  God is deeply invested in us.  God made us and calls us to be partners – not equal partners, but partners nonetheless – in God’s work of healing creation. We can work with God to restore the world to what God had in mind when the Holy Spirit first hovered over the waters of chaos and called forth a world pulsing with life.  God wants to be at work in each of us, using us to heal a broken, hurting world.

My friends, long ago God enlisted humanity in the project of healing a broken world.  God was at work in Joseph, reconciling him and his brothers, feeding the world in a time of famine. How do you think God might be at work in you?  Will God make you an instrument of reconciliation, someone who can reunite a hurting, broken family?  Make no mistake – God wants to use you.  God wants to use you, and me, because God made us to share in the holy work of healing.


And music:

“If God Be For Us Who Can Be Against Us”
Maria Ferrante, Soprano
Joyce Carpenter-Henderson, Pianist
















Rev. Elva Merry Pawle

Pentecost 11