October 1, 2017: 17th Sunday after Pentecost

Let us pray: Dear Savior, o how past hurts and slights come back to haunt us! Unlike You, we remember what people have said and done to us years before and that influences how we treat them today. Lord, we humans forgive grudgingly. Whereas You forgive freely. So today we ask for a larger helping of Your grace. Amen


Text: Genesis 50: 15-26

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

Everyone knows the story of Cain and Abel. They were Adam and Eve’s first two sons. Spiritually, they were poles apart. Cain was jealous of Abel and grudging towards God, whereas Abel was the opposite. Eventually, even after being warned by God about his murderous intentions, Cain still killed Abel.

When I was a little boy I thought they both were in their teens or twenties. My Sunday School teacher’s kind of hinted that this first murder was a crime of passion, the passion of youth. They were wrong. How do I know that? Well, after Cain killed Abel and was found out, he was banished from the fellowship of God’s people. He also took a wife and married her. That means Adam and Eve must have had other children and grandchildren or even great-grandchildren to make this all possible. After all, Adam lived over 900 years! I deduce that Cain didn’t marry his immediate sister. Also, there appears to be a lot of other people living by this time, so the family of Adam and Eve grew mightily during these intervening years.

No, I believe Cain was older, well on in years when he committed his murder. And if you accept that reasoning, then this jealousy, this sin of rage against Abel’s goodness percolated and grew slowly under the surface for a long, long time. Bearing a grudge is dangerous for anyone, but it especially afflicts us more and more as we advance in years. It’s a cancer that eats away at our hearts. We also see this in today’s lesson.


Joseph was in his mid to late teens when his brothers sold him into slavery. They were jealous of the attention given him by their father, Jacob. The oldest of those brothers was probably around 40 when this awful event happened. They were all old enough to know better. But, God was with Joseph and ordered and arranged his life so that eventually this estranged brother would be the whole family’s savior. In this, Joseph was a type of Christ. He went from outcast to slave to a position of Egyptian honor in Potiphar’s house to a rape accusation and jail to deliverance from prison and on to the 2nd in command of all of Egypt. His Godly foresight enabled his starving family to seek food in Egypt and eventually for the entire group to benefit. And now, in Egypt, after many years there, Jacob died. Joseph had already forgiven his brothers and reconciled to them. Note well, that he, the wronged party, did the forgiving—just like Christ, the wronged party—freely forgave us on the cross. He held on grudges. Forgiveness lets go of hurts, doesn’t it?

But now, Jacob is dead, and the brothers are worried. Their consciences bother them. Inwardly, they cannot conceive of possessing such a forgiving heart because they won’t act the same way if they had walked in Joseph’s shoes. So, they sent a message to Joseph: “Your father left these instructions before he died: ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” And “when their message came to him, Joseph wept.” O how the tables have turned!


Do you see yourself in Joseph, or do you identify with the brothers? Or perhaps you’re a bit of both sides? Probably 50 years have passed since their original sin against Joseph. Yet, their consciences still bother them. They are unsure as to whether or not they are really forgiven and safe from Joseph’s wrath. The worm of guilt turns very slowly in life, doesn’t it?

Who or what from your past bothers you right now? What relative, what friend, what person either hurt you or you hurt them, and it still festers inside? Have you really let go of it? Have they? If not, why not? Do you really want to be identified with Cain? How can we humans break this vicious cycle of retribution? It reminds me of the old clan wars in Scotland where 2 clans fought for generations against each other and didn’t even know: why? O the pain we bring on ourselves apart from Godly forgiveness!

But, Joseph broke the chain because he believed in the coming Christ. He believed, he knew that God’s Son would suffer and die to break the chain that binds us to grudging hatred by giving His life up willingly and forgiving us freely. That’s why Joseph wept when he received his brothers’ message. He was weeping for their souls still bound in disbelief.


These older brothers would now accept slavery, like Joseph experienced at their hands those many years before, rather than be killed by him. “We are your slaves.” But, again, like Christ, Joseph responds: “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me. But God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children. And he reassured and spoke kindly to them.”

Forgiveness is love in action. It is letting go of past hurts by letting God be God in your life. This is how God treats us in Jesus Christ. This is how He expects us who bear His name to act. And blessings always result! In this case, they lived in harmony, had long lives, and eventually all found their way back to the promised land with God’s help and grace.

We’re told here that Joseph lived to age 110! Do you think he ever looked back at his life and had regrets over being Christ-like and forgiving as he watched his nieces and nephews and their children grow up? Or, do you think he thought about how proud his beloved father, Jacob, would be over this turn of events? So, I ask you: What will your legacy be? What do you want it to be? Christ and His forgiveness is the only answer. Amen