March 2019   
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2-24-19 Sermon

2-24-19 - Luke 6:27-36

Two men were walking down a road and came to a shallow river. There was an old woman who needed help to get across. One of the men picked her up and carried her across the river and away she went.

A while later the second man commented to the first, “That old lady didn’t even thank you.’ “

The first man replied, “I put that woman down hours ago. Why are you still carrying her?”

A man went to the hospital to visit his business partner who was near death. The dying man whispered: “John, I have to confess some things to you and ask for your forgiveness.

I robbed our firm of $100,000.

I sold our secret formula to our competition.

and John, I am the one who supplied your wife with the evidence in your divorce causing you to loose a small fortune. Will you please forgive me?”

“Oh, sure,” John murmured, “as long as you forgive me for poisoning you.”

Pay back time—I’d dare say most of us, even if we haven’t done it, have thought it.

Now Joseph in the Old Testament reading probably had good reason for payback—if there is a good reason. Young Joe was his father’s favorite son, and his siblings were fed-up. One day they had the chance to get rid of him, so they sold him into slavery to some Midianite traders, telling their father he’d been killed by a wild animal.

The Midianites were on their way to Egypt where they sold Joseph to a man named Potiphar, the head of Pharaoh’s security guard. Under the circumstances, Joseph did well, eventually being placed in charge of Potiphar’s entire household. But Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce the young man, and when he refused her, she yelled RAPE!

So Joseph finds himself in jail--a victim again. But with God’s plan he gains the respect of the prisoners and guards. He interprets a few dreams for Pharaoh, who then made Joseph the Prime Minister of Egypt – Joseph goes from the jailhouse to the penthouse. Not bad for a bratty kid who had been sold into slavery by his brothers!

A severe famine occurred and Jacob tells his sons to go to Egypt to buy some grain. In the process the boys—now grown men, meet Joseph — only they don’t know its Joseph. But when they come around a second time Joseph reveals his true identity. His brothers were shocked and terrified – PAYBACK time! But Joseph didn’t do that. In fact, he told his brothers this was God’s plan all along.

The brothers went back to Canaan and told their old father that Joseph was alive and eventually convinced him to go to Egypt with them. Jacob was reunited with the son he thought was dead. Pharaoh went so far as to let Joseph’s family move to Egypt and live in peace there for many years. Well Jacob died at the ripe old age of 147.

Joseph’s brothers– with their father Jacob dead, were a little more than concerned, guessing little brother Joe would take his revenge. So they made up a story, “Oh, brother Joseph, before Dad died he said you should be good to us.” Uh huh.

Listen to Joseph’s reply: “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, saving the lives of many. So don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” and he was kind to them.

The world most certainly could use a few more Josephs, couldn’t it?

Jesus himself tells us: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you, turn the other cheek, give to everyone who asks you, do to others as you would have them do to you.”

This goes way beyond the golden rule… This is an evangelical statement about our capacity as Christians to be like God the Father.

Being generous only to those you like and trust is no big deal. Any thief, atheist, any drug dealer can do that. But you, Jesus says, know better. You know about the greater purposes of God--just like Joseph, and as a Christian you are to follow the way of Christ. That means keeping score of wrongs is out of the question.

The last words of todays Gospel define the Christian life: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

Pay back time is our first reaction when someone has done us wrong. Sigmund Freud said, “One must forgive one’s enemies, but only after they’ve all been hanged.”

As a victim of a horrible crime, Joseph had all the reason in the world to seek revenge. But he knew there was a better way… and so do we.

To forgive is to set a prisoner free-- discovering that prisoner is you. The cross of Jesus changes our lives, and our changed lives transform the world.