Thank you for joining with us today!
I came upon today's hymn while looking for a different one that was suggested. I was so taken with this one, that I decided to save the suggestion for next week!
Thanks to Lisa for suggesting today's prayer.
When we meet in person, we share our joys and concerns together. Take a few minutes to consider the last week. What personal joys and concerns do you have? Who do you believe needs prayer? You may also want to look at our continuing prayer list from last week's worship service. Once you have taken some time to reflect, use the following prayer (from Reinhold Niebuhr, 1892 - 1971, in The Oxford Book of Prayer) to begin.
O God, who hast bound us together in this bundle of life, give us grace to understand how our lives depend upon the courage, the industry, the honesty, and the integrity of our fellow-men; that we may be mindful of their needs, grateful for their faithfulness, and faithful in our responsibilities to them; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Our lesson this week is on Genesis 41:25-33, 37-40, 50-52.
Introduction: New Life, New God?
Immigrants face a host of difficulties when settling into new countries. Cultural differences can be the biggest hurdles to being accepted in a community, a neighborhood, or by coworkers.
Some immigrants do not invest the time or resources necessary to adopt the cultural mores of their new country. Sometimes it’s not about lack of time or resources but about lack of desire; fitting in with cultural expectations of the new country may threaten the identity that a person has come to cherish. Fear of losing that identity can be isolating.
One way self-identity is threatened is by rejecting the religion of the immigrant’s country of origin. When a particular religion or faith expression has been integral to personal identity for decades, then challenges to that religion or expression may result in an identity crisis.
Today’s lesson features a man who faced a similar challenge: Joseph, sold into slavery in Egypt, adopted various facets of Egyptian culture as his own while being most resistant to changing his “one God” worldview, known as monotheism. Joseph looked, acted, and spoke like an Egyptian most of the time. But he did not lose his sense of dependence on God in a pagan culture. Whether in prison or in power, Joseph remained God’s man -- obedient, faithful, and willing to give God the credit.
Following the events of last week’s lesson, Joseph was sold to an Egyptian official named Potiphar (Genesis 37:36). Joseph quickly found favor in Potiphar’s eyes and was promoted to a position of great responsibility with Potiphar’s household.
Potiphar’s wife, however, constantly pressured Joseph to sleep with her. Joseph refused every time (Genesis 39:9-10). When on one occasion Joseph ran from Potiphar’s wife, his cloak was torn from him and left behind; she used it to accuse Joseph falsely of attempted rape. As a result, Potiphar had Joseph thrown in prison (Genesis 39:11-20).
Here too Joseph proved himself worthy of responsibility (Genesis 39:20-23). Dreams once again enter Joseph’s story (compare Genesis 37:5-11) through two fellow prisoners. Joseph’s experience had taught him that only God can reveal the true meaning of dreams (Genesis 40:8; 41:16). The divinely inspired interpretations Joseph provided for each man’s dream came true: one man was put to death, and the other man was restored to his position. Joseph requested of the latter that after regaining his position, he would mention Joseph to the Pharaoh. The man, however, forgot about Joseph for two years (Genesis 40:1-41:1).
Pharaoh had his own incomprehensible dreams. Though the content was easily conveyed, neither Pharaoh nor any of his magicians or wise men understood them (Genesis 41:1-8). In the first dream, seven healthy cows had come forth from the Nile River. They were followed by seven cows “ugly and gaunt,” (Genesis 41:3); Pharaoh said of these cows, “I had never seen such ugly cows in all the land of Egypt,” (Genesis 41:19). Amazingly, the ugly cows devoured the healthy ones.
Much the same thing occurred in Pharaoh’s second dream, though the details differed. Seven heads of grain appeared on a single stalk. Then there appeared seven withered heads of grain that had been scorched by a hot east wind. The thin heads of grain proceeded to eat up the fully grown heads of grain.
When Pharaoh spoke of this conundrum, the forgetful former prisoner remembered Joseph and told Pharaoh of Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams accurately. Joseph was quickly taken from the prison, made presentable, and brought before Pharaoh (Genesis 41:9-14).
When we meet in person, we discuss the scripture passage, and how it relates to our own lives. We ask and answer questions. The questions below are from our Sunday School book. Take some time to think about your answers to each question. If you are reading the lesson with someone, discuss your thoughts together. Remember, sometimes these questions are hard, and there may not be one right answer. You can share your thoughts in the comment section, if you are comfortable doing so.
Article: Feast or Famine
The phrase "feast or famine" describes situations of extremes with no middle-ground result. Farmers may use the phrase to describe a year's rainfall when early spring drenching makes fields too wet to plant, but then summer drought keeps the harvest from growing and maturing. Those who work on commission may experience feast or famine times on a regular basis!
The feast or famine aspects of Pharaoh's dreams were to be fulfilled literally. But a spiritual aspect is also present: Pharaoh's wise men were in a famine state when it came to interpreting their leader's dreams. However, Pharaoh was blessed that God had given Joseph a feast of discernment with which to interpret the dreams. That fact leads to a natural question: How does the Christian move from spiritual famine to spiritual feast? It all begins with know God's will -- not as he has revealed it in dreams, but as he has revealed it in Scripture (Psalm 119:11; 2 Timothy 2:15). Where does your feast/famine meter read in that regard?
The God whom Joseph served and honored is the God we serve and honor today. No matter the circumstance, he does not change (Malachi 3:6). He remains in control. Whether we find ourselves in a pit or a palace, he is there.
Joseph demonstrated radical faith in his God. Even though God might have seemed far away during the 13 years of slavery, God continued to give Joseph evidence that he had not forgotten the imprisoned man. How does your life witness to the same truth?
Father, help us be mindful that as you were with Joseph, so you are with us! Strengthen us to greater faithfulness. In Jesus' name. Amen.
This week's benediction is from the Amplified Version of the Bible.
We are a small, rural Presbyterian church in southwestern Pennsylvania.