As the church reopens for in-person worship next week, we will still be having Sunday School online.
When we meet in person, we share our joys and concerns. Take some time to think over the past week. What joys and concerns do you have? We'll pray a three-part prayer together. The beginning and ending came from an email newsletter that I get with my Bible app. In the middle, pray for your own joys and concerns.
Oh God, my life is filled with trials and hardships. Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed and grieved. Nevertheless, I’m grateful that in every situation You are with me. In You, I can have peace. No matter what I face, today I chose to not let my heart be troubled or afraid. My mind is fixed on You and I trust in You. Fill me with joy and peace so that by the power of Your Holy Spirit, I may abound with hope. Guard my heart and give me the strength to live a life marked by Your peace.
[Pray for your joys and concerns]
Thank You for overcoming the world. Thank You that in all things we are more than conquerors because of You and Your love for us. Today and every day, help us to “turn away from evil and do good; to seek peace and pursue it.” Make us eager to maintain unity, and slow to become angry.
Let the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing to You. Guide our feet in the way of peace and teach us to number our days so that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Heal our lands Lord, and bless Your people with peace. Amen.
This week's scripture lesson is on Genesis 45:1-8; 10-15.
Introduction: "Luke, I am your..."
How does that sentence end? In the western world even people who haven't seen any of the Star Wars movies probably know to fill in "father." Yet Darth Vader shows Luke Skywalker no love; he shows his son no mercy. They are mortal enemies and it becomes clear that one of them must die. This fact becomes all the more tragic because Luke didn't know the truth about his parents until Episode V (the second movie of the original trilogy). Darth Vader's also being Dad did nothing to weaken the enmity with an Luke. It only complicated it, made it all the sadder because of the truth it reveals: our families are sometimes the origin of our greatest enemies.
Joseph had experienced just that. At the root of all his struggles in Egypt were those who had sent him to that place to begin with: his brothers. So like Darth Vader (in this one respect), Joseph hid his identity. Yet the revelation of Joseph's true identity had quite a different outcome from that of Darth Vader's revelation.
Lesson three covered the first trip that Joseph's brothers made to Egypt without Benjamin (Genesis 42:6-25). Though they returned with food, it inevitably ran out, and the brothers were faced with traveling to Egypt again. But they knew they could not return without Benjamin. Jacob, however, was still very reluctant to allow Benjamin to go. Finally, after Judah guaranteed Benjamin safety and offered to bear the blame should Benjamin not return, Jacob relented (Genesis 43:1-14).
When the brothers arrived in Egypt, they first spoke to Joseph's steward about the silver they had found in their sacks. He assured them all was well (Genesis 43:19-23). Later, after Joseph released Simeon (Genesis 43:23) and fed the brothers a meal (Genesis 43:31-34), he sent them back to Canaan with more supplies. But he also instructed his steward to place each man's silver in his sack, and in addition, to put Joseph's special silver cup in Benjamin's sack (Genesis 44:1-2).
Following the brothers' departure, Joseph sent his steward to catch up with the men and accuse them of taking Joseph's cup. When the cup was discovered in Benjamin's sack of grain, the brothers tore their clothing in despair and returned to Egypt to face Joseph (Genesis 44:3-13).
After Joseph told his brothers that Benjamin would have to remain in Egypt, Judah stepped forward and voiced an impassioned plea not to keep Benjamin in Egypt. Such an action would break his father Jacob's heart to the point of hastening his death. Judah offered himself in place of Benjamin (Genesis 44:17-34). This act represented a drastic departure from the way Judah had treated Joseph those many years before (Genesis 37:26-27).
During our lesson, we speak with each other about the scripture passages we study. We might ask questions or make connections with our daily life. Take some time to read through and think about each question. Reflect on your answers. If you are reading through your lesson with someone else, take some time to discuss your answers together. Sometimes these questions can be difficult and there may not be a single right answer. If you would like to share your thoughts or questions you can do so in the comments.
Article: Dealing with a Guilty Conscience
Most of us can speak from experience about the pain of a loved one's hurtful, impulsive actions or even a cruel pattern of behavior. Perhaps we are even willing to admit the times we have been the ones who hurt others.
It's important for transgressors to confess and repent of what they have done. It's also important for the repentant to realize and accept the fact that they have been forgiven. Looking ahead to Genesis 50:15 gives us a glimpse of how heavily the troubled consciences of Joseph's brothers continue to weigh on them after Joseph kind words in our text.
Yet this reconciliation story doesn't focus on the sins of Joseph's brothers or even their remorse. Instead the story highlights Joseph's response. That response suggests that God may be as interested in the conscience of the victim as he is in the conscience of the perpetrator. What's your conscience saying to you right now?
Article: A Picture is Worth ...
I have the picture taken more than 30 years ago at a family reunion. On that occasion my grandmother was celebrating her 96th birthday. That picture shows Grandma, my father, me, my daughter, and her first child. All five generations of us in one photo!
I could tell so many stories about the occasion and of each person in the picture. For those of us pictured, the photo triggers memories of the occasion that make words unnecessary. As we say, "a picture is worth a thousand words."
How much would Joseph have loved to have had a picture of his father taken just before the brothers' second journey began! And how his father would have loved to have received a picture of Joseph! But everything had to rely on the testimony of his brothers. The saying a picture is worth a thousand words therefore not applying, Joseph had to anticipate a face-to-face meeting with his father. What parallel does this have for us? (Hint: see 1 John 3:2)
Imagine yourself standing before, Jesus who has asked you to draw near, as Joseph told his brothers to draw near to him (Genesis 45:4). Jesus speaks and says, "I am Jesus whom you crucified. Your sins are the reason I gave my life as a sacrifice on the cross. But don't be angry with yourself. I want to forgive you, not condemn you." Jesus does indeed says this -- and he means it
Joseph's words about God's higher purpose being carried out can also be applied to Jesus. Men killed him because they wanted to reverse his influence, dishearten his followers, and destroy the movement he had begun. But God accomplished a great deliverance through the cross and the empty tomb. As Peter told the crowd gathered on the day of Pentecost, "[Jesus] was handed over to you by God's deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead," (Acts 2:23-24).
Salvation is truly a gift of God's grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). It must be received as such without our placing conditions on it that God himself has never placed. Don't be angry with yourself. Like Joseph's brothers, you need to accept forgiveness.
Father, thank you for revealing your loving forgiveness to us through Jesus' death and resurrection! Help us to forgive others as we have been forgiven. In Jesus' name. Amen.
This week's benediction is from The Message.
Next week's lesson will be on 1 Samuel 19:1-7.
We are a small, rural Presbyterian church in southwestern Pennsylvania.