We're so glad that you're joining us today!
A couple of people said that one of their favorite verses was 1 Peter 5:7
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
This hymn came up as one connected to that verse. The poem upon which the English words are based was written by St. Francis of Assisi.
When we meet together, we share our joys and concerns. Take a few minutes to consider your personal joys and concerns. If you have any to share, you can include them in the comments.
I enjoyed doing prayers with the Psalms earlier in the summer. I thought we could do one today! For this prayer, we will go back and forth between the text of Psalm 42, and related direction on things and people to pray for.
Yearning for God in the Midst of Distresses
42 As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God.
Pray to strengthen your yearning for God.
Pray for the world to know God's love.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
3 My tears have been my food day and night,
While they continually say to me,
“Where is your God?”
Pray for your own recognition of God in the world, and in your life.
4 When I remember these things,
I pour out my soul within me.
For I used to go with the multitude;
I went with them to the house of God,
With the voice of joy and praise,
With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.
Pray for those people who have decided they feel safe to return to worship.
Pray for those people who do not yet feel safe to return to worship.
Pray for those people who are still making their choice.
5 Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance.
Pray for God's help with your personal concerns.
Pray for God's help in unspoken concerns.
6 O my God, my soul is cast down within me;
Therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan,
And from the heights of Hermon,
From the Hill Mizar.
Pray for those experiencing problems to remember to hope in God.
7 Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls;
All Your waves and billows have gone over me.
Pray for those being buffeted by the waves and billows of life, during this time of turbulence.
Pray for those being effected by wildfires, floods, and natural disasters.
8 The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime,
And in the night His song shall be with me--
A prayer to the God of my life.
Pray for the world to experience the lovingkindness of God.
Pray for the world to practice love for each other.
9 I will say to God my Rock,
“Why have You forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
Pray for those people who feel forgotten.
Pray to open your eyes and hearts to those people experiencing isolation.
10 As with a breaking of my bones,
My enemies reproach me,
While they say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
Pray for those people in physical pain.
11 Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.
Pray in thanksgiving for joys and blessings.
This week's lesson is on Genesis 42:6-25.
Introduction: Surprise Encounters
What's the best surprise you ever experienced? The announcement of a forthcoming grandchild? The renewed health of a loved one? A broken relationship repaired? For some, the answer will be an unexpected family reunion. Those who have been deployed for service overseas seem very happy to surprise their loved ones with an early return after a lengthy absence. Sometimes arrangements are made for the returnee to show up unexpectedly at a ball game or other public event where the person's family is in attendance.
The looks of astonishment and then unbridled joy are very touching. Though families expect their loved ones will return eventually, their reactions reveal that the emotions of an anticipated reunion are magnified when that reunion happens without warning. Part of the joy in watching such a reunion is in seeing what happens when there hasn't been time to prepare psychologically for the reunion. And so it was with Joseph.
When the Egyptians began to feel the effects of the predicted famine (see last week's lesson), they cried out to Pharaoh for relief. Pharaoh sent them to Joseph (Genesis 41:55), whom he had appointed to prepare Egypt for the years of famine. The famine, however, affected lands other than Egypt as well. As a result, "all the world," came to Egypt to buy food (Genesis 41:57). Joseph's homeland was among those, and Jacob urged his sons to travel to Egypt and purchase food (Genesis 42:1-2). Exactly how much of the seven-year famine had occurred before the brothers went to Egypt is not clear. Later, when Joseph revealed his identity, he told them that only two of seven total years had passed (Genesis 45:6).
For the first journey to Egypt, Jacob did not permit Benjamin -- one of two sons of Jacob's beloved wife Rachel, the other son being Joseph (Genesis 35:24) -- to go. Jacob had already lost his favorite son, Joseph; Jacob did not want to risk losing his second favorite, Benjamin (Genesis 42:3-4). Thus ten brothers traveled to Egypt without him.
When we meet in person, we usually share our thoughts and ideas. We make connections to our real lives, and how we can see God at work. The questions below are from our adult Sunday School book. Take some time to think about each question. If you are working through the lesson with someone else, discuss your thoughts together. Sometimes these questions can be very hard, and there is not necessarily a right answer. If you would like to share some of your ideas, or ask questions, you can do so in the comments.
Article: Trust, but Verify
The Cold War was a worldwide concern in the 1980's. The importance of having nuclear arms agreements could not be overstated. As US President Reagan was preparing to meet with USSR General Secretary Gorbachev, an adviser informed Reagan of Russians' love of proverbs. Perhaps learning a few would help aid the negotiations.
Doveryai, no proveryai (click here for sound) -- "trust, but verify" -- caught Reagan's fancy. It expressed the tension of believing in good faith what one was told while also doing the research to corroborate statements. To Reagan, it expressed well the American attitude toward Soviet assurances.
Before Joseph could trust his brothers, he needed to verify their character. How well does Joseph's "trust, but verify" method work as a Christian principle?
Joseph had settled into life in Egypt, secure in his powerful position. He had married and started a family. He had taken over the responsibility of providing grain for those who had traveled from near and far to Egypt because of the severe famine that had ravaged many countries. It was business as usual for Joseph until he looked up and saw a group of ten men dressed like he used to be when he lived in Canaan. And then he realized -- these were his brothers! They too had come to Egypt to buy grain.
That Joseph's motives for acting as he did toward his brothers were not rooted in selfishness or vindictiveness is seen most of all in his tears. He could not control his emotions when he learned that Reuben had actually intended to spare his life. Though the brothers did not now it, the governor of Egypt was already planning how to see his father again and keep his whole family safe.
While Joseph was hiding his true identity from his brothers, his declaration that, "I fear God," was the truth. The brothers did not realize what a comfort that declaration should have been to them. Joseph's tears revealed his heart for all time.
Our Father, thank you that you use even our most desperate circumstances to serve your loving purposes. Let our fear of you guide us as Joseph's fear guided him. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
This week's benediction comes from the Revised Standard Version.
Next week's lesson will be on Genesis 45:1-8, 10-15.
We are a small, rural Presbyterian church in southwestern Pennsylvania.