Summary: This sermon (Has Been Updated) looks at what it means to live life in the meanwhile and how God works in the meanwhiles of our lives.
Living in the Meanwhile
We live in world and county filled with unprecedented violence, political upheaval, and uncertainty. These are coupled with an increase in natural disasters, and so we wonder if this is ever going to change, or are we in for more of the same as we approach this next year.
Last week we looked at living our lives in the in-between, and how much of this life God has given to us we have missed, because we’re so concerned with our goals that we forget that life is what happens in the in-between.
Today I’d like to expand on this idea of how we are to live our lives as Christians by looking at meanwhile living. And to do this I’d like to share with you a story from the Bible about a man called Joseph.
Joseph was the eleventh son of Jacob, and to say that he was spoiled is an understatement. He was his father’s favorite son, and his brothers hated him for it. But even worse Joseph didn’t do anything to help his cause, and Jacob made no effort to hide his favoritism. Jacob went so far as to make Joseph into his own little stool pigeon, along with giving him a special coat in the process, a coat of many colors. (Genesis 37:3-4)
Even while his brothers were out working in the field tending to the family’s flocks, Joseph hung out in his father’s tent. The only time Joseph was out with his brothers was to let his father know what they were doing.
We had a word for Joseph when I was going to school. We’d call them tattletales, or snitches.
But there’s more. Joseph was also a dreamer. Not a daydreamer, but a night dreamer. God had given Joseph a couple of dreams that really ticked off his brothers even more than before.
And to make matters worse, Joseph’s dreams had to do with his greatness over his own family. These dreams had his brothers, and even his father and mother bowing down to him. Well that’s the straw that broke the camel’s back. His brother’s had enough.
So a day came when they saw their chance to get rid of this spoiled little brat once and for all without getting in trouble.
They were tending their father’s flock some distance from home, and had actually moved them from the place where Joseph and his father thought they would be. So Joseph went out looking for them. When the brothers saw Joseph coming in the distance, they recognized his coat of many colors, and conspired to kill him. They had enough of daddy’s little pet. They had enough of this dreamer and his dreams.
And so when Joseph arrived they stripped him of his coat and tossed him down a dry well. After dinner a company of Midianite traders were passing by, so the brothers sold him. Better to sell him and make a profit than kill him and get nothing. Besides, the life of a slave was usually a short one.
Now they faced the problem of telling their father. So they concocted a story that a wild beast attacked Joseph. To add validity to their claim, they dipped Joseph’s coat of many colors in goat’s blood.
Jacob believed the story and went into mourning, mourning so bitter and so prolonged that nobody could console him. So bitter was his mourning that Jacob said that he would go down into the grave mourning.
With the exception of their father’s intense grief, the brother’s plan came off without a hitch. You could just see them congratulating themselves on how well everything had worked out. Their brat of a brother was gone, and never to be seen or heard of again. No more would their dad play favorites. No more tattletales. No more crazy dreams of dominance. Joseph was gone: end of story.
But not quite! Tacked on to the end of this chapter is a verse and a word that would seem to indicate otherwise.
“Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh's officials, the captain of the guard.” (Genesis 37:36 NIV)
Take a moment and think about that word, “Meanwhile.” What does it suggest? For some, “meanwhile” means that things are the same as they ever have been.
In the old western movies the caption would read, “Meanwhile back at the ranch.” In other words, nothing has changed. Everything remains the same. The word suggests summers in Mesquite where we can literally recite the weather by rote, and that is, “hot.” Hot when you wake up, and hot when you go back to sleep.
So for many, “meanwhile” means nothing is really happening. That everything is the same.
But that’s not the meaning here. Here, the word “meanwhile” serves an entirely different purpose. It leaves the door open for something more. It suggests there’s more to come.