20140817 10th Sunday after Pentecost A
Title: Defining Your Moments (The moment should not define you… you define your moments.)
Text: Genesis 45:1-15
The way we see ourselves in the moment defines our awareness of God’s activity in our lives.
A humblebrag is false humility couched in self-deprecation that is designed to remind everyone else that your life is more awesome that everyone else’s.
Some humblebrags are pretty out there. Singer and TV personality Tila Tequilla texted her followers: “Man this is so unfair! Why didn’t the Lamborgini dealer tell me I’d get pulled over at least once a week in this car? Time to get a Corolla lol!”
Actor David Hasselhoff once tweeted, “It’s an evening with Hoff! Britain’s Got Talent followed by my life story on Piers Morgan. Hopefully you won’t get sick of me!”
One nationally known pastor tweeted, “I’m truly humbled by you who follow my Tweets. I pray they enrich your life and strengthen your ministry. God bless all 200,000 of you!” Rick Warren
Some people don’t bother to be subtle. Many athletes over the years have bragged about their athleticism… Ali readily comes to mind. He used to posture and parade about shouting, “I am the greatest!” I have since learned that baseball great Dizzy Dean us credited with saying, “It ain’t braggin’ if you can do it.”
The point we might make as we set the stage for today’s message is that “it is easy to buy into the myth of one’s own importance, even if you want to do it subtly.” (Homiletics, Volume 26, Number 4, pp. 553-54)
Joseph was a young man who seemed to buy into the myth of his own importance. His first life lesson initially escaped him.
I. Be discerning, Genesis 37:1-36; Proverbs 15:1, 16:24; I Timothy 4:12 and Colossians 4:6
Paul wrote this to another young man giving him some guidance that might have been helpful to Joseph. “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, your purity.” I Timothy 4:12
British Chef Jamie Oliver is planning to open a restaurant in Brazil. When he appeared on a Brazilian TV show in July he was somewhat south of being discerning. On the show he was offered a tray of Brazilian confections, including coconut quindims and supersweet chocolate brigaderios. He tasted a few, made a horrible face, and pronounced them “(expletive deleted) horrible.” Brazilians were outraged and had plenty to say about what they describe as vile British cooking, especially British deserts and particularly those made by Jamie Oliver. It was your basic public debacle and no amount of apologizing and explaining was going to make their outrage go away.
Columnist Tony Goes of Sao Paulo wrote, “We Brazilians had just gotten over our thumping at the World Cup. To have our national candy cursed at was too much to take.” (Tony Goes, Don’t dare diss our candies, The Week, August 15, 2014, p. 13)
What kind of arrogance does it take to be that socially klutzy, insensitive, undiscerning and insulting?
I wonder if the outrage of Joseph’s brothers was something akin to the outrage of the Brazilians toward Chef Jamie Oliver.
Joseph was: (Elaborate on each…)
The “baby of the family.”
The favorite son with a snazzy new coat
The master of youthful indiscretion
Dreams were really quite important events in Joseph’s life. They are a window into his future… the only problem was that he did not have the sense to keep it too himself. But how many kids have that kind of discernment?
Even as a young man Joseph had a proclivity for dreams… he was a dreamer and an interpreter of dreams. As both a dreamer and an interpreter of dreams it is apparent that God was at work in his life. Initially his dreams were visions of things to come and then as an interpreter of dreams he was elevated to a position of power which enabled him to save a nation as well as his estranged family.
His early dreams did not make sense until the end of the story. The dreams he described to his brothers and his parents were not to be immediately realized. Rather there was quite the time lapse between his first dreams and the unfolding of those dreams.
Joseph’s youthful indiscretion, lack of discernment and absence of emotional intelligence, i.e., common sense defined who he was and how he would be regarded by others. His brothers hated him!
One of the life lessons we can learn from Joseph is the art of discernment or discretion… of thinking before we speak. Our either endear us to people or alienates us from people.
Joseph’s initial lack of discernment resulted in his being engaged or present in an unbelievable series of scenarios.
II. Be engaged in every circumstance, Genesis 37-41: II Corinthians 12:7-10 and Philippians 4:13
It is apparent that Joseph did in fact see things in retrospect. Joseph named his older son Manasseh, for he said,
“God has made me forget all my troubles and everyone in my father’s family.” And he named his second son Ephraim, for he said, “God has made me fruitful in this land of my grief.” Genesis 41:51-52
When I was a kid we went to the Iowa State Fair every year. In those days the state fair had what was called “The Midway.” The Midway was lined with booths designed to relieve you of your money. There were tents with carnival barkers standing outside shouting things like “You’ll be shocked and amazed…” inviting fairgoers to step inside to see what was behind flap. Human oddities often labeled “freaks.” The Thin man and the fat lady. Double jointed contortionists. Fire breathers. Sword swallowers. The bed of nails. The girl in a fish bowl (a real mermaid). And there were the peep shows and the exotic dancers and the like.
Little Liz has been in the news this week. Little Liz is from Haiti, is a little person at 2 feet 5 inches tall, and is billed as “The World’s Smallest Woman.” She makes her living sitting in a chair as a carnival attraction working for Crabtree Amusements which was working the Boulder County Fair.
Then along came some, what the carny people call, “Do-Gooders.” In carny lingo a “Do-Gooder” is someone who believes in the innate evil of the amusement business, focusing generally on the notion that it exploits or demeans those who work in it. The do-gooders are generally despised by the by same supposedly exploited individuals: the carnival and circus workers.” (www.shockedandamazed.com)
I don’t know what people expect when they attend a side show at a carnival but one parent who had paid to see Little Liz complained that the little woman was not appropriate family fare… so Little Liz was yanked from her gig and out of work for three days.
I am pretty sure Little Liz would prefer to look like Heidi Klum and get to be a rich and famous model and judge on America’s Got Talent but she doesn’t and she isn’t. But Little Liz is living into her circumstances and making the best of it she can. She will be back on her chair at the next gig doing what she can do.
On Friday the Denver Post featured former Olympic swimmer Amy Van Dyken-Rouen being discharged from Craig Hospital where she has been treated following an ATV accident that left her paralyzed. She was thankful, excited and emotional and she said, “I can’t wait to get out there in the world.” She said, “Changing the way I go about the world, …that is what I have learned here.” (Kieran Nicholson, Van Dyken-Rouen is released from Craig, The Denver Post, August 15, 2014, 6A)
Certainly Olympic medalist Amy Van Dyken-Rouen is no member of a racial minority with physical impairments described by someone in the Boulder County Commissioners office as something of an “ick factor" but she is also an example of someone who is living into her circumstances and making the best of it as she can.
Here is a short-list of Joseph’s troubles (Elaborate…)
• He was hated by his brothers, Genesis 37:4-8
• He was sold into slavery, Genesis 37:18-36
He was falsely accused, Genesis 39:6-18
• He was put in prison, Genesis 39:19-20
The bible does not say what Joseph thought and said in the various scenarios of his life. We don’t know if he knew his brothers hated him or if he wept when they sold him into slavery. We don’t know… nothing is said about what Joseph thought or said or did until we read about how and why he names his sons. Joseph was very engaged and present in each circumstance and Joseph made the best of his situation every time. And it is in the naming of his sons that we understand something of his passage. His experience so influenced him that he named his sons out of his life experience, “God has made me forget all my troubles” and “God has made me fruitful in this land of my grief.”
A second life lesson we can learn from Joseph is to be fully engaged and living into in our circumstances. Feel the pain and experience the sufficiency of God’s grace and learn the art of thriving through anything and everything.
As we all likely know, life is not always a walk in the park. Sometime our circumstances are downright rotten and sometimes a scenario plays out for a long, long time with seemingly no relief in sight and the only thing that may change is you. You cannot change your situation but you may let God use your situation to change you.
Now we see that Joseph gets it. The third point is…
III. Be humble with success, Genesis 41:16 and 45:7-8 and Romans 12:3-4
By the time Pharaoh asked Joseph to interpret his dream he had acquired some humility. “It is beyond my power to do this.” Joseph replied, “But God can tell you what it means and set you at ease.” Genesis 41:16
Rabbi Gilfer once told this story about a couple who came to him for counsel They had come about a marital problem. The wife complained that her husband, who studied all day would not take out the trash. She asked the Rabbi if there was anything in Jewish law that compelled the husband to do this simple chore. “Sadly there is not,” he responded.
The next morning Rabbi Gilfer showed up at the home of the couple. The man was overjoyed, “Please come in and have something to eat… what an honor to have you in our home.”
“No,” said Rabbi Gilfer, “I’ve just come to take out the trash.”
When the man looked puzzled he explained, “You see, it may be beneath your dignity to take out the trash, but it is not beneath mine.” (David Wolpe, Off the Pulpit e-newsletter, April 28, 2011)
Nothing was beneath Joseph’s dignity and God used him and blessed him.
In Genesis 39:2, “The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did… Potiphar noticed and realized the Lord was with Joseph giving him success in everything he did.
His troubles led to God given opportunities (Elaborate on each…)
• He was put in charge, Genesis 39:1-6
• He interpreted dreams, Genesis 41:1-36
• He was made a ruler of Egypt, Genesis 41:37-52
• He saved a nation from famine, Genesis 41:53-42:2
• He rescued his family, Genesis 50:20
It seems his stock answer when given the opportunity to gloat was, “It is beyond my power to do this but God can. It’s not me. It is God.”
Though Joseph knew nothing of it, we do. Paul reminds us in Romans 12:3-4, “Don’t think you are better than you really are… he honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us..”
A third life lesson we can learn from Joseph is the art of humility. At the heart of the art of humility is the understanding that every opportunity, all we are and all that we do is of God.
Rescuing his family was a defining moment in Joseph’s character…he did it by being better than bitter.
IV. Be better than bitter, 50:19-21 and Galatians 4:31-32
At the conclusion of the story, when the jig was up and everything was laid bare Joseph was a model of character. “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them. Genesis 50:10-21
Philomena is a 2013 movie based on the true story of Philomena Lee. In 1951 a teenaged Philomena living in Ireland became pregnant outside of marriage. She was sent to Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, Ireland where her infant son was born. While working in the abbey's laundry to pay off the cost of her stay, the nuns adopted her toddler-age child to an American couple without warning or giving Philomena the chance to say goodbye.
For 50 years Philomena attempted to find her son without success. She visited the abbey on several occasions only to be told no information was available. When Martin Sixsmith, a British journalist, offered to help her in her search, Philomena discovered her son had become a prominent lawyer serving as legal counsel to both President Reagan and President Bush. She also discovered he had traveled to Sean Ross Abbey in Ireland with hopes of being directed to his birth mother before dying of A.I.D.S. in 1995. Additionally, she learned that her son's ashes were buried in the graveyard of the abbey.
When the British journalist realized what the nuns had done, he exploded with anger. But to his surprise, Philomena announced that it is her choice how she wants to respond to the way she was misled and mistreated. Turning to the one remaining nun (now in her eighties) who recalled her baby boy's adoption, she said, "Sister Hildegard, I want you to know that I forgive you." The journalist could not believe his ears. "What? Just like that?" he asked.
"No, not just like that!" Philomena countered. "That's hard. That's hard for me. But I don't want to hate people.”
She then asked the younger nun in the room if she would be so kind as to escort her to her son's grave and leaves. (Preachingtoday.com)
Similarly, if anyone had reason to feel bitter, Joseph did. Being sold into slavery might do it. Being falsely accused of attempted rape and doing jail time might do it. Expecting that a fellow con would put in a good word for him on the outside but did not might do it.
In the end, when all was known and all the pretense was removed Joseph did the hard thing because he knew God was ultimately at work in it all and he simply did not want to hate anyone.
The fourth life lesson we can learn from Joseph is the art of forgiving and being the better person.
Most moments are defined by how we see ourselves in relation to what God is doing.
In the moment:
1. Will we react impulsively or respond with discernment?
2. Will we chafe or allow God to change us”?
3. Will we gloat in the moment or glorify God?
4. Will we wallow in bitterness or will to forgive?
We, like Joseph either define the moment or the moment will define us… The way we see ourselves in the moment defines our awareness of God’s activity in our lives.