Spirituality, Liturgy and the Tao of Inner Peace
Yesterday was the 7th Sunday after Epiphany at my church, and I had the privilege of being the lector for the old testament reading. In other words, I stood up at the pulpit and read the passage above. As anyone might assume, I studied the passage and read it aloud at home several times, before standing before my congregation. As I did, I was touched by this passage, and the message it conveyed. Hopefully it speaks to you as well.
If you are not already acquainted with this story I will give you a short synopsis (in my own words of course, if you would like the whole story Genesis ch. 37-45). Joseph is the youngest brother, and he is the favorite of his father, much to the displeasure of his older brothers (I think we can all relate to that). So one day they get tired of the special treatment of their younger brother and decide to kill him and throw him in a hole. In the middle of this doing some Egyptians come by and they decide, EVEN BETTER let’s sell our brother! So they do, and they bloody up his coat with animal blood and take it to their father to give him the fake news that Joseph has been killed. Well good ol’ Joseph gets a trip to Egypt, and promptly thrown in jail. Things were looking pretty gloomy for this fellow, but then as God would have it Josephs talent for interpreting dreams puts him in favor with the Pharaoh, and through a series of events he ends up Lord of the Land, and that’s where he is reunited with his brothers who come looking for food in the passage above. (this is a much condensed version btw)
I’ve been mad lately, like really mad, and disappointed and quite sad. My good nature has been taken advantage of, people have been rude to me, dismissive and hurtful. I have been in a dark place, where you question your worth, your value, and because of that you start to question your love-ability, your capacity to be taken seriously, and even your worth, or at least I do. Why would others be so cruel or dismissive when you feel you are only being kind? I am sure plenty of you have felt that way in the past or maybe even now.
There are two things I have been striving for in my spiritual walk:
Needless to say, I have been not doing great on those two points the last couple of weeks. I have been so aggravated with others not doing what I thought would be the right thing to do, not meeting my expectations. I remind myself “Being angry is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Then this passage from a story in the bible comes my way. Here is a brother, sold into slavery, by his own family, thrown in prison and left basically for dead. Yet when it all comes back around – he says it’s okay, God sent me here to help you – I forgive you – please bring your families, your livestock and live here where I can feed you through this famine! You might say Joseph’s story is very similar to the story of Jesus. While on the cross it is written that Jesus says “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do” Luke 23:34 He preaches of the prodigal son, the woman at the well, he admonishes Peter for cutting off the ear of the guard who comes to take him away, to his eventual crucifixion. Jesus models for us a self-less love, a love that isn’t predicated on the actions of those around him. Joseph does the same, although if you read the whole story he certainly struggles to get to that point.
I suppose Joseph could have really gotten his brothers back, killed them, enslaved them? Honestly I probably would have! Yet, with God’s help, the scripture says “…he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.” So often, just like in this story, it’s not about us. There was nothing wrong with Joseph, it was his brother’s insecurities and jealousies that made them act out, not his worth. Accordingly with us, it’s not me that’s “less-than” or “not worthy of kind treatment”, its others pain, or situation that causes them to act out. I only have one person in this world I can really do anything about and that’s me. If there is a judgement after this life, it will be me and me alone that answers for my actions not those of others. Therefore I release those that hurt me, I move forward in prayer that whatever ails them might pass. I strive to be loving and kind to all people, no matter their dispositions. This is not just so I can be “holier than thou” but because it releases me from that poison. It is powerful to forgive, not only for what we do for our brothers and sisters but what we do for our own souls.
Take a few minutes and think of the story of Joseph, and all the things he could have done. Then think of all the love, reconciliation, and joy he brought to not only his family but also himself as he let it GO! A good meditation practice for this is “breath, relax, smile” let the thoughts and emotions come to the surface of your mind feel them, acknowledge them, and then let them pass. A good friend of mine always says “It is, what it is,” just let it be. There is no good in attaching anxieties and worries to a situation that we cannot control and often are not even given the insight of the transgressors life, mind or heart. Now if there is something you need to do, focus that intention and get it done, but otherwise let it pass. Stop the constant judging of your worth on someone else’s uncontrollable actions.
This week think “What Would Joseph Do?”
Be Kind, Love one Another, ALWAYS.