Weeping Through the Night

One fateful night, a pastor is called to the Emergency Room of a large hospital. Two teenagers have been in a horrific car crash. One is in the operating room, and the other in the morgue. Both sets of parents are there. One set waits in hopeful anticipation of the doctor coming out of surgery to say that their son will recover. The other set sits in stunned silence outside the morgue with no hope. But as the night goes on, it is discovered that the dead boy is the son of the parents outside the operating room. Those hopeful parents must now face the reality of death. It falls to the pastor to speak into this situation. What can we say to ease the horror of losing a child?

In the 37th chapter of Genesis, we read of the enormous grief that Jacob felt upon learning of the death of his favorite son, Joseph. We, the reader, know that Joseph is not actually dead but was sold into slavery by his devious and spiteful brothers. His braggadocios stories of his dreams that foretold the brothers bowing down to him as he swaggered in his precious brightly colored coat (a gift of favor from his father) led them to dispose of him in a cruel way. Even more cruel is their ability to watch their father grieve Joseph’s death without rushing to confess that he is alive as they present Jacob with Joseph’s bloody coat:

Genesis 37:33-35 (Common English Bible)

33 Jacob recognized it and said, “It’s my son’s robe! A wild animal has devoured him. Joseph must have been torn to pieces!” 34 Then Jacob tore his clothes, put a simple mourning cloth around his waist, and mourned for his son for many days. 35 All of his sons and daughters got up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted, telling them, “I’ll go to my grave mourning for my son.” And Joseph’s father wept for him.

Jacob’s grief is expressed in a powerfully visible way. He tears his clothes, he mourns and weeps, and he resigns himself to a life of grief that he will take to his grave. Have you ever experienced grief like this? It is said that grief is the price we pay for a love well-loved, and many of us in our lifetime will know the crushing emptiness of death.

For Jacob, his belief that his son was dead was his reality. This reminds us of the power of belief, and perhaps this can be a source of calm reassurance when someone passes. What do you believe happens at death? Where is God? 

As crushing as grief can be, we must hold on to the hope of the resurrection to which we are all invited if we believe in Jesus. Upon his own death, Jesus invited the thief on the cross to join him in paradise that very day. In an act of penitence, the thief asked Jesus to remember him when Jesus came into his kingdom. This was the thief’s confession of faith, and we are assured that upon his death, the thief entered eternal life.

Thus, our belief in eternal life can begin to sooth the horror of deep and overwhelming grief. We will meet again! This is exactly what the pastor said to the grieving parents that night. This is what our Lord says to us in our lowest moments. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:5, New Revised Standard Version).

Joy Comes in the Morning by Michelle Robertson

Sibling Rivalry

I have always loved the Joseph story that appears in the Old Testament. It is the best part of Genesis for me. I love how it weaves in and out of one improbable situation after another. With themes of favoritism, prophecy, sibling rivalry, deceit, lying, cheating, arguing, imprisonment, and (finally) success, it is a veritable storytelling feast.

Today’s passage focuses on three themes: the perils of being braggadocios, the consequences of a family experiencing extreme jealousy, and the power of mob rule.

Joseph is the father’s favorite and was given a beautiful “technicolor dream coat” by his doting dad. He wears it proudly while he brags to his brothers that he has received a dream-vision that says that all the brothers would soon be bowing down to him in obeisance.

Can you imagine how well THAT played with the brothers? If your sibling said the same to you, how would you respond?

Genesis 37 (Contemporary English Version)

14 Joseph’s father said, “Go and find out how your brothers and the sheep are doing. Then come back and let me know.” So he sent him from Hebron Valley.

Joseph left and found his brothers in Dothan. 18 But before he got there, they saw him coming and made plans to kill him. 19 They said to one another, “Look, here comes the hero of those dreams! 20 Let’s kill him and throw him into a pit and say that some wild animal ate him. Then we’ll see what happens to those dreams.”

Well, that was predictable! In some ways, Joseph’s lack of humility brought on his brothers’ ire. Joseph forgot that the glory belonged to God. If indeed he was destined to rise to power, it would be God’s doing and not his. By taking credit and lording it over his brothers, he invoked a jealous response…from God. God rarely suffers anyone putting himself on the throne in God’s place.

21 Reuben heard this and tried to protect Joseph from them. “Let’s not kill him,” he said. 22 “Don’t murder him or even harm him. Just throw him into a dry well out here in the desert.” Reuben planned to rescue Joseph later and take him back to his father.

23 When Joseph came to his brothers, they pulled off his fancy coat 24 and threw him into a dry well.

Luckily Reuben steps in and offers a less violent solution, with good intentions to return later and save his brother. But that was not to be….

25 As Joseph’s brothers sat down to eat, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with all kinds of spices that they were taking to Egypt. 26 So Judah said, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and hide his body? 27 Let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not harm him. After all, he is our brother.” And the others agreed.

28 When the Midianite merchants came by, Joseph’s brothers took him out of the well, and for twenty pieces of silver they sold him to the Ishmaelites who took him to Egypt.

For twenty pieces of silver they sold their own brother. The story has a pretty good ending, but that won’t come for many chapters yet.

Let’s turn this on its side for a moment and look at it a different way. Do you suppose denominationalism does the same thing? Does the bickering between churches look to the world like a giant sibling rivalry? Can infighting within a denomination feel like the smaller brother is being thrown into a well?

The world is watching. If we claim to be “brothers and sisters in Christ,” we need to reach down the street to our other-denomination neighbor and pray for their ministry just as hard as we pray for our own. We need to rejoice in their growth and not be threatened by it. Within our denominations, we should celebrate our differences and not use them as a sticking point for judgment.

In the body of Christ, there are no divisions. No Greek, nor Jew, nor male nor female, nor Presbyterians nor Catholics nor Methodists, but ALL are one in the body of Christ.

So let’s act like it.

That They May be ONE by Kathy Schumacher