“I Love to Tell the Story”

“I Love to Tell the Story”

September 27, 2020
Genesis 37:1-34; 50:15-21
I Love to Tell the Story

Pastor Pam sings parts of three theme songs from 1970’s, 1980’s TV shows (lyrics not printed due to copyright laws): Courtship of Eddie’s Father, The Brady Bunch, and Cheers.

Stories. We love stories, don’t we? Big, long, complicated ones like we’d find in a novel or in a movie or in a long-running TV series. Short, funny, sometimes poignant ones like we’d find in a sit-com or a romantic comedy movie.

Or our own stories: How’d you two meet? What did you do on your vacation? How did you get into your line of work? How long has it been since you’ve seen him/her? Or even, simply, How was your day?

We’re constantly telling stories or listening to stories. When someone is telling us a story about their life, we can relax into it, almost seeing it come to life like a movie. And we can relate to it – remembering parts of our own story that are similar.

The magic of a story is that it connects us – it connects us to one another, to the whole human story, to our innermost thoughts and feelings, and to our God.

Our holy scriptures are such a gift! They tell us lots and lots of little stories, all set within the big story: And the big story is a love story. God the Creator fashioned humankind and called us very good. The breath of life was breathed into us and God’s creative Word was spoken, and the whole world came into being. God’s biggest desire was to be with us, to be in relationship with us. Over and over again, we turned away from God, went our own way, made our own plans, and began to hurt one another and ourselves with our selfish versions of love. Throughout the entire Old Testament, God pursued God’s people, never giving up on them. And eventually, when the time was just right, God sent the most precious love-gift of all: his only Son, Jesus: Immanuel, God with us.

The Bible is full of stories. And we love a good story. A good story can show us the truth about ourselves in a way that just saying it straight out cannot. We can hear and receive truth through story in a deeper way.

The story of Joseph spans 14 chapters in the book of Genesis, and it follows his life from the time he is 17 until his death at age 110. It spans the geographical region from Canaan to Egypt. And it is chock full of family drama. Today, we heard a portion from the beginning of the story, as well as a portion from closer to the end.

Chapter 37 begins: “Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. This is the story of the family of Jacob.”

Gather ‘round and listen in, as Reuben, Jacob’s oldest son, tells us the story from his perspective:

Joseph’s all right, I guess. I was already pretty much grown when he came along, so I don’t feel like I know him as well as I know my other brothers. Still, I have always felt it was my duty to look out for him (and for the youngest, Benjamin, too). That’s why I spoke up when my brothers were plotting to kill Joseph that day.

I mean, don’t get me wrong – Joseph was a pain, and he came off as arrogant even though I actually don’t think he was. But he couldn’t keep his mouth shut about his dreams. Even our father was distressed when Joseph shared his dreams, and he rebuked him.

So, that day when Joseph was coming out to us in the fields and my brothers wanted to kill him, I spoke up. I convinced them to put him in a pit, and I figured I would come back and rescue him later and bring him home to our father.

But when I came back, Joseph was gone – sold by my brothers and taken who knows where. My brothers, meanwhile, had hatched a new plot, and I had no better idea as to how to explain to our father what had happened to Joseph. So I went along with it. We showed our father Joseph’s bloodied coat and let him draw his own conclusions. I was not prepared for the depth of our father’s grief over Joseph’s “death.” I wanted to tell him the truth. But how could I? I didn’t have any idea where Joseph had been taken.

Well, about 13 years later, our father sent us to Egypt to buy grain, since he had heard there was grain in Egypt, and we had none because of a famine. He kept our baby brother Benjamin home, and of course Joseph was gone, so that was 10 of us.

When we got to Egypt, the official in charge of the storehouses thought we were spies and imprisoned us for three days. Then he said one of us had to stay behind in prison while we went home to get Benjamin. My brothers said to themselves, we are being punished for what we did to Joseph all those years ago. And I couldn’t resist a well-placed, “I told you so.”

Anyway, there’s lots more to this story: like how the man hadn’t taken our money for the grain he gave us; and how when we came back with Benjamin, Benjamin was accused of theft. But here’s the moment. Here’s the moment that still takes my breath away when I think of it. That official in Egypt, the man in charge of the storehouses? He revealed himself to us as Joseph. Joseph! JOSEPH!

It was thrilling and terrifying at the same time! I mean, what would he do to us to get even for what we did all those years ago?

But he wasn’t talking vengeance. He was saying, God sent me here. It was not you who sent me here. God sent me before you to preserve life.

I honestly didn’t understand a word he was saying. But I was pretty sure he wasn’t angry. And that was surprising. No one would have faulted him for being angry with us. But he wasn’t. He actually seemed grateful.

When our father died, we were nervous that Joseph’s kindness toward us would die with him. So we came to Joseph and said that our father’s dying wish had been that Joseph forgive us.

Then Joseph started weeping. And we all started weeping. We fell down before him. We were so scared about what he might do.

But our brother Joseph, whom we had tossed in a pit and sold into slavery, and about whom we had grievously lied to our father saying he was dead – this Joseph said to us: “Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. So, have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.” In this way, he reassured us, speaking kindly to us.

So ends Reuben’s story for us today.
The Bible is full of stories. And we love a good story. A good story can show us the truth about ourselves in a way that just saying it straight out cannot. Jesus was a big fan of telling stories.

Through this Bible story today, we can identify with certain characters: like the slightly arrogant Joseph who later really gets it right; or the oldest brother Reuben who tries to be on Joseph’s side but ends up being right there in the middle of the plot and cover-up; or like the brothers who assume they are being punished for their misdeeds when in actuality they are being forgiven. Our Bible is the story, it’s full of many stories, of just how far God will go to bring us home…
Thanks be to God!

“I Love to Tell the Story” was a sermon preached by Pastor Pam Schaefer Dawson in conjunction with our online worship offering for the week of September 27, 2020.