He inquired about their welfare, and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” 28 They said, “Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.” And they bowed their heads and did obeisance. 29 Then he looked up and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, “Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? God be gracious to you, my son!” 30 With that, Joseph hurried out, because he was overcome with affection for his brother, and he was about to weep. So he went into a private room and wept there. 31 Then he washed his face and came out; and controlling himself he said, “Serve the meal.”
I had to laugh. I saw a list of things you can do listed from the least dangerous to the most dangerous things during this pandemic. The safest thing you can do? Go grocery shopping. I was relieved. Order take out food. Great. Right up there in the safest activities was…play golf. I gave thanks. The MOST dangerous thing you can do? Go to bars. No problem here. The second most dangerous thing? Attend religious services (with large crowds). That was when I laughed because it’s good to know we are right up there…with the bars. Therefore, the MOST dangerous thing you can do is what is becoming an interesting novelty: have a religious service in a bar. Beer and hymns. Frankly, you can’t get more Methodist than that…but you’ll have to let your pastors unpack that one.
It’s dangerous to be in church. It’s dangerous because we might just become infected…with grace or even love. There’s a great need for it. Anger and tension are rampant. We used to be able to defer it with sports but, alas, that’s gone for now. The Wyndham Championship golf tournament (where I am a walking scorer) will not have fans in attendance. That was announced last week. We have yet to see if baseball, hockey, and basketball will happen in August. But, until then, our dangerous world needs love.
It’s in short supply. The last 13 chapters in Genesis (with the exception of one of them) are about Joseph and his brothers. My next door neighbor Marvin, who is perhaps one of the finest men I know, has a brother who is a Rabbi. He told me that he thinks Genesis is the best book in the Bible because of all the family pathos. I like what he says. Joseph is sold into slavery (and Joseph was not innocent) but rises to power in Egypt. You know the story and if you don’t, do some reading. It’s easy reading…and easy Hebrew, by the way. Many years later, when his brothers come to Egypt for help, Joseph recognizes them…but they don’t recognize him. Isn’t that how it is? If we do wrong to someone, often we don’t know (or, even worse, we don’t care). Because of that, we don’t really pay attention to who they are. But they know. And Joseph knew. He was in power. He could have exacted revenge that would have been dreadful and justified. But, instead, he showed them mercy, then favor, and finally, love.
You know, folks, a pandemic allows us to retreat into our very private lives where hatred and evil can fester. We can watch religion from the safety of our homes…and our prejudices. But the day will come when we have to sit next to one another in church, in stadiums, in arenas, in bars…and we’re going to have to learn the dangers of love all over again. It doesn’t hurt to stay in practice.
O Sabbath rest by Galilee, O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with thee the silence of eternity,
Interpreted by love.
O God of earth and beauty, make our hearts wonderful places for those around us. Amen.
Pastor Rick Moser