16th August 2020
"Joseph Comforts his Brothers" by Shoshannah Brombacher; pastel and ink on paper , 24 X 18 inches, New York, 2008
`And they all lived…`
Rev Fiona Winn
Welcome and Grace
`O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are His judgements
and how inscrutable His ways!
`For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counsellor?`
Romans 11: 33, 34
TIS 126 (London New TIS 119)
`God moves in a mysterious way ` Selwyn College Cambridge
God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill;
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works His sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence,
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding ev'ry hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow'r.
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.
God of the miraculous and the mundane,
of the ordinary and the extraordinary,
God of all peoples, times and places,
we gather to acknowledge You as Lord and Creator of all.
In love, You made this world and all worlds.
In mercy, You sent Your Son Jesus Christ
to fulfil Your creative design – salvation for all creation.
In generosity, You gave, and continue to give, Your Spirit
to fortify and strengthen our human journey –
the highlights and the times of shade and shadow
when the light is low.
We wonder at Your ways, at Your Word, at Your Wisdom
and at the unfathomable grace You extend to all
through all the changing scenes of life.
Accept our praise and hear our prayer.
In these days of restriction – remind us of Your limitless mercy.
In these days of division - remind us of our one baptism
and shared humanity.
In these days of fear and anxiety - remind us of the peace of Christ which passes all human understanding.
Come to us in our need and in our gratitude today.
Come to us as we confess our sins.
Forgive the fear which limits our vision
and our capacity to welcome the stranger - Lord have mercy…
Forgive the insecurity which stirs up fear of the other.
Anchor us in Your gracious, spacious love for all.
Christ have mercy…
Forgive our closed minds and hard hearts.
Make us more like Jesus – open minded, tender hearted.
Lord have mercy…
`The Lord is just in all His ways and kind in all His doings`.
Ps. 145: 17
Just and merciful God, we rejoice to hear Christ`s words of grace `Your sins are forgiven` Thanks be to God.
Genesis: 45: 1-15 - Joseph Reveals Himself to His Brothers
45 Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Send everyone away from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. 3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.
4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. 9 Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. 10 You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. 11 I will provide for you there—since there are five more years of famine to come—so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.’ 12 And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. 13 You must tell my father how greatly I am honored in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” 14 Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.
Psalm 133 - The Blessedness of Unity - A Song of Ascents.
1 How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!
2 It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down over the collar of his robes.
3 It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
Matthew 15: 21-28 - The Canaanite Woman’s Faith
21 Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
TIS 210 (omit vs. 3 and 5) `O for a thousand tongues`
- Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and king,
The triumphs of His grace!
- Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease—
’Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
’Tis life, and health, and peace.
- He breaks the pow’r of canceled sin,
He sets the pris’ner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.
- He speaks, and, list’ning to His voice,
New life the dead receive,
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
The humble poor believe.
- My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad
The honours of your name.
- Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing
Reflection and Q and A
And they all lived…
Recently, at the beginning of the Covid 19 pandemic, we conducted a survey of membership at Armadale. Synod requires congregations to review their membership to gain an overview of how things are going in the congregations it oversees. And it is helpful for us, as a congregation, to assess where we are and where we might develop or concentrate our energies.
So the topic of membership and what it means to be a member of the Church has surfaced in discussions at Church Council. At our recent Council meeting we began to wonder about what it means to be a member, why it is important, how we acknowledge that and the protocols and processes involved. We began to talk about what it means to be a member of the Armadale congregation of the Uniting Church in Australia: what it means and why it matters.
What do you think about membership of the Church?
Is it important? If so – why?
If not – why not?
What does it mean to belong?
And what does it mean in such a stressful time of enforced isolation?
How does this relate to our texts today?
After many, many years of languishing in prison, Joseph has become second-in-command to Pharaoh in Egypt. Imprisoned for years, forgotten by those he had helped, he has risen to the highest ranks of government in the foreign country where, as a young man, he was traded as a slave by his brothers.
He has made good among a foreign people, in a strange land, among strangers, non-Hebrews, non-Israelites.
(This ancient text resounds with echoes of contemporary issues. What might they be?)
The denouement of the story is dramatic, full of strong emotion and deeply moving. Who would have thought? After all these years? The irony. Coincidence?
Joseph sees the hand of God in all that has transpired – no mean feat given what he has endured. He tells his speechless, terrified brothers…
`So then, it was not you who sent me but God…` Gen. 45: 8.
Reflecting on the long years of suffering, exiled far from home among strangers in a strange land, Joseph interprets all he has lived in light of the mysterious saving ways of God. Because of what he has gone through and where he has come to, his life will be instrumental in the salvation of many - his own family included.
God moves in mysterious ways. Have you lived experience of this?
The Gospel echoes themes found in the Genesis story:
- remoteness, estrangement and belonging;
- questions around the stranger and who is family;
- recognition of the importance and dignity of the outsider;
- the reconciliation of family;
- the mystery of grace, mercy and healing;
- the rupture, repair and restoration of relationships – ultimately the redemption of our deepest truest selves through the grace of God in Jesus Christ;
- the imperative to share this most hopeful of ways with those currently inside and outside the story;
- the mystery and the spaciousness of God`s dealings with humankind;
- the importance of openness to those who think differently from us, who challenge us out of our comfortable ideas and positions – even Jesus!
What do you make of the boldness of the woman`s conversation with Jesus?
How do you understand the apparent about-face Jesus makes?
In a world divided and fragmented, the call of Old and New Testaments to unity, to respect for and recognition of those who are different from us, Christians and non-Christians, is not an optional extra – it is central to our calling as those who follow the God of Joseph, Who is the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Herein lies the hope for the world and all creation. It is the hope for us all. As the psalmist tells us:
`For there the Lord bestows His blessing…life forevermore`
Prayer and the Lord`s Prayer
Merciful God In love you created us, and in love you sustain us, day after day, we remember the Canaanite woman who brought her daughter’s need to you, overcoming stigma and rejection to do so, confident of your healing in her life. So it is with confidence that we bring the needs of others in prayer: knowing that You will hear and respond. As we move into week 3 of strict lockdown in our community we cannot put aside our own needs and the many who are in need. We pray for them and for us and when we are tempted to dwell only on our own loneliness, and our own issues and problems – that you will help us reach out to others, and be the community we long to have.
In this world=wide public health and economic crisis resulting from the spread of the coronavirus, we pray for those who are sick with the virus, that their suffering will be eased and they are restored to health, and that those who provide care are sustained in their efforts. We pray for those who are grieving the loss of loved ones and who have not been able to obtain closure through the comfort of funerals and the gathering of friends and family. We pray for the millions of unemployed and underemployed, the many businesses facing ruin or closure because of the economic downturn. We pray for children and students whose education has been disrupted and who fear for their future employment and careers. We pray for vulnerable people everywhere, especially refugees, and people in war-torn countries who have no access to medical care, for those for whom treatment is not available or affordable, the many who face with mental health issues, the disabled and those in aged care. We pray scientists working to develop vaccines; for public health officials around the world, , political and community leaders - give them wisdom as they make decisions that affect our wellbeing.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
We pray for those who are estranged from spouse or family, friends or neighbours; who find it difficult to forgive past wrongs done to them. We pray for those who for years have carried feelings of guilt or regret for something they did or something they neglected to do; who find it difficult to ask for forgiveness or forgive themselves, for those who find themselves far away from You, struggling to overcome their doubts or disillusionment, whose faith has been shaken by suffering and tragedies and who wonder how to find their way back;
Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
We pray that your word will bring light, trust, hope and peace to our troubled world. That the Church will not be overcome with survival strategies but faithfully proclaim your gospel to all who will hear. So we pray for Church leaders everywhere and people of good faith in all religious denominations, that we will work together in a spirit of seeking the truth, mutual respect and love. Be with our Parish here in Armadale, our minister Fiona as we seek to serve each other and sustain our faith. Help us to do for one another all those deeds of love which are within our capacity, and where the issues are beyond us, fill up our emptiness with your eternal wisdom and strength. Thank you for showing us new ways to be the church, the church alive, vibrant and witnessing to the risen Christ.
We summarize our petitions in the prayer he taught us -
TIS 129 `Amazing grace`
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come,
'Tis grace has brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.
When we`ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun
We`ve no less days to sing God`s praise
than when we first begun.
The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
May the blessing of God, Father, Son and Spirit,
gift you the grace and compassion of Christ,
to strengthen, sustain and enlarge you
today and into the future.