Getting in the way

by Rod Smith

The Courier-Times / today

If you ever want a beautiful picture of mercy the Biblical account of the life of Joseph is the place to go.

His response to his desperate, begging brothers embodies the quality of mercy I have often received.

While in Genesis, you will encounter with Joseph moments of extraordinary grace and healing, while you are surely bombarded with the impulse to burst out in songs from the Rice-Loyd-Webber musical bearing his name.

Following a rather violent and involuntary departure and after decades of separation from his family, Joseph abounds in kindness and mercy and humility exercised towards his undeserving brothers.

This same band of brothers found young Joseph so threatening they discarded him into a well as a kinder option to killing him, and then sold him to a traveling caravan.

As a result of their jealousy and violence, Joseph spent years in isolation and torment.

When, decades later and faced with his brothers, Joseph would be justified if he chose to have nothing to do with them or exercised his extraordinary endowed powers in the pharaoh’s domain to have them arrested and held accountable for their crimes.

But no, recognizing who they are, knowing his brothers have come in search of help, he discloses his identity.

“I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?”

His first question is about their father’s wellbeing.

I cannot imagine being cut-off from my extended family, all of whom live in distant countries. I cannot imagine not knowing if one of my closest relatives is living or dead.

When legitimately, there could be anger, Joseph expresses none.

He fosters no desire for pay-back.

Joseph’s retribution quotient rests firmly at zero.

“Come closer,” he says and weeps with relief and gratitude for the opportunity for reconciliation.

“I will provide for you,” he tells them and there are hugs and kisses and weeping all round.

What a reunion!

Many families long for such a reunion.

Do you?

“Something got in the way,” I hear a woman say revealing she has not spoken to her sister in decades.

“I will never talk to that woman again. She got mom’s dining room table she knew that I wanted.”

A table got in the way.

A dining room table was enough to sever a family tie?

“Ah, it is not about the table,” may be a legitimate retort.

I concede it may well not be about a table.

Give me a few moments and I could suggest a variety of possible explanations for the schism a table may conveniently represent.

Family estrangements can be horribly painful but, even sadder, we grow accustomed to them. We live with them. It becomes how life is.

“Something got in the way,” would have been a gross understatement had Joseph chosen victimhood.

May we each do our parts in getting whatever got in the way, out of the way.

Joseph embodied mercy when he had the choice to extract vengeance.

Joseph chose humility, when he indeed could have demanded his brothers bow before him and beg for their lives.

By grace-upon-grace, may we each do the same.

Rev. Rod Smith is pastor at First Presbyterian Church in New Castle.

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