What a strange new world we live in, as we enter a more restricted phase of lockdown as our State Government urgently beefs up its measures to contain the spread of the Covid 19 virus. We all hoped that everything would go back to ‘normal’ and we could relax and get on with our lives. Who would have thought that we would all be walking around masked up and keeping each other at distance, or finding ourselves working from home and at times feeling constrained and cooped up? It’s almost as though we have driven into a fog and it’s hard to know how to get out of it.
Our Bible reading from Genesis tells the story of Jacob’s favourite son, Joseph. In so many ways it’s a story of a dysfunctional family. Why would any parent favour one child over the rest? It’s a recipe for disaster that fosters resentment and jealousy, which is just what happens. Joseph is given a very special coat – a sign of favouritism – and told to spy on his brothers. The end result is catastrophic for Joseph as his brothers throw him into a pit and then sell him as a slave. It also leaves his father stricken with grief and his brothers have to live a lie and deal with the guilt of what they have done. What a mess!
However, woven through this brooding darkness almost unseen is a golden thread of pure light. It’s a bit like looking at a tapestry from the back and seeing the tangle of threads that make no sense so that you wonder whether any meaning could be made from it. But when you turn it over everything becomes clear. And the first sign of that thread of light, that presence and purpose of God, is in the way Joseph behaves. He could have brooded and dwelt on the injustice of his brother’s cruel actions. He could have fostered resentment that would have warped his character and eaten him up inside. But he did none of those things. Instead – and this goes far beyond the scope of our reading today – he uses the gifts God had given him, his natural talent, his integrity, his ability to understand and interpret dreams, and despite several setbacks he earns the trust of people who matter and in the end saves his family from destruction. What’s more he attributes it all to God. He could see how God had been at work in and through the mess, the jealousy, and hatred and injustice Joseph had suffered.
One of the spiritual practices we have in our Christian faith is the practice of intentionally reflecting on our day and asking where God has been at work in our lives. Often it’s like that thin almost unseen thread of light I mentioned before. We can easily miss it if we’re not looking for it. The practice is called ‘The Examen’, and it’s what we will be exploring in our Slow Spirituality Session next Sunday (August 16th). It is a simple reflection that takes about 10-15 minutes at the end of each day. It’s not too arduous and becomes easier the more we do it. In essence what we do is to stop and find a quiet place where we can think back over our day to notice what we can be thankful for, what we might need to fix (an angry word, an email sent off too hastily that gave offence or misled, or something we completely forgot that we now need to follow up). It’s a practice that helps keep our lives on track and helps us recognise the presence of God in our lives. And that’s something that we might find helpful in these times of isolation. Let me know if you want to ‘come’ to Slow Spirituality and learn more about this.
The Gospel reading this week tells of Peter being rescued from drowning by Jesus, when his fears got the better of him. Jesus is also here for us. The Psalm 139:1-12 speaks of God as never far away. Why not read that today, and even put it to memory.