What a Sunday! What a joy it was to witness the baptisms of two young people as they publicly affirmed their faith in Jesus last week. This commitment was, of course, the fruit of years of investment by each family and a testimony to the faithful ministry of children and youth teams.
That same investment does not always produce the same fruit. Many of us face the ongoing sadness that comes when friends and family members choose to walk away from Jesus. Yet we must remain hopeful and prayerful as we continue to share our lives with them.
The previous Sunday, we were treated to the spectacle of our children being blessed and affirmed at the end of term. I was struck by the creche and the number of babies that are appearing amongst us- more even since then and more on the way!
All this has served to remind me of how precious it is to be a community of all ages in Christ and the opportunity this gives us to pass along the legacy and learning of faith in Jesus, generation to generation.
This Sunday, we are thinking about Joseph. Joseph’s familial background was, like all of us, mixed. His father, Jacob, had a complex domestic life (to put it politely) with two wives and two concubines. A pattern of deceit was the family norm producing a web of lies and secrets. Joseph, himself, arrogant and favoured by his father, was the subject of jealousy and hatred. He was attacked by his brothers and trafficked to Egypt, where he was falsely accused of sexual assault before being thrown into prison.
There is plenty in Joseph’s story to destroy the most resilient soul. Yet amazingly, Joseph transcended his family scripts and systems. Despite real harms and injustices in his life, he overcame the bitterness and recrimination, which were his family’s go-to reactions. He gained a freedom to act wisely rather than to react impulsively. As a result, he was eminently prepared for the tough job of leadership during a food security emergency in Egypt.
It is vital for our discipleship that our family traditions and values come under the spotlight of scripture and the scrutiny of Jesus.
We need to ask ourselves the difficult questions:
- Does my view of money come from my family or Jesus?
- Does my approach to parenting owe more to fixing my own parents’ mistakes or to scripture?
- Does my family view of success clash with my Christian values?
Where these are out of alignment with the values of God’s household, we need to choose to adopt kingdom values and ask God’s help to change us.
However, Joseph’s family of origin was not simply a source of ungodliness to be severed and forgotten (as if that was possible). He recognised he also had a positive generational inheritance. He saw the call of God upon his family and recognised God’s faithfulness to fulfil what he promised, despite their failings. As he looked back, in Genesis 50, he was able to trace God at work, even subverting and repurposing evil and harm for good.
“You intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good” Gen 50:20
Joseph’s story is a wonderful testimony of God’s faithfulness to generations despite their dysfunctions and failures. It reminds us that he weaves his purposes through our twisted-up lives and can craft what is evil into good for his glory. Or, as medieval spiritual directors would say:
“God draws straight lines with crooked sticks.”