"Depiction of Joseph Reuniting With His Brothers" by Sieger Köder.
Schemers. Naïve. Fearful men who have trouble speaking under pressure. These are the central figures in the narratives of Genesis and Exodus that feature in our scriptures during the past few and upcoming several weeks. God working good through flawed people, through families that are plagued by dysfunctional patterns, through much stress, heartache, and difficulty. But there are moments, moments that stand out like a candle in the pitch dark; moments of reconciliation. Moments of tenderness, of touch, of water on parched ground, of tears of joy over re-connection, of new perspective on how God has been present and active.
Esau embracing his brother Jacob, who had swindled him out of his birthright. An embrace of forgiveness. An embrace that chooses relationship over retribution. An embrace that holds the potential for a different way. Or Joseph embracing his brothers; the brothers who sold him as a product in a world of human trafficking. After many lonely years, they embrace once again, and news comes back to a father who thought he would never see his son again. Or Moses, who has a heart of compassion, as evidenced when he intervenes for slaves being beaten, or women being mistreated at the well in Midian. He has a heart of compassion but is plagued by his own failures and questions of identity, and God calls him from the back of beyond, to be a reconciling figure.
These are stories of great human pathos, and even greater moments of divine touch, of reconciliation and hope. Moments where our deepest longings and thirsts are slated: for belonging, for healing, for embrace, for reconciliation, for compassion to win out over hate and violence.
These are ancient stories, that speak of realities that are all too contemporary. Stories that speak of the potential for God’s kingdom to come on earth, even while those in power saber-rattle with arsenals of nuclear weapons. Even while the rulers of the earth would dispense with a million lives just to satisfy their pride, and likely still sleep well enough at night. But these old narratives speak of the redemptive potential even in the scheming, naïvity and fearfulness of us human beings. They speak of a God who hears cries, and who works in the darkness to bring good, to use the things we would rather discard. These narratives speak of a God who calls us to walk in faith, to embrace our lost brothers, to choose reconciliation over recompense, to be candle whose meager flames shines brightly in the darkness.