Sunday, February 9, 2014

Suffering and the Kingdom of God: "The Joseph Insight"

PART 2 of a series on "The Kingdom of God".

Returning home from his conversation with folk after a service, the pastor decided to talk with some young people about the question he had been asked. He'd poured everything into his sermon, ending with Jesus' words, "Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all the other things will be added to you."

Six young adults sat with him after school one day. "I simply don't understand a thing about suffering," said a young woman. "My father yells at me. I suffer because of my skin blemishes. My grades aren't good right now and I've lost my part time job."

Three of the others echoed similar sentiments while one guy said, "I don't have any worries."

"Do you think suffering can prepare you for living out God's Kingdom?" asked the pastor.

"No way!" "Like, where's the connection?" "You're totally disconnected!" came the replies.

"Remember Joseph? Sold into slavery? Sent to Jail on false charges?" the pastor asked.

Silence. That little story seemed so far removed.

"No, listen, his life counted, a lot. He was a young guy just your ages when he was sold. Probably, his situation was as bad or worse than those in the movie, '12 Years a Slave'. He had been rejected by family members, those who were supposed to care for him. Now answer me this question: What prepared Joseph to talk to the Pharaoh and interpret those dreams? What feelings do you think he had when he was cleaning out toilets in jail?"

The conversation moved to what Joseph's agony at being wrenched from his family.

He had their complete attention. "I think suffering, in Joseph's life, was closely linked with the Kingdom of God. First, he was sold as a slave to a rich man. There he learned the language of the wealthy aristocracy in Egypt. After that, he could talk with the king, having learned to communicate with the top segment of society. In jail, he learned bad words, slang and low-down stuff. Not a life of ease in that pit. No, he probably had to endure that level of conversation again when dealing with common, poor men as he set up a system for storing grain. He had to motivate tons of people to part with their food - it was a kind of 'taxation' and who knew for sure that seven years of poor harvests were coming. He had the seven good years of harvests. During that time, Joseph needed to know the whole range of Egyptian language, dialects and manners, people from 'up the Nile' and from 'down the Nile' as well."

"You're trying to say the suffering we go through in daily life doesn't just impact our life at church, right pastor? You mean that what we are going through in our families and how we learn to see God in daily situations impacts those around us, right? Is that what you mean by 'living out the Kingdom of God?'" It was the young woman whose father had yelled at her for forgetting to turn off the lights, wasting electricity and his hard earned money.

"Sort of," came the reply with a grin. "Coffee's on me today," the pastor said, pulling out his wallet, as the thought through what he was going to say to the woman just diagnosed with MS, who he was going to meet at the clinic.

1 comment:

  1. Great topic! Especially as I consider the hardships of people we've met in Mexico and Nepal... or even my own grandparents. Trials develop character?!