The Power of God’s Goodness

Genesis 50:15-21 

        15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: 17 ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.

18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.

19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.


  1. I have given up on the idea of coincidence. I have come to believe and experience the providential hand of God. This sermon series was planned several months ago and now todays message is just the right message for us today. It is about the power of God’s goodness as measured by reconciliation.
    1. Reconciliation is about a deep seeded response to another person – where their differences are resolved and a deep caring and appreciation for each other blossoms forward.
  2. A story is told of two brothers. They lived on adjoining farms, but they had a deep quarrel. They had often shared their resources, but that practice stopped; and there was nothing left but bitterness.
    1. One morning John answered a knock at his door. It was a carpenter. The carpenter asked if there was any work to do. John said that there was something he could do.
    2. He took the carpenter to where the two properties met and showed him how the other brother had taken a bulldozer and created a creek where the meadow used to be.
    3. John said, “I know he did this to make me angry. I want you to help me get even by building a big fence, so I won’t have to see him or his property ever again.”
    4. So, the carpenter worked hard all day. When he reported back to John, John noticed there was no fence. The carpenter had used his skill and built a bridge over the creek instead of a fence.
    5. John’s brother saw the bridge and was quite moved that his brother would do such a thing. The two brothers met in the middle and embraced.
    6. They saw the carpenter packing his tools and asked him to stay a while and do more work. The carpenter replied, “I’m sorry, but I have other bridges to build.”
  3. What an important measure of reconciliation that the two brothers received. They needed a carpenter to bring them together peacefully.  
  4. Over the last three Sundays, our journey through Genesis has been revealing. We have heard that God goes to great lengths to pledge with a particular people for the redemption of the world.
  5. Today’s passages from the 50th chapter of Genesis is about the healing power of reconciliation.
  6. As we heard last week, God offers a loving and powerful grace toward Abraham and Sarah’s offspring as they journey toward becoming a great nation.
    1. Despite family dysfunction and barrenness, deception and despair, God is faithful to His promise to Abraham and Sarah.
    2. God’s grace provides freedom, even within the eventualities of Israel’s history. The circular history of the Jews – faithfulness—unfaithfulness– disaster faithfulness – and so on. This cycle could be centuries in duration.
  7. Nevertheless, we ask: How does the power of God’s goodness provide a message of hope to a people struggling to remain faithful in a time of uncertainty?
    1. This really applies to us as Americans and United Methodist. We truly are in a time of significant uncertainty.
    2. Our country seems to be polarized on both political and religious spectrums. Discord and lambasting individuals or groups of people that we do not agree with seem to be the rule of the day. Superficial comments and derogatory mocking of individuals on social media seem to rule instead of civility towards each other.
    3. As we have heard this morning, our church structure is being stretched to its limit over differing views of the interpretation of the Bible’s statements on human sexuality.
    4. Yes, this is perilous times for all of us.
  8. Indeed, how may we, as concerned Christians listen to what God is saying to us as both citizens and disciples?
  9. Perhaps, this morning the readings from Genesis about Joseph and his “band of brothers” supply the necessary clues and answers.
  10. The story of Joseph is fascinating; it occupies the last third of Genesis (37–50).
    1. To many of us, the name Joseph may conjure up all kinds of images—the coat of many colors, jealousy among the brothers, the father’s favorite son, or Joseph the dreamer. All components of a pending family crisis.
  11. As the story opens in chapter 37, Joseph is the youngest of Jacob’s eleven sons.
    1. He is seventeen years old and has a very special relationship with his father.
    2. He has been blessed with unique gifts and talents and has been the center of attention by his parents since birth, so much so that the attention sparks envy among the other ten brothers.  
    3. Jacob dressed this son in an ornate cloak.  Joseph stayed in the house while the other brothers worked in the field.
    4. In fact, we will learn that the older brothers plot against Joseph and sell him into slavery.
  12. I can hear the complaint of Tommy Smothers, of Smothers Brothers fame, in the background: “Mom always liked you best.”
  13. To be sure, this story in Genesis is probably not the story to help us brush up on family values.
    1. Why doesn’t Jacob pay more attention to what is happening in his own family? Doesn’t he see what is taking place? Jacob seems to make the family disfunction more prevalent.
  14. The obvious answer is no.
    1. His sons sell Joseph into slavery, making arrangements with a band of Ishmaelite traders on their way to Egypt.
    2. The deal is sealed, and with Joseph’s coat still dripping with goat’s blood, Joseph becomes a slave in Egypt.
  15. In Egypt, Joseph matures, becomes a different person, and rises to prominence, becoming the pharaoh’s prime minister and one of the most powerful people on earth.
    1. Who would have thought Joseph would gain in stature in this way?
    2. And who would have thought that he and his brothers would meet again?
    3. With famine spreading, Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt seeking relief.
    4. Because of Joseph’s advice, Egypt is one of the few places food can be found.
  16. When the brothers arrive, they don’t recognize Joseph. Joseph was merely a boy when they betrayed him. Now he is an adult wearing the clothing of nobility. Joseph recognizes them, but they don’t recognize him.
  17. Now comes one of the most dramatic scenes in the Bible.
    1. Joseph instructs his brothers to fetch their father, Jacob, who is nearing death.
    2. Joseph wants to see his father one last time.
    3. He also requires that the next  youngest son, Benjamin, stay behind while the brothers go back to Canaan.
    4. It’s a tense situation. In time, though, with all the family gathered, there is a reunion.
    5. Then Jacob dies, and the brothers fear that, with Jacob gone, Joseph will take his revenge.
  18. Joseph offers forgiveness instead. Rather than revenge, he offers mercy.
    1. In fact, there are tears: Joseph cries, the brothers cry, everyone cries tears of reconciliation. Joseph expresses the grace of the moment: “Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as God is doing today” (Genesis 50:19-20).
  19. Even though the brothers intended harm, God intended good! This is certainly not to say that God intended for Joseph to be treated inhumanely, or that God intended for the brothers to plot murder. The glorious point here is that there is nothing beyond God’s redemptive power of grace.
  20. Yet this story resists easy notions of God’s wisdom.
    1. Joseph’s encounter with God is real but elusive; God remains in the shadows and behind the scenes, working toward the best possible end.
  21. This story transcends national boundaries. It is grounded, not in party affiliation or denominational heritage or national identity, but in God’s goodness toward creation.
    1. Ultimately, nothing can prevent God’s goodness from being fulfilled.
    2. This story reminds us that God isn’t finished with us yet.
  22. That’s good news! In a world becoming fragmented through racism and war, in a nation becoming fractured by violence and poverty and drugs, and in a church becoming divided by indifference on the one hand and zealotry on the other—the promise of God’s goodness remains steadfast.
    1. Despite our worst intentions, God redeems.
    2. God can take the fragile pieces of our lives and weave them into a new creation, working behind the scenes to shape a whole new future.
  23. Yesterday, Bishop Easterling, who visited us a year ago, lead a three-hour video streamed summary about the special General Council meeting in St. Louis this past week.
    1. The Bishop told the story about two members of the Baltimore Washington representatives to the General Council.
    2. Matt Sichel, whose family we know very well was there and a gay man was also there. Both representing you and me.
    3. Matt and the other man are about as far apart as you can get on the issue of homosexuality. Almost polar opposites.
    4. As the tension grew in the special General Council meeting and the obvious Traditional plan was going to pass, healing miracles were also occurring.
    5. Matt and the other man had been talking about their differences for hours and suddenly they were hugging each other and crying. They explained that they had come to recognize that each loved Jesus so much and each could see Jesus in the other – and there was no difference in their common desire – to be able to share the love of Jesus with each other and the world regardless of their opposing views on human sexuality.
    6. Their differing ideas about human sexuality paled in the shadow of the cross.
    7. The same can happen for us. If we are estranged from another person, we could take the initiative to reach out to the other person in love and compassion. It is amazing what can happen if the love for Jesus is the main movement in our reconciliation with another person. 
  24. The same is true in our lives. God has done no wrong, but God loved each of us enough to initiate the reconciliation. God did so by sending His Son to suffer and die for our sins. Those same sins can be covered in His blood if you will only surrender to Him today. With only 3 nails and 2 pieces of wood the carpenter Jesus built a bridge… and it was a bridge of reconciliation.
  25. Thanks be to God!

[1] From Ministry