Engaging the Word: Readings for 8/10/14 (9th Sunday after Pentecost)

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By Barbara Klugh

Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28; Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b; Romans 10:5-15; Matthew 14:22-33. Go to www.lectionarypage.net for the weekly lectionary text. We continue to have selections from the Bible’s greatest hits this week. Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery, and Jesus walks on water.

Genesis: This week, the Genesis narrative turns to Joseph, Jacob’s favored son, the first son by Rachel.

Our reading opens with Jacob settled in his homeland, the land of Canaan. Joseph is seventeen years old and is working as a shepherd along with his brothers. Joseph tattled on his brothers by giving their father a “bad report” about them, not endearing Joseph to his brothers. Jacob loved Joseph the most, and made it obvious by giving him a long coat with sleeves, at which point “they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.” Moreover, the lectionary skips the part where Joseph had prophetic dreams that portrayed his brothers, indeed the entire family, bowing down and serving him, and then told the dreams to the family. Bad move.

Joseph sold by his brothers, by Raffaellino Bottalla (1613 - 1644). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Joseph sold by his brothers, by Raffaellino Bottalla (1613 – 1644). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Jacob sends Joseph to Shechem to check up on the brothers and he catches up with them at Dothan. When the brothers see Joseph coming, they conspire to kill him and throw him into a pit. However, Reuben, the oldest, persuades them not to kill Joseph but to throw him in the pit to die. Actually, Reuben plans to return later to rescue Joseph. When Joseph arrived, “they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; and they took him and threw him into a pit.”

Reuben’s plan goes awry. As the brothers sat down to eat, they saw a caravan of Ishmaelite traders on their way to Egypt. Judah proposes that they sell Joseph to the traders and the brothers agreed. They sold Joseph to the traders for twenty pieces of silver, who then took Joseph to Egypt.

This story sets the stage for Joseph being able to save the lives of his entire family, but also the enslavement of the Israelites by the Egyptians.

Psalm: This week’s psalm is a hymn of praise to God for God’s faithfulness throughout Israel’s history. Part of our selection is about Joseph, sent by God to benefit humanity. He was sold as a slave and later sent to prison as a test of his character. His prediction (seven years of plenty and seven years of famine) came to pass. Set free by the king, Joseph was made master over the king’s household. Hallelujah!

St. Paul by Rubens (1577 - 1640). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

St. Paul by Rubens (1577 – 1640). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Romans: In this week’s reading, Paul continues to deal with Israel’s resistance to accepting Jesus as the Messiah. Paul is not angry; he is longing for the salvation of his fellow Jews, and draws from the Hebrew Bible to support his argument. In our selection, he cites Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Isaiah, and Joel.

Moses said being put right with God comes from obeying the law perfectly. While this is true, it’s never been done. As Paul wrote earlier in this letter, “Everyone has sinned and falls short of God’s glory.” But Moses also said, “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart.” To Paul, this was an important statement of faith by Moses.

Paul next gives the core message of the Christian faith. “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” This is huge. Right relationship with God is a gift received by faith; it’s not based on what we do, but on what God did. From Isaiah: “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” This includes everyone because God makes no distinction between Jews and Greeks—salvation by faith is available to all. And then Joel: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Paul expresses the need for evangelists to share this good news with a quote from Isaiah: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Matthew: After the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus sent the disciples to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, dismissed the crowds, and went alone up the mountain to pray. As night fell, the winds kicked up and the boat was caught in the storm. Early in the morning Jesus “came walking toward them on the sea.” The disciples were terrified, thinking they were seeing a ghost, but Jesus calmed them by saying, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Painting by Amédée Varin (1818 - 1883). [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Painting by Amédée Varin (1818 – 1883). [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

The next scene appears only in Matthew’s gospel. Peter said, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus grants Peter the authority to do so. So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and began to sink. He called out to Jesus, Lord, save me!” Jesus reached out his hand and saved Peter from drowning. Jesus said “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

The story continues, “When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’” Thus disciples recognized and proclaimed Jesus’ divine identity.

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