Week of Proper 9: Wednesday, Year 1   13 comments

Above:  Christ Pantocrator, an Icon from the 500s

Image in the Public Domain

The Kingdom of God is At Hand; It Has Been Here for Some Time

JULY 12, 2017

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Genesis 41:55-57; 42:5-7a, 17-24a (An American Translation):

When all the land of Egypt became famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for food; so Pharaoh announced to all Egypt,

Go to Joseph, and do what he tells you.

The famine spread all over the land, so Joseph threw open all that he had locked up, and sold grain to the Egyptians, since the famine was severe in the land of Egypt.  People from all lands came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain; for the famine was severe all over the earth.

Thus the Israelites came with the rest to buy grain; for the famine was in the land of Canaan.

Now Joseph was the vizier of the land; it was he who sold the grain to all the people of the land.  So Joseph’s brothers came and prostrated themselves before him, with their faces to the ground.  When Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he treated them as if he were a stranger, and spoke harshly to them.

So he bundled them off to prison for three days, but on the third day Joseph said to them,

“Since I am one who fears God, you may save your lives, if you do this:  if you are honest men, let one of your brothers remain confined in your prison and then the rest of you, go and take grain home to your starving households; but you must bring me your youngest brother.  Thus your words shall be verified, and you shall not die.”

They proceeded to do so, saying to one another,

Unfortunately, we were to blame about our brother, upon whose distress, when he pleaded with us for mercy, we gazed unmoved; that is why this disaster has come to us.

Then Reuben spoke up and said to them,

Did I not say to you, ‘Do not sin against the lad’?  But you paid no attention; so now comes a reckoning for his blood!

They did not know that Joseph heard them; for the intermediary was between them.  He turned from them, and wept.

Psalm 33:1-4, 18-22 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous;

it is good for the just to sing praises.

2 Praise the LORD with the harp;

play to him upon the psaltery and lyre.

3 Sing for him a new song;

sound a fanfare with all your skill upon the trumpet.

4 For the word of the LORD is right,

and all his works are sure.

18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon those who fear him,

on those who wait upon his love,

19 To pluck their lives from death,

and to feed them in time of famine.

20 Our soul waits for the LORD;

he is our help and our shield.

21 Indeed, our heart rejoices in him,

for in his holy Name we put our trust.

22 Let your loving-kindness, O LORD, be upon us,

as we have put our trust in you.

Matthew 10:1-7 (An American Translation):

Then he [Jesus] called his twelve disciples to him, and gave them power over the foul spirits so that they could drive them out, and so that they could heal any disease or illness.

These are the names of the twelve apostles:  first, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James the son of Zebedee and his brother John, Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax-collector, James the son of Alpheus and Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot who afterward betrayed him.

James sent these twelve out, after giving them these directions:

Do not go among the heathen, or to any Samaritan town, but proceed instead to the lost sheep of Israel’s house.  As you go about, preach and say, “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”

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The Collect:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Joseph had been an annoying brat bothering his brothers, most of them his elders, with his favored status and reports of dreams.  So most of his brothers conspired to sell him into slavery into Egypt and to tell Jacob/Israel, their father, that Joseph was dead.  They were really bad brothers.  After years of servitude and imprisonment in Egypt, Joseph rose to power just beneath that of the Pharaoh and put in place policies that paid off nicely a few years later.  Egypt had surplus grain during a severe drought.

Thus Joseph saw most of his brothers again and proceeded to test them.  After the events from this day’s Genesis lection, Joseph revealed his true identity to his brothers and reconciled with them, and even reunited with his father.  Most importantly, Joseph forgave his brothers.

Forgiveness is an essential element of the Kingdom of God/Heaven, which Jesus proclaims in the Synoptic Gospels is near, or at hand.  In simpler terms, it is here; it has been here for some time.  Following a set of lectionaries, I cover old terrain from time to time.  So, as I read and typed Matthew 10:1-7, I recalled having covered Jesus announcing the presence of the Kingdom of God in Mark and Luke.  In Mark 1:15, Jesus says that the Kingdom of God “has come near.”  The Greek tense indicates present tense, an action begun previously and continuing in the present.  So the inauguration of the ministry of Jesus postdates the beginning of the Kingdom of God.

What is this Kingdom of God?  It is the reign of God.  It is in the here and now.  The Kingdom of God in inside of us and outside of us.  And it did not go away when Jesus left the Earth, despite any appearances to the contrary.  In fact, according to certain standards, the Kingdom of God was not evident during the earthly lifespan of Jesus.  Yet Jesus says at the beginning of his ministry that the Kingdom of God has come near, is at hand.  This is the same man the Gospel of John (16:33) quotes as saying that he has “conquered the world”–immediately before his arrest, torture, and execution.  Should we not lay outward appearances aside?

The presence of Jesus, God incarnate, was a great sign of extravagant divine forgiveness.  God enabled Joseph, Vizier of Egypt, to forgive his brothers.  Most of us have lesser offenses to forgive, but even those can difficult to release.  I know this very well, so I address myself first when writing of the necessity of forgiveness.  But this is the best way to live–free of resentments and grudges, which hurt the one who carries them.  The Kingdomof God is about the active love of God for the created order, of which people are part.  And we ought to be so busy demonstrating our love and concern for each other that we have no time for resentments, grudges, and petty arguments.  We have a kingdom to build up.  May we get to work.

This kingdom includes Jews and Gentiles, of course, thanks largely to the Apostle Paul.  But consider the context of the reading from Matthew:  The Apostles were beginning their work.  They started by preaching to people like themselves.  One must hone one’s tactics with a smaller, more homogeneous group before preaching to a more larger, more diverse one.  This plan might apply when we begin to do our part to build up the Kingdom.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/the-kingdom-of-god-is-at-hand-it-has-been-here-for-some-time/

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