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Inward and Outward Turns

Message for worship at West Richmond Friends Meeting, 20th of Second Month, 2022

Speaker: Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm

Scripture: Genesis 45:3-11,15, NRSV

3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.

4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. 9 Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. 10 You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. 11 I will provide for you there—since there are five more years of famine to come—so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.’

I am dumbfounded by Joseph’s act of forgiveness.

I wonder what drove him not only to receive his brothers

but feed them.

Not only feed them but gift them with a surplus of grain.

And not only gift them,

But forgive them.

Why did he forgive his brothers?

It is one of the most extraordinary stories of forgiveness in all of Scripture –

and Scripture has a lot to say about forgiveness.

But this story is riddled with twists and turns,

betrayals and intrigue,

suffering and survival,

power plays and tearful embraces –

All of which culminate in ch.45

which is undeniably a story of forgiveness.

It is a story I find all but impossible to fathom

because one who was betrayed by his closest kin,

sold to strangers by his own brothers,


Why did he forgive them?

The opening verses of Genesis 45 that Lyn just read for us are the tail end of a long tale:

Back in ch. 37, we hear that Joseph was favored above all his brothers by their father Judah

who gave him the famed coat of many colors;

his brothers so envied and resented him

that they sold Joseph to a band of Ishmaelites by clandestine arrangement.