Genesis 41b - Reflection

 'all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph,’ Genesis 41:57

Brothers and sisters, if you have been keeping up with the news recently you may have begun to ask some serious questions about where true power lies. Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, thought he had true power, and thought he could take Ukraine in a matter of days; months later, his military has run out of steam. Boris Johnson, another man who seemed powerful, was removed from power, when it became clear he was not the man he claimed to be. This week the US president, Joe Biden, the so-called most powerful man in the world who had previously said if you got your vaccines you’d be safe from COVID, recently got the virus, despite the US Secret Service employing every means to protect him. People in positions of power often seem to be all powerful, until little things show them up to be anything but. In the true story of Joseph which we have been studying, we saw last week the most powerful man in the ancient world shown up to be powerless. Pharaoh thought he had everything and everyone at his feet until God sent a dream to show him that he really had no power at all.

Where does true power lie? The story of Joseph has given us an answer. True power lies, not with kings, presidents, or prime ministers, but only with God. Of course, God delegates His power to men, in the expectation that they will use it to serve the world. But when necessary, God can take back His power and give it to someone else. In the story we are working our way through we see hints of what God will do in Jesus, in what God does in and through Joseph. As we have seen, the chosen one is sent to the world. The world seeks his death, the chosen one finds escape in Egypt, and yet despite this the chosen one ends up in a pit left to rot. However, God is not so easily defeated, and God causes the rising of the chosen one, from the pit, and he is given authority which almost no one can fathom. Here I talk not of Jesus, but of Joseph. The parallels are striking, and fairly obvious. And that is why Joseph is a sign of what God will eventually do in Jesus, the true ‘Promised One’. True power lies with God, and in the Genesis account God uses it to put Joseph exactly where He wants him.

So, what does power used properly look like? Well let’s look at Joseph. How does God’s man in Egypt behave now that he has all the power? He’d be forgiven for using his power to take revenge on those who have harmed him. Joseph has been through hell, and perhaps we might expect him to settle some scores; but Joseph doesn’t. Joseph loves God and so he loves his neighbour. The promised one, acts as a forerunner of Jesus, by serving like Jesus would; he sets out to feed the world, Genesis 41:47: ‘During the seven years of abundance the land produced plentifully. Joseph collected all the food produced in those seven years of abundance in Egypt and stored it in the cities’. Joseph ensures the provision of grain from which the people of Egypt, could make bread. Bread was then the staple diet of humanity. Joseph provided access to bread, and ensured that all those round about him, did not starve. Wise leadership, used for godly ends, can truly change the world for the better. With the right leadership—under God—we could end famine around the world. There is enough food in the world to feed everyone, so the reason not everyone is fed is that we humans do not distribute it fairly. All through history—inspired by God—it is Christians who have led the call for change both in how we feed the world and also on so many other issues. Now, these people were not perfect—no Christian is—but still God worked through them to serve the poor, and to free those enslaved by human injustice. Christians are called to take up this work in our homes and towns, With our friends and neighbours. God may not use us to make a big difference to the world but He will use us to make a big difference to the people whom we help. If only the Church would listen to God like Joseph, and act faithfully in the good times and bad like Joseph, then maybe He would work through us to change the world, for at least one other person.

Now, let us remember that we are called by our words and actions to point to the saviour not to be the saviour of the world. Joseph did what he could, and Joseph looked forward to the day when One would come who would truly lead the world justly and provide enough bread to feed the world. And whilst—as we’ve seen—God provides enough physical food to feed the world if humanity would just share it wisely, there is a need for other food—spiritual food—which equips men and women to heed God’s call and to live as He asks them to do. And so, into this unjust world God came Himself. God come as man—Jesus, Our Lord—to spiritually fees the world. Our Gospel reading (John 6:29-40) makes this clear. Just before the passage, there is the account of the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus literally fed hungry people with physical bread—like His predecessor Joseph—and not surprisingly they wanted more, v34: ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘always give us this bread.’ Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’. Jesus comes to feed the world, but people misunderstood the nature of the food. Looking for physical bread, they missed the spiritual bread which mends broken hearts. God longs for us to be changed so that we become better people who love Him and those around us. And so God makes the offer of spiritual bread, the offer of Jesus Himself, which slowly changes our hearts, to makes us the people we were born to be; people who will joyfully serve the Lord, and joyfully serve those around us. This bread—which is Jesus' body—works like an antidote to kill the poison of our selfishness and greed, and so makes us more like Jesus. A person who has faith—a person who truly believes in Jesus, and regularly receives the bread of His body—will be more likely to use their power responsibly to serve their neighbours rather than themselves. Not for nothing were food banks begun by churches who firmly believed the promises of Jesus. Not for nothing are Christian charities—like International Aid—at the forefront of providing for the poor of our world, whilst simultaneously sharing the message of Jesus with those they serve. Evangelism and social action go hand-in-hand, for if they are separated both fall short. 

So if we would see our world changed, well then we have to start by changing ourselves. However, we cannot change ourselves on our own, self-improvement strategies simply don’t work, the poison goes too deep. We need God’s help to change ourselves and God is only too willing to give it. By receiving the spiritual bread—by receiving Jesus as we’ve said—God will reform us to be the people He calls us to be; those who can fight injustice with the weapons of Love. This bread is freely offered to all, and this bread was made available this morning, as we gathered for the Eucharist. So, if we want to change the world in the right way then let’s listen to God, like Joseph did, and draw near to God in communion, receiving Jesus as the living bread, and asking God to help us to impact those around us, that God may be glorified. In faith in Christ receive the bread of His body in Holy Communion, and then, with the antidote to our own selfishness feeding and sustaining us, let us go out and in our own small ways, feed the world. Amen. (from Fr Mike).