Jealousy and Malefaction   1 comment

Above:  A Vineyard

Collect and lections from the Episcopal Lesser Feasts and Fasts Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints

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Follow the assigned readings with me this Lent….

Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Genesis 37:3-4, 12-28 (Revised English Bible):

Because Joseph was a child of his old age, Israel loved him best of all his sons, and he made him a long robe with sleeves.  When his brothers saw that their father loved him best, it aroused their hatred and they had nothing but harsh words for him.

Joseph’s brothers had gone to herd their father’s flocks at Shechem.  Israel said to  him,

Your brothers are herding the flocks at Shechem; I am going to send you to them.

Joseph answered,

I am ready to go.

Israel told him to go and see if all was well with his brothers and flocks, and to bring back word to him.  So Joseph was sent off from the vale of Hebron and came to Shechem, where a man met him wandering in the open field and asked him what he was looking for.

I am looking for my brothers,

he replied.

Can you tell me where they are herding the flocks?

The man said,

They have moved from here; I heard them speak of going to Dothan.

Joseph went after his brothers and came up with them at Dothan.  They saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.

Here comes that dreamer,

they said to one another.

Now is our chance; let us kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns; we can say that a wild beast has devoured him.  Then we shall see what becomes of his dreams.

When Reuben heard, he came to his [Joseph’s] rescue, urging them not to take his [Joseph’s] life.

Let us have no bloodshed

he said.

Throw him into the cistern in the wilderness, but do him no injury.

Reuben meant to rescue him from their clutches in order to restore him to his father.  When Joseph reached his brothers, they stripped him of the long robe with sleeves which he was wearing, picked him up, and threw him into the cistern.  It was empty, with no water in it.

They had sat down to eat when looking up, they saw an Ishmaelite caravan coming from Gilead on the way down to Egypt, with camels carrying gum tragacanth and balm and myrrh.  Judah said to his brothers,

What do we gain from killing our brother and concealing his death? Why not sell him to these Ishmaelites?  Let us do him no harm, for after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood;

his brothers agreed.  Meanwhile some passing Midianite merchants drew Joseph  up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty pieces of silver to the Ishmaelites; they brought Joseph to Egypt.

Psalm 105:16-22 (Revised English Bible):

He [the LORD] called down famine on the land and cut off their daily bread.

But he had sent on a man before them, Joseph, who was sold into slavery,

where they thrust his feet into fetters and clamped an iron collar round his neck.

He was tested by the LORD’s command until what he foretold took place.

The king sent and had him released, the ruler of the people set him free

and made him master of his household, ruler over all his possessions,

to correct his officers as he saw fit and teach his counsellors wisdom.

Matthew 21:33-46 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus said,]

Listen to another parable.  There was a landowner who planted a vineyard: he put a wall round it, hewed out a wine-press, and built a watch-tower; then he let it out to vine-growers and went abroad.  When the harvest season approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect the produce due to him.  But they seized his servants, thrashed one, killed another, and stoned a third.  Again, he sent other servants, this time a larger number; and they treated them in the same way.  Finally he sent his son.  ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.  But when they saw the son the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come on, let us kill him, and get his inheritance.’  So they seized him, flung him out of the vineyard, and killed him.  When the owner of the vineyard comes, how do you think he will deal with those tenants?  ‘He will bring those bad men to a bad end,’ they answered, ‘and hand the vineyard over to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop when the season comes.’  Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the main corner-stone.  This is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful in our eyes”?  Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and given to a nation that yields the proper fruit.’

When the chief priests and Pharisees heard his parables they saw that he was referring to them.  They wanted to arrest him, but were afraid of the crowds, who looked on Jesus as a prophet.

The Collect:

Grant, O Lord, that as your Son Jesus Christ prayed for his enemies on the cross, so we may have grace to forgive those who wrongfully or scornfully use us, that we ourselves may be able to receive your forgiveness; 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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This day we have two stories of jealousy and malefaction.

The Joseph Epic from Genesis was the first Biblical story I read in depth, in July 1988.  Thus I have great fondness for this saga.  Joseph, a younger brother, was his father’s favorite.  The young man received a supervisor’s garment and a special status.  This fact, combined with his chattering about dreams favorable to him, infuriated his brothers, most of whom took out their jealousy on him.  They meant to kill him, but settled on sending him into slavery in Egypt.  With family members like this, who needs enemies?

Later in the narrative Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams places him in the good graces of the Pharaoh, who promotes him to a high position.  And from that office Joseph has an opportunity to punish his brothers or to help and forgive them.  He chooses the latter action.

The Matthew Gospel is a product of marginalized Jewish Christians who had lost the argument for Jesus within their Jewish community.  This fact is essential to understanding that book and this day’s excerpt from it.  God owned the vineyard, the vineyard was the Jewish nation, the prophets were the servants, and Jesus was the murdered son.  So, who were the wicked tenants?

Let us avoid anti-Semitism.  In the text Jesus addresses not all Jews, but “chief priests and elders” in the Temple.  The Jesus of Matthew (unlike the Jesus of Mark) is a proponent of Torah piety, but not the religious authorities.  (The Jesus of Mark opposes the Temple system and Torah piety.)  I conclude that at the time the wicked tenants were those at the Temple who collaborated with the Roman Empire.  More broadly though, the wicked tenants were the bad leaders of the Jewish nation and people over time.

Consider this , also.  Joseph’s brothers and the wicked tenants acted out of jealousy.  Negative emotions lead to bad deeds or the absence of good deeds, and positive emotions culminate in constructive actions.  Yet, God can use even the circumstances we create via our malefaction to bring about positive results.  That demonstrates divine sovereignty.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 24, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHIAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/fifteenth-day-of-lent/

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Posted February 10, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Genesis IV: 37-50, Matthew 21, Psalm 105

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  1. Pingback: Fifteenth Day of Lent « LENTEN AND EASTER DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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