Through the Spring and Summer, and now into Fall, we have borne the grief of a global pandemic, endured a massive loss of life and of livelihood, and protested escalating violence against Black Lives. Even as we wait on the help of Almighty God, we are compelled to stand up; to defend the cause of righteousness. With boldness in our prayers and by our actions we seek to redeem the soul of our nation.
Love Versus Guilt (Genesis 42:6-25, NRSV)
The Scripture reading is drawn from Sunday’s lesson for September 20, 2020 ©Uniform Lessons Series, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA.
42:6 Now Joseph was governor over the land; it was he who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground. 7 When Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he said. They said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.” 8 Although Joseph had recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. 9 Joseph also remembered the dreams that he had dreamed about them. He said to them, “You are spies; you have come to see the nakedness of the land!” 10 They said to him, “No, my lord; your servants have come to buy food. 11 We are all sons of one man; we are honest men; your servants have never been spies.” 12 But he said to them, “No, you have come to see the nakedness of the land!” 13 They said, “We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of a certain man in the land of Canaan; the youngest, however, is now with our father, and one is no more.” 14 But Joseph said to them, “It is just as I have said to you; you are spies! 15 Here is how you shall be tested: as Pharaoh lives, you shall not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here! 16 Let one of you go and bring your brother, while the rest of you remain in prison, in order that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you; or else, as Pharaoh lives, surely you are spies.” 17 And he put them all together in prison for three days.
18 On the third day Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: 19 if you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here where you are imprisoned. The rest of you shall go and carry grain for the famine of your households, 20 and bring your youngest brother to me. Thus your words will be verified, and you shall not die.” And they agreed to do so. 21 They said to one another, “Alas, we are paying the penalty for what we did to our brother; we saw his anguish when he pleaded with us, but we would not listen. That is why this anguish has come upon us.” 22 Then Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to wrong the boy? But you would not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.” 23 They did not know that Joseph understood them, since he spoke with them through an interpreter. 24 He turned away from them and wept; then he returned and spoke to them. And he picked out Simeon and had him bound before their eyes. 25 Joseph then gave orders to fill their bags with grain, to return every man’s money to his sack, and to give them provisions for their journey. This was done for them.
Prayer of Protest
Today’s prayer by W. Darin Moore, Bishop, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, is from, “United Against Racism: Churches for Change,” ©New York: Friendship Press, 2018, p. 43. You may purchase the book through Friendship Press, on their website at store.friendshippress.org.
Our gracious, just, and loving God,
You sent Your prophet Isaiah and Your Son Jesus to us with the mission “to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn” (Isa. 61:1b-2). We need this good news today for those who are oppressed and for those accountable for oppression, for those who are brokenhearted and for those responsible for brokenness, for those bound and for those who hold them in bondage, for those who mourn and for those who are the cause or source of grief. Forgive us if we are blind to the plight of those who cry out of their pain or if we fail to see the fear of those who live in daily despair because we do not acknowledge their concerns. The powerful and the powerless are equally fearful; deliver us from our fears. The mighty and the weak are equally apprehensive; save us from our narrow perspectives. Teach us to know and truly and fully acknowledge our brother and sister as our brother and sister, not as some “other” of whom we must be wary.
The prayerful protests of our brothers and sisters reach the heavens; we love and serve a God who answers prayer. So when the oppressed out of their grief pray, “hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the end of the earth I call to you, when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I (Ps. 61:1-2),” You, God, are listening. And when bullies and tyrants turn and pray in humility, “O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me (Ps. 131:1),” those prayers reach Your heavenly throne also.
You alone, Yahweh, are our hope, our reason for confidence, and the source of our courage. You, Lord, are our light and salvation; whom shall we fear? You, God, are the strength of our lives; of whom shall we be afraid? We pray to be released of our fears from all forces of evil that separate us from others of Your children and pray for renewed trust and grace to trust You and Your promises more. Amen.