This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:
Joseph Dreams of Greatness
37Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan.2This is the story of the family of Jacob.
Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father.3Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves.*4But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.
5 Once Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more.6He said to them, ‘Listen to this dream that I dreamed.7There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright; then your sheaves gathered around it, and bowed down to my sheaf.’8His brothers said to him, ‘Are you indeed to reign over us? Are you indeed to have dominion over us?’ So they hated him even more because of his dreams and his words.
9 He had another dream, and told it to his brothers, saying, ‘Look, I have had another dream: the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.’10But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him, and said to him, ‘What kind of dream is this that you have had? Shall we indeed come, I and your mother and your brothers, and bow to the ground before you?’11So his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.
This marvellous story presents the reader with its hero, Joseph on the verge of his adventures. Yes, he’s arrogant, yes he’s intoxicated with his own gifts and character, but the reader forgives him because he knows that it’s this very over-confidence which will lead him into the dangers and sufferings from which he’ll learn a better wisdom. The picture of a young person sensing the royalty of his own nature remains attractive even if we know it can’t last. When I qualified as a young minister I thought I was God’s gift to the church. This mixture of arrogance and inexperience led me into follies too numerous and shameful to recount even today. I had to be schooled by failure and bitter recognition into a fuller knowledge of myself and a readiness to serve. Yet the sense of one’s own royalty is not utterly mistaken but only made real in discipleship of Jesus Christ who by his own humility shows how to be part of the royal family of God.
If you can get your hands on a copy of “Joseph and His Brothers” by Thomas Mann, grab it and read it. It’s a masterpiece. Meanwhile, here’s a timely bit of George Herbert,the English poet whom the Church remembers today:
WHEN first Thou didst entice to Thee my heart,
I thought the service brave :
So many joys I writ down for my part,
Besides what I might have
Out of my stock of naturall delights,
Augmented with Thy gracious benefits.
I lookèd on Thy furniture so fine,
And made it fine to me ;
Thy glorious household stuff did me entwine,
And ‘tice me unto Thee.
Such stars I counted mine : both heaven and earth
Paid me my wages in a world of mirth.
What pleasures could I want, whose King I served,
Where joys my fellows were ?
Thus argued into hopes, my thoughts reserved
No place for grief or fear ;
Therefore my sudden soul caught at the place,
And made her youth and fierceness seek Thy face :
At first thou gavest me milk and sweetnesses ;
I had my wish and way :
My days were strewed with flowers and happiness :
There was no month but May.
But with my years sorrow did twist and grow,
And made a party unawares for woe.
My flesh began unto my soul in pain,
Sicknesses clave my bones,
Consuming agues dwell in every vein,
And tune my breath to groans,
Sorrow was all my soul ; I scarce believed,
Till grief did tell me roundly, that I lived.
When I got health, Thou took’st away my life—
And more ; for my friends die :
My mirth and edge was lost : a blunted knife
Was of more use than I.
Thus, thin and lean, without a fence or friend,
I was blown through with every storm and wind.
Whereas my birth and spirit rather took
The way that takes the town,
Thou didst betray me to a lingering book,
And wrap me in a gown.
I was entangled in the world of strife,
Before I had the power to change my life.
Yet, for I threatened oft the siege to raise,
Not simpering all mine age,
Thou often didst with academic praise
Melt and dissolve my rage.
I took thy sweetened pill, till I came near ;
I could nor go away, nor persevere.
Yet, lest perchance I should too happy be
In my unhappiness,
Turning my purge to food, Thou throwest me
Into more sicknesses.
Thus doth Thy power cross-bias me, not making
Thine own gift good, yet me from my ways taking.
Now I am here, what thou wilt do with me
None of my books will show :
I read, and sigh, and wish I were a tree—
For sure, then, I should grow
To fruit or shade ; at least, some bird would trust
Her household to me, and I should be just.
Yet, though Thou troublest me, I must be meek ;
In weakness must be stout :
Well, I will change the service, and go seek
Some other master out.
Ah, my dear God ! though I am clean forgot,
Let me not love Thee, if I love Thee not.