Sermon preached by the Revd Phill Ball on the 23rd February 2014 at St Martin's Church Walsall
This morning we are still talking about the story of Joseph from Genesis.
The theme I suggest is , To Live, we must die, which sounds contradictory, and when I say, "To live, we must die," it cannot be in the physical world, for we know that in the physical world, we physical live until we physically die.
Thus, "To live, we must die," is an expression to describe what must take place spiritually for us to enter our everlasting life with Jesus, the Lord our God.
Jesus himself had to die, that we might all have an invitation to live.
But then, we may ask, "How must we die, that we may live forever?"
The answer is that we must die to our pride and to all our other many sins, and other wrong doings.
So, this morning we are going to look at some examples of this dying to self, to live anew.
The first example is from Genesis 45:1-15, when Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers, the very brothers who sold him into slavery in Egypt.
Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried, "Have everyone go out from me." So there was no man with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers;
Remember we will have to give an account before God for our lives and wrongdoings eventually.
And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard of it.
As God, and Jesus weeps when we do wrong.
Joseph had known who his brothers were for a long time, and he had been playing a game with them, to bring fear to their hearts, because of what they had done to him.
But now, Joseph can no longer do that, for his previous actions are troubling him, and he is really glad to see them.
As God and Jesus is always glad to see us, for he loves us all dearly.
Joseph was dying to self, to his office of prime minister of Egypt, and to his thoughts of revenge.
Joseph was now, literally, just their brother; who wanted a new life together as one family.
Then Joseph said to his brothers, "I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?" But his brothers could not answer him, for they were terrified in his presence. How will you feel before the throne of God, I would be speechless too, because like the brothers, I know what I deserve.
Then Joseph said to his brothers, "Please come closer to me." And they came closer. And he said, "I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.
"And now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.
Sometimes we question how much we are to forgive others.
But here, we see that there should be no limit, no matter what was done against us.
Like God, Joseph was looking at the bigger picture, and not just at the sinful act done against him.
Joseph saw the hand of God in the whole matter.
Joseph saw how God turned their evil into good, because of the way he lived before the Lord.
So he explains further to his brothers what is still to take place.
"For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting.
"And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance.
As God has sent Jesus to give us all an invite to Live in Christ, to confess, forgive and be forgiven, and receive eternal life.
"Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.
As Jesus is the Lord and head of his household, the church which is you and me.
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.
"And you shall live in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children's children and your flocks and your herds and all that you have.
"There I will also provide for you, for there are still five years of famine to come, lest you and your household and all that you have be impoverished." ’
As God through Jesus gives us an invitation to repent be forgiven and forgive, and dwell near and with God for ever.
Joseph was acting as a type of Noah, who was there to save his family from the disaster to come. Noah came to preserve life, and the sign God gave that he would not again destroy the world, but through his love save it, was a rainbow. Like Joseph’s coat. Makes you think doesn’t it?
Joseph, and God still now today; is not forcing them, or us, to come and be saved, but he was encouraging them, to come to him and be saved, as we should encourage others.
But the ultimate decision was theirs, and ours, to make.
They, like us, had to die to self; for they would now have to tell their father what they had done, and stand before him confessing that they knowingly brought all the past grief upon him, who mourned for his son.
We can also see in the life of Joseph, an example of God's saving grace given to us through His Son, Jesus Christ, now here not only many centuries ago.
Jesus is also telling us He has paid the price of our wrongdoings, and is willing to forgive us, and to bring us to a land of everlasting life; but we, on our own, must die to self, confessing our sins to our Father in heaven, and then willingly come to Him.
In other words, we too must die to self, if we are to live forever.
So how often should we confess and be forgiven, and how many times should we forgive others, Jesus gives the answer to both, in our other reading, to Peter; not seven times, but seven times seven times. As many as it takes in fact; is the message.
The Good News of Gods invitation to eternal life, is the message we share, and the invitation we deliver to others, like Joseph's brothers and family, it is for them to respond to the invitation or not.
So every time we see a rainbow, let’s give thanks for the invitation to be saved , and respond to it, and shine and live forever! Amen.