Toorak Uniting Church

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Joseph in Egypt

Genesis 41: 33 – 36     Romans 8: 22 – 28
Rev. Anneke Oppewal
29 April 2007

Following is the script that took the place of a conventional sermon during a "whole Church family" service combining our 9 am and 10.15 am congregations. You are welcome to use this material; if you do, it would be great to hear about it in an e-mail to ToorakUC@bigpond.net.au.

Introduction To The Theme

Last week a dysfunctional family, jealousy, partiality, arrogance got Joseph on his way.

This week we find him in prison after an unfortunate episode with his first employer in Egypt.

He is a slave, he has no power. He has been convicted of a crime he did not commit, he is in prison. He is a foreigner, nobody is going to listen to him.

And yet, underneath God is still at work. There is still that dream that needs to come true. But for now that seems a very remote possibility. How could a slave, thrown into prison in a foreign land ever become King? The brothers he saw bowing down before him last week are far away and the country he is in now and its king is so powerful that it is impossible to imagine that a Hebrew slave would somehow make it to the top in that setting.

However………there is some more dreaming going to happen and some pretty extraordinary developments to take place……

Pharaoh Speaks:

Pharaoh is sitting in his throne room slouched in his throne looking despondent. He picks up one of the many coloured pyramids, which litter the floor. A background screen shows images of the Nile and the pyramids. Pharaoh picks up one of the pyramids and looks at it as he starts his dialogue.

"You know I only have 35 children (so far), and I can guarantee that every one of them leaves their building blocks in my throne room. ( Looking up) Sorry I'm a little distracted today. I didn't sleep well last night. I'm very worried about something. I can't put my finger on it but it's eating away at me. Why, why am I worried? Here I am, Supreme ruler of the greatest civilisation in the world. The people are happy, trade is booming, the crops are plentiful, the Nile floods as and when it should. The Gods must be smiling on us. And yet.. and yet I have this great sense of foreboding. And then of course there was that dream.

"Ah yes that crazy dream.

"I suppose I should tell you about the dream but I know you'll think I'm silly to worry about it.. It shouldn't bother me but it was so real so vivid I know that the gods are trying to tell me something and I'm pharaoh I have to listen and act. In the dream I saw 7 stalks of wheat in very poor condition, shriveled and under size, fit only for making mud bricks. And then 7 plump well-ripened stalks appeared, enough to make any farmer smile. No sooner had the healthy grain appeared when the shriveled stalks set upon the fat ones and ate them! I know it sounds like a story small children would tell each other then fall about laughing. But it gets worse. No sooner had the wheat gone when seven cows appeared thin and wasted, barely able to walk looking like the had been lost in the desert for years. Next seven healthy cows appear fat and happy contentedly chewing their cud. Then. (you guessed it) the starving cows set upon the fat ones like jackals and ate them every bone even the hooves. It was horrible. What could it mean?

"I have consulted my magicians and wise men. (with sarcasm) They were a big help. Apparently I am either developing a wheat allergy or I should issue an edict requiring all cows in Egypt to have their teeth pulled. I know they know what the dream really means and I know that they know that I know what it means. Do you know what I mean. (getting flustered) What I mean is we are all avoiding the obvious. My advisers don't want to talk about bad times not when we're all on a roll. Getting the truth from them is like trying to milk a crocodile. Times are good. We are all fat and prosperous. But nothing lasts forever. The most ignorant farmer knows that there are good times and that they will be followed by bad times. Feast then famine then feast again. Everything has a cycle; the seasons, the Nile it floods then recedes. We depend on its changes; build our lives around them. But famine that's bigger. How do we prepare against famine?"

Prayer:

God we thank you for the great and wonderful stories you give us to guide us and inspire us in life. We thank you for the beautiful story of Joseph and all the adventures he lives through, testifying to your never wavering faithfulness and grace.

We are like Joseph, Lord: arrogance and pride to easily gets the better of us, and we often, like Joseph, find ourselves in prickly situations where it is difficult to get out of because of it.

But we are like Pharaoh too, anxious and fretful, not sure who we can trust and worried as to how we will provide for the future but not able to make any positive moves to secure it.

We are also like the advisors of Pharaoh: lax and slow to see the seriousness of a situation we let things get out of hand. We squander our resources and fail to prepare sensibly for what is to come.

We thank you for a story that tells us that between our pride and arrogance, our anxiety and lack of positive action to look after our world and our future, you are still there, underneath, making your dream of a world of plenty, of peace and of justice come true. Help us to see where your dreams point us to and help us to surrender our will to yours so we can become part of that dream and make a positive contribution to making it happen for our world.

In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Pharaoh Speaks:

"My advisers! There's no doubt about it, they know how to look after themselves. Rather than plucking up the courage to give the Pharaoh bad news they've brought in a consultant. Not one of them of course, someone far less important, someone expendable. Not only is he a prisoner. He's a Hebrew prisoner! Apparently got a bit too close to Potiphar's wife, silly boy. Anyway, my chief taster remembered this chap had a thing for dream interpretation and suggested we consult him. I don't know whether this fellow has a gift for telling the future or not. I mean if he's so good how come he didn't predict his own arrest and leave town first!"

Choir: Close every Door
Lyrics Tim Rice

Chorus:

Close every door to me,
Hide all the world from me,
Bar all the windows and shut out the light.

Verse:

Do what you want with me
Hate me and laugh at me.
Darken my daytime and torture my night.
If my life were important I would ask will I live or die,
But I know the answers lie far from this world.
Close every door to me, keep those I love from me
Children of Israel are never alone,
For I know I shall find my own peace of mind
For I have been promised a land of my own

Chorus

Just give me a number instead of my name,
Forget all about me and let me decay.
Close every door to me, keep those I love from me
Children of Israel are never alone,
For I know I shall find my own peace of mind
For I have en promised a land of my own.

I do not matter; I’m only one person,
Destroy me completely and throw me away
If my life were important I would ask will I live or die,
But I know the answers lie far from this world.
Children of Israel are never alone,
For I know I shall find my own peace of mind
For we have been promised a land of our own

Pharaoh Speaks:

"At last some peace of mind and a good night's sleep. My advisers finally got it right. They advised me to listen to someone else! Someone like the Hebrew Joseph. What a breath of fresh air. No false flattery and no badly disguised ego. He was honest, honest enough to admit that he can't interpret dreams by himself. He relies on his God, one God at all times and for all things. Interesting concept. Joseph told me that my dreams meant that Egypt would experience seven years of plenty followed by seven years of devastating famine. Simple really, and I have to admit that was my gut feeling about the dream too. But unlike me or my illustrious advisers Joseph has a plan. A very clever plan ..."

Reading: Genesis 41: 33-36

Pharaoh Speaks:

"Where was I? Oh yes – the Hebrew's plan. Very wise but like a lot of wisdom I think it's going to be unpopular. Joseph says that during these years of plenty we need to put away some of our produce and store it for use in the years of famine ahead. Very prudent. Of course the landowners in Egypt will be most unhappy. When times are good they like to sell up as much as they can make a lot of money and live high on the hog. ‘But Pharaoh, we need this wealth to build our tombs and prepare ourselves for the afterlife.’ ‘Excellent,’ I told them, ‘because if we don't take Joseph's advice we will all be entering our afterlives in about seven years time.’ I swear some of them behave like they've been prematurely mummified.

"On and on they whined: ‘But Pharaoh, this famine do we really know it's going to happen?’ A good question, but I know God has given me a message and through Joseph he is giving Egypt a future and I'm going to make sure that we give it our best shot.

"Well it's been seven years, and already I can see the good times are over. (Screen image of drought) I let Joseph handle the whole thing. From bringing the farmers round to building the grain stores to overseeing their filling. I believe that we can now endure any famine without loss of life. We can all rest easy knowing that with God's help we have assumed responsibility for our own futures. It would have been easy to live high and squander the plenty of the last seven years and had we not listened to Joseph and his God that's surely what we would have done. Thank God we listened. Thank God."

© Rev. Anneke Oppewal, 2007


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