Genesis 44:18-21, 23-29, 45:1-5
Then Judah stepped up to him and said, “O my lord, let your servant please speak a word in my lord’s ears, and do not be angry with your servant; for you are like Pharaoh himself. My lord asked his servants, saying, ‘Have you a father or a brother?’ And we said to my lord, ‘We have a father, an old man, and a young brother, the child of his old age. His brother is dead; he alone is left of his mother’s children, and his father loves him.’ Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me, so that I may set my eyes on him.’
Then you said to your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you shall see my face no more.’ When we went back to your servant my father we told him the words of my lord. And when our father said, ‘Go again, buy us a little food,’ we said, ‘We cannot go down. Only if our youngest brother goes with us, will we go down; for we cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’ Then your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons; one left me, and I said, Surely he has been torn to pieces; and I have never seen him since. If you take this one also from me, and harm comes to him, you will bring down my gray hairs in sorrow to Sheol.’
Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Send everyone away from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.
When he summoned famine against the land,
and broke every staff of bread,
he had sent a man ahead of them,
Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
His feet were hurt with fetters,
his neck was put in a collar of iron;
until what he had said came to pass,
the word of the Lord kept testing him.
The king sent and released him;
the ruler of the peoples set him free.
He made him lord of his house,
and ruler of all his possessions,
As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
Could you imagine a day in the life as one of Jesus’ disciples? Could you see yourself going out on mission the way the disciples are sent in today’s Gospel? How would you like going into various neighborhoods and preaching in the streets that the kingdom of heaven is at hand? How about begging your keep and staying in a stranger’s house as you preach this message? How about the responsibility of healing the sick, cleansing lepers, and driving out demons?
I am sure many of us sigh in relief to go to our day jobs, say our prayers, and leave the uncomfortable work of preaching and healing behind us as something we read about that took place long ago. After all, how would people respond to us if we did such things? Wouldn’t we be afraid we might mess things up? Isn’t it backwards to be a dependent when we are fully grown and should be taking care of ourselves?
But before Jesus called his disciples out of their day jobs and out of their comfort zones, God had his servant, Joseph, who we read about in the first reading. Joseph did not have a choice when it came to departing from his everyday life to accomplish God’s will. He was just going about his business, going out to help his brothers tend sheep, when his brothers attacked him and sold him into slavery in Egypt. There he spent years as a slave, years in prison, and finally, through using the gifts God gave him, God raised him up as Pharaoh’s right hand man, making him the most powerful man in Egypt after Pharaoh himself. In today’s reading, Joseph meets his brothers again and reveals to them his true identity as their brother. Remarkably, he has no resentment toward them whatsoever for the time they sold him into slavery. Instead, he sees God’s handiwork in all of it, how he was called by God into Egypt to help save lives during the time of famine.
As Jesus’ disciples today, we are all called to depart from our comfort zones. We are called to go out on mission, to preach Jesus’ name, and to save lives through healing, through cleansing, and through driving out demons. Sometimes, like Joseph, God does not give us much of a choice in leaving our comfort. But no matter what is going on in our lives, no matter how much our comfort zones may be dissolving around us, we can trust that the God of life and resurrection has the power to restore all things and work our trials into good for the sake of his kingdom. Let us pray today for God’s grace to follow his leading. Let us pray for help with our faith, that we may step out and walk on the path God has laid out for our lives. Let us trust God in how he desires to use us. And let us pray for the grace to always remain close to him as his disciples. Amen.