The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 14, Year A), 9 August 2020


August 9, 2020

Reading 1Reading 2Reading 3Reading 4Reading 1 AltReading 2 Alt
Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28Psalm 105: 1-6, 16-22, 45bRomans 10:5-15Matthew 14:22-331 Kings 19:9-18Psalm 85:8-13

by JungEun Park

Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28

This week’s lectionary of Genesis will be based on psychological biblical analysis. 

As Andre LaCocque argues this new cycle revolves around Joseph, not his father Jacob. For LaCocque, the genre of this Joseph story is a narrative and he illuminates the father-son relationship within the story. Therefore strictly speaking, the formula of “This is the story of the family of Jacob” in verse 2 (NRSV) cannot accepted literally since it is only Joseph’s life that is fully dealt with in the narrative in contrast with other characters in Genesis. LaCocque sees this story as ‘Diasporanovelle’ meaning that Jews, namely Esther, Daniel, and Judith – are finding their own identity in other lands. Through the journey to self-discovery – told in the form of a narrative – Joseph’s wholeness can be hidden and also be exposed. 

At the beginning of the story, in particular the second sentence of verse 2, we learn that Joseph and his brothers were responsible for feeding the sheep. This of itself was a responsible position in his teenage years (v.2). However, Joseph is unfortunately depicted as a tattle-tale character; “Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father.” The verb יבא (yave) is a form of hifil waw Consecutive of בוא, that is, it has the meaning that Joseph ‘kept reports’ to their father about his brothers’ bad deeds. This narrative reveals to the readers the immature mind of Joseph by identifying him as a whistleblower who reports to his father about his brother’s activities. 

Yet, the narrator of this story seems to be reveal the historic pattern of the father-son relationship. As LaCocque carefully observes the relationship of Jacob and Joseph (the whole set of the story of Joseph, the term ‘father’ appeared at least 92 within the circle), their relationship would be a clue in verse 3-4. Israel loved Joseph more than his other children. The partiality for certain offspring has a long history in Jacob’s family tree; Issac favored Esau more than Jacob, Rebecca favored Jacob more than Esau, and Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah (Gen. 25:28; 29:30). Joseph was still a young boy (v. 30). Probably Jacob’s favoritism included the fact that Joseph was the son of Jacob’s favorite wife Rachel, and that he and Rachel had waited very long to have their own son. Jacob’s preference for Joseph cannot deny its affection on his form basic personality (Dorothy F. Zeligs, 1974). 

According to D. Andrew Kille, Carl Gustav Jung described on overall arc of psychic development that he named individuation. As the process of a person becoming the distinct individual he or she is intended to be (D. Andrew Kille, 1983). In light of that, tattletale Joseph can be seen to be in the process of becoming the person he is intended to be. 

One day, Jacob sent Joseph to his brothers who are pasturing the flock at Shechem; he wanted to hear some words about them (v.14). It seems Joseph did not join the work with his brothers every day. In this case, the reason for staying at home may have been the distance. Shechem was far to the north from Hebron, north of Jerusalem, west of the Jordan, slightly closer to the Dead Sea than to the Sea of Galilee. Jacob determined to send his beloved son Joseph to check on the brothers’ welfare and then return and report to him. It seems that Joseph grows up sheltered. For Joseph, leaving his father required courage to leave the nest. 

When Joseph arrived at Shechem, he still could not find his brothers. A man found him wandering in the fields, obviously looking for something. 

However, his question was significant to Joseph’s story; “What are you seeking? מה-תבקש))” (v.15). The meaning of the verb בקש is closer to ‘discover’ than ‘seek’ or ‘find’ (Koehler & Baumgartner, 152). The verb “discover” takes as its object a place, special ability or quality, to help the seeker become successful (Cambridge Dictionary). Therefore, for Joseph, the question was not only about finding a place, but was also a prophetic question regarding a destination he had to reach to achieve his own maturity.

Joseph responded to the a man’s question. According to Campbell, this man called Joseph to an adventure. This ‘mystery of transfiguration’ – a rite, or moment, of spiritual passage, which, when complete, amounts to a dying and a birth (Joseph Campbell, 42-43) required Joseph to grow in his journey. 

So Jacob’s beloved son, who used to wear a coat of many colors among with his brothers (v.3) now goes to Dothan (further to the north and a little to the west of Shechem), in order to find his brothers. But it was also for his own self-discovery, which he did not know at the time. 

The brothers saw Joseph approaching (v.18); they presumably recognized his coat of many colors (v.23). They called him “the dreamer,” obviously ridiculing the dreams he had. Even before he got there, they determined to try to kill him. They said, if they killed him, his dreams could never come to pass. So they cast him in to a pit, and told their father that a wild beast had killed him. 

The apostle Paul says, Jealousy belongs to the flesh and human inclination (1 Corinthians 3:3); it caused division within the Church of Corinth. Joseph’s brothers also failed to be reconciled with their immature, young brother. The brother’s craftiness (Job 5:13) was expressed in their cruelty. They stripped off his coat and put him in a pit that had no water in it. Freudian interpretation may carefully pay attention the deep meaning of a pit which Joseph was thrown into. A pit בור could be interpreted as 1. cistern 2. pitfall 3. cistern as the entrance שאול, the world of the dead 4. wife as erotic metaphor (Koehler & Baumgartner, 116). Entrapped Joseph, went to Egypt in the hands of Ishmaelites. If the third meaning correctly interprets this passage – as Ezekiel often uses the term – this ‘being thrown-into a pit’ could symbolize Joseph’s death to his childish self and the birth of his in-depth, or spiritual self.

 

Psalm 85:8-13

The thing we could do to יהוה our Lord is to just have a listening ear (v.8), especially if we have experienced a forgiveness (v.3). Watching the land of Judah being desolated, the descendants of Korah pray for the recovery of Israel. The leader of the Korahites asks God’s favor again as God restored the fortunes of Jacob (even he was a trickster!, v.1). Jacob’s God-given name was Israel (Gen 32:28). The author seeks God’s favor on the Land that has been devastated, ISRAEL. At the same time, the author firmly holds God to his promise that was supposed to give God’s favor to the Land and to the people of Israel; so that “his glory may dwell in our land” (v.9, NRSV).

The place where God’s salvation happens is where Love and Truth (חסד ואמת) meet in the street, and where righteousness and peace (צדק ושלום) kiss (v.10). The author’s prophetic imagination holds God to his promise, and makes the Korah people see that the land will yield its increase (v.12).

Under our long-standing pandemic, we have become exhausted. The many changing elements in our way of life have left weak. Our souls are devastated and need water like the dried land. Even in the midst of this time, we need to remember what God has given us before, just like the Korahites were told to remember. We should remember that, in the end, God gives Goodness and Beauty (v.12).

 

Romans 10:5-15

The Apostle Paul’s concern for Israel’s salvation is deep (v.1). With that passion, he persistently makes it clear that righteousness can come from the law (του νόμου, v.5) or come from faith (πίστεως, v.6). Paul inquires into righteousness that is based on faith, rather than righteousness built on the law code. According to Paul, this faith does not require somebody to ascend into heaven (v.6), or descend into the abyss (v.7), since it is through faith that we know that know that Christ is the end of the law (v.4). One does not need to find a law in somewhere in heaven, or beyond the abyss (άβυσσον). The faith to believe in Christ is enough. One can have a right relationship with God through one’s faith in Christ. 

So, the law, the word of God is applied in practical, concrete ways. Paul echoes what Moses said in Deuteronomy 30:11-14 that: 

The word that saves is right here,
as near as the tongue in your mouth,
as close as the heart in your chest. (Peterson, 1657)

This salvation can be given everyone who calls on the name of the Lord (v.13). This fair-working salvation is a good news! The salvation surely transcends a person’s religious background. Therefore, Paul’s primary concern for the Jews is bringing them back full circle. Calling, believing, and proclaiming God, in Christ, is calling for people who really can respond to God’s fair, and greater love.

Matthew 14:22-33

After feeding five thousand people, what Jesus did was to seek a place to pray (v.23). In contrast with Christ’s relationship with God and his spiritual awakening, the disciples were terrified while watching Jesus approach them over the water. Jesus’ comforting words encouraged Peter to come toward Jesus (v.29.) However, he needed to hold more firmly to Jesus’ words; “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” (v.27). The moment when Peter became frightened, he began to sink. Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. Verse 32 shows that the wind ceased when the disciples entered into the boat. 

Today may be an example of a similar situation – we cannot fathom how we can persist during these days of the pandemic Just as the boat was battered by the waves, our hearts and our faith may falter. Jesus Christ Our Lord keeps telling us “Take heart, do not be afraid.” Whether or not we respond to Jesus’s call to “be not afraid,” Jesus will be the Son of God, truly (v.33). But our faith will undoubtedly be tested in this time, revealing whether or not it is based on Christ the Rock.


JungEun Park is a Korean Methodist Pastor and Ph.D. student at Claremont School of Theology in Process Studies. Her research interests include Ecofeminism; Eco-Process Thought; Political Theology; Christian Social Ethics.

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