Life is a roller coaster

UPPER MARLBORO, MD – MAY 11, 2014: The roller coaster, Super Man: Ride of Steel stands over 200-ft tall at Six Flags in Upper Marlboro, Md. near Washington, DC. (Photo by Lance Rosenfield/Prime for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

To read this week’s readings: click here

How quick we are to judge.

Not only about judging other people but how quick we are to judge situations also.

When we judge our own situations, how are we to know whether at any given time we are experiencing one of life’s ups or one of life’s downs?

It may look one way when it really turns out to be

How we feel about something can be deceptive too…we might feel one way about things when they are happening but then later in retrospect we might feel totally different given how things turn out.

Life is a roller coaster.

The story of Joseph, that we’ve been reading for the last couple of weeks speaks to us of this.

Joseph’s life was a roller coaster.

He was Dad’s favorite; he was his siblings least favorite.

He was given a special coat; His siblings stripped him of his coat

Last week, we read, his brothers sold him into slavery.

It’s kind of the ultimate pesky little brother story isn’t it?

Being the youngest brother I always used to cringe when I heard that story as a child.

My older brother is 3 and half years older than me and as a kid I often got told to “go away,” or given a shove to set me on my way.

Hearing how those brother’s dealt with their little brother used to make me a little anxious.

We’re missing some of the story so it’s helpful to fill in the blanks.

We went from him being sold last week to the reunion with his brothers this week.

As a slave he worked his way up to a position of trust, a pretty prestigious position for a slave, but then he was wrongfully accused of adultery and thrown into prison.

Joseph made some advantageous connections while in prison, but then it seemed all for naught because he was soon forgotten when the one whom he helped was restored to authority.

Some time later Pharaoh had a dream which could not be interpreted.

Only then was Joseph’s God-given talent called to mind by his former acquaintance.

Joseph successfully interpreted the Pharaoh’s dream and was placed in command of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself.

Pharaoh’s dream had warned that seven years of famine would follow seven years of plenty.

It was Joseph’s responsibility to make sure that the bounty
from the first seven years was stored so that it could be adequately distributed during the lean years.

It was in the middle of the famine that Joseph’s brothers made their trek to Egypt to buy grain for the family.

Little did they realize that the brother they had sold into slavery so many years ago would now be the one responsible for saving the nation of Israel from starvation.

There are many things that could be said about how Joseph and his brothers related to one another – but in the end one thing emerges very clearly.

Joseph comes to realize that those things that others had meant for ill -turned out for the good.

Joseph’s life was a roller coaster.

A roller coaster of events – but each – in the hand of God – had a purpose.

Often times who is to know those purposes other than God?

Life is a roller coaster.

Our faith says that God can take the bad, the downs, and turn it to good, the ups.

That all things work together for good, for those who love the Lord.

Faith says that we should not judge.

Should not judge our situations and we should not judge other people and their situations.

Rather we should entrust all we have and all that we are and all that we experience into the hands of God -knowing – believing – that it will be OK.

This is how the story in the Gospel reading connects with this theme today as well.

It’s also a story where some hasty judgements were made.

As the story opens Jesus makes a pronouncement about how some folks are really fastidious about keeping religious rules.

Rules like ritual hand washing but then when it comes to what comes out of their mouths they should think about cleaning that up as well.

I’m sure we can all relate to that.

I’ve heard Christians who profess to be God fearing and who attend church every Sunday and go through all the motions, say some of the nastiest things.

And when someone says nasty things it gives us some insight into what’s really going on in their hearts doesn’t it?

The writer and activist Mary Angelou once said: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

The Disciples tell Jesus that the people he was talking about, the Pharisees, have taken offense to something he said.

His response is his usual one that goes something like “If the shoe fits they should try it on.”

They have shown you by this reaction who they really are, believe them.

Then along comes this Canaanite woman who interrupts the Master and his disciples at dinner.

There were strict rules about who was clean and unclean in Jesus society.

Canaanites were pagans, they ate unclean foods, things forbidden for Jews to eat, they worshipped idols and didn’t keep the Law of Moses.

She was a woman, and a Jewish man, especially a Jewish holy man, did not converse with a woman who was not his wife or a member of his family, let alone converse with a gentile woman, a pagan.

The minute she burst onto the scene the whole table judged her and the situation.

“She’s not one of us.

“She’s interrupting our time of fun and fellowship and has no right to be here.”

“This is casting a damper on what was turning out to be a great night.”

How quickly they judged her and the situation and as ofter happens when we judge hastily they came up with the wrong answer.

It even seemed that Jesus was reluctant to practice what he preached at first.

But perhaps he was holding back to make the lesson sink in for those around the table.

If he really was convinced that she was a pagan dog who didn’t deserve his time he wouldn’t have healed her daughter at the end of the story.

How often do we miss helping someone by misjudging them and their situation?

How often do we let judgement get in the way of helping someone?

One of the things that always turns me off is when people judge other people’s faith or their expression of faith.

You know folks like that.

Who think you have to believe exactly the way their faith group believes in order to be truly a Christian?

Jesus is faced here with a woman who has radically different faith practices than he and his Jewish colleagues.

Yet she addresses him with respect as Lord and master.

And in the end he congratulates her faith, not her practice or what she says, but her faith.

Jesus shows in this encounter how broad the tent of faith is.

God accepts and welcomes those of little faith and those of great faith but he is not as narrow or as judgmental as most of us are.

As we go from this place today let us keep our minds of faith open to the possibility that God is working in all things.

Life is a roller coaster.

The life of faith is a roller coaster.

What may seem bleak today, when we think we’re on the downslope of the coaster plunging downward, may eventually be turned to good in God’s time.

What may seem of little use or even offensive to us may in fact be the mysterious ways of God urging us to open ourselves to his love and his healing presence in our lives.

Life is a roller coaster…..Thanks be to God!