August 9, 2020 – Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28 and Matthew 14:22-33
July 21, 2020 by Rev. Dr. Neal Presa
Enter house left, Joseph. Enter house right, Jacob and his other sons. Joseph was gleefully sharing his latest dreams of conquest, lording over them his vision of being their master and lord, all the while wearing his multicolored coat gifted to him by Jacob. Joseph’s braggadocio lands him in a pit, literally. The family deception and jealousy was compounded with additional criminality in kidnapping, assault, and trafficking.
Then the other scene – Jesus sought a quiet place to rest and pray while the disciples were in a boat confronted with a strong wind that tossed them to and fro. Jesus appeared to them walking on water, and Peter desired to do the same. Peter began to sink, Jesus rescued him, they both join the other disciples in the boat and the wind ceased. In their amazement, they worshipped Jesus and confess, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
On one level, Joseph’s drama is pretty straightforward: keep your prideful dreams to yourself, especially when those dreams about overtaking your family, and definitely don’t wear your humblebrag to drive the wound deeper. If you’re a sibling, don’t commit a crime on top of another crime. In Peter’s case, learn the lesson – you can’t walk on water. You aren’t God, you aren’t Jesus, and even your deepest passion for the Savior doesn’t make you one.
But there’s another “now what” that these two texts show beyond the proscriptions, the don’ts. Jacob told Joseph to search out for his brothers: “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.” (Genesis 37:14). Are you your sibling’s keeper? The hard lesson that Joseph needed to realize and which he will later, is that we all are to look out for one another, not lord over ourselves to another, but hold one another’s well-being with love and respect. We have seen as a nation the consequences of not doing so. The deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and so many Black Americans are real examples what happens when we aren’t our siblings’ keeper; we as a society either relegate that to law enforcement who are trained to enforce laws and, in doing so, make judgments based on ingrained, socialized beliefs of white supremacy, and then exact force; or in the case of Ahmaud Arbery, eager renegades in a father and son who were hell-bent on policing their white community and seeing in Arbery a target of their bigoted hate. That’s the tragic consequence when we cease seeing one another as siblings, let alone being our sibling’s keeper for each other’s well-being.
Jesus’s way, after feeding the thousands who were hungry, sent his friends into a boat so he could have time to pray, to think, to perhaps pray for those whom he had just fed, to pray for his disciples, to give thanks to God. Upon rescuing Peter, he rejoins his friends in the boat and the wind subsides. The Son of God has always been about all of his siblings’ keeper. He would have it no other way because whether it be a whole crowd of those needing food, or 11 friends in a boat, or one friend sinking into the water, Jesus cares, keeps, and loves each one.
Like Peter, let’s say, “Lord, save me!” Lord save us. Because apart from the Lord’s work in our lives and in our world, aside from the Lord saving us from ourselves and from others, we won’t truly be one another’s keepers who have each other’s well-being to our hearts.